Saturday, 28 December 2013

New Year's Give Away!

Yes, it is that time of year again: time to make resolutions!

I love the end of the year, and not just for the excess food and drink. I love planning for next year and assessing how I can reach my dreams. In the next post I'll fill you in on some of the exciting developments that are going to be happening for me in 2014 (it is going to be a big year!).

But we all need a bit of help to reach some of our goals. And luckily I've written and helped produce a few books that are perfect for getting you on the right track.

So I'm giving away copies of 3 different books for those in need:

Romance: need a bit of help finding love? Then sign up for my Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles, a practical and entertaining read on how best to present yourself online (great for guys and girls).


Spirituality: decided to take up faith as part of your New Year's Resolution? Prayer, meditation and spirituality are proving to be essential for well being, so why not? Rev. David L. Greentree (yup, he's my dad), has written a short but concise book: Colostrum: Spiritual Antibodies for New Christians. It looks at how to grow big and strong without any veggies (wish he'd had this when we were kids) as well as revealing the major heresies you are likely to come across.


Writing: and who doesn't want to make 2014 their year for writing? What better way to prepare than with a writing retreat to begin the year? The Five Day Writer's Retreat will challenge you to assess and adapt your lifestyle to be more creative. 

If you would like an ebook or hardcopy (excludes Online Dating, which is only electronic at the moment), leave a comment saying which area of your life you want to work on in 2014 and why. Or if you don't want to declare it on the internet (though there is no judgement here, I'm all in support of online dating), then you can email me at buffy@thefivedaywriter.com

Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy new year!

Monday, 23 December 2013

A Writer's Portfolio: The Author Bio

Early Work
Get in early creating your author identity! (image courtesy of Umut Kemal at stock.xchng)
 
As writers, we often spend so much time thinking about the piece we are working on, that we neglect the other essential little bits that are required to be an author.

How often on conferences or in courses have you been told to sit down and take time to write up your author bio? Well, for me, never.

Whenever I go to publish something, be it on Amazon, or a guest blog post, or even entering a competition, I am suddenly faced with churning out around 250 words about myself.

Writing about yourself, summing yourself up in 250 words, is difficult. At first, almost impossible. The trash that I've come out with still haunts me at night.

So I am now challenging you to put aside whatever you are working on, and take some time crafting and forming this very important piece of writing. Having a good description of yourself, practiced a few different ways, polished up and ready to go, is an essential part of the writer's portfolio.

The question is, how to go about it?

Sitting at a blank computer screen telling yourself to write about yourself is the hardest possible way to go. Actually, sitting in front of an internet form at midnight, with Amazon telling you to write about yourself before you can publish your book might be slightly harder. Eitherway, you can definitely make life easier for yourself.

First we are going to get some ideas and models. You need to know what to include and what not to, what style works well. Should it be in the first person, or do you write about yourself in the third? Do you mention your pet cat, or focus only on your qualifications for writing in this field?

This varies across what genre and style you are writing in. This is why you should do some research.

Start by working out who you are writing your bio for, who is your audience and what do you want to tell them? If you are a self-help writer you may want to give some credentials. If you are writing humorous fiction your audience might expect your bio to also be funny. A romance writer? Your audience is interested in relationships, and so probably want to know more about you as a person, not just your books.

Next I recommend going to Amazon and reading the bios of authors writing in your field. Note what person they write in (first or third?), the types of details they give and what they leave out. Find a few that really appeal to you, and work out exactly what it is that you like about them.

Now you need to start writing. This is not going to be a once off, polished, done affair. The greater number of different ways you write about yourself, the more chance you have of finding the perfect combination of information and tone.

So I want to challenge you, over the next week (yes, across Christmas), take a few minutes everyday to jot down another version of your personal bio. Try focusing on a few different aspects each time. Also, try adjusting your wording, keeping the same content but changing the style. At the end of the week, sort through them all and pick out the parts that work the best, then start to polish. You should make a slightly longer version, around 250 words, and a much shorter snappier version, down to 50 words.

Then you will need to keep playing with it and updating it at various intervals. Your information is going to change. Maybe your cat died, or you won a great award. I highly recommend keeping a list of all your editable bios (such as your Amazon author page, your blog about page, etc.) so that when you have a new achievement or detail to add, you know where to go.

Remember, you need to give yourself time and permission to do on this. It is all part of your work as a writer, and shouldn't be left to the last minute.

One week, seven attempts, great start for 2014 being your year of writing!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Essential Writing Concepts - Breaking The Frame

It continues to amaze me that I did a number of creative writing subjects at one of Australia's top universities, and there are simple concepts about writing which they never taught me. It was like they believed that to teach these concept would be to place restrictions on us budding authors and therefore somehow stifle our creativity.

Now that I'm a full time writer, I'm working hard to collect all these little bits of knowledge that other writers have worked out over the centuries, so I can skip ahead on making these mistakes myself.

Through reading and attending seminars, I'm finally realising that these concepts and rules could have saved me so much time and embarassment. Once someone pointed them out to me, they were so obvious! I don't feel in any way that they stifle what I want to write. Instead, they are secret short cuts to faster, better writing. Even if I decide to break these rules, I will at least understand what I'm doing and why.

Today's concept was revolutionary to me when I learned it at a writing conference in June this year:

Do everything you can not to 'break frame'. 

For a writer, the best times are when we completely get caught up in the flow, lost in our own world, seeing the story play out in front of us as we hurriedly try to keep up.

Why would we not want to pass this experience onto the reader?

My favourite books are those where I can completely lose myself in the world of the story, where I'm a silent observer, engrossed in the events. When reading like this, if someone calls me back to the real world, I stare around me blinking, wondering why it is now semi-dark or my tea has gone cold.

For me, this is what storytelling is all about, weaving such a world with words.

Breaking the frame is a cinematic concept, it refers to anything that comes within the frame of the shot that shouldn't, that suggests the images are all just constructs. For example, when you are watching a romantic scene, and suddenly the audio boom appears at the top. This has broken into the frame, and once you notice things like this, you are focused more on how the story is made than what the story actually is.

For writers, breaking the frame is forcing the reader suddenly out of the story. Now I understand that some people think it is 'artistic' to confront the reader, challenge them in their perceptions in a way that makes them uncomfortable. If you know why you are doing this, okay. However, there is one very good reason that should make you think before doing this: every time you break the frame for the reader, you are giving them an opportunity to put your book down and walk away.

Breaking the frame is anything that makes your reader realise that they are reading, that they are separate to the world being created. It is anything that jars the reader back into reality and breaks the spell of the writing over them.


That all sounds very dramatic, and a bit mystical, so let me give you a down to earth example in writing. One of the easiest ways that young writers do this is a sudden second person (the sneaky 'you'). While in normal conversation and communication, a second person works well because it shows the listener you are thinking of them, in a narrative it suddenly highlights that the reader is a being of their own, no longer lost in the story.

Simple lines like:

He walked across the lake. You know, it's difficult to walk across a lake in hiking gear. 

The 'you know' seems so harmless, and even give some texture to the writing. However, it is a break and the sudden change can be like a splash of water in the face of the reader. Whether it fully wakes them up or not, it has diminished your spell over them.


There are of course many other ways to break the frame, so start looking out for them and analysing their effect on the reader.

The more you understand about it, the more you can effectively use it. Sometimes the reader does just need a slap in the face in order to fully understand your point, but you should be really sure that they are going to appreciate it and not just walk away.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

KDP Select - What is it and should you use it?

 

When I brought out my first book, The Five Day Writer's Retreat, in March this year, I didn't enrol in Amazon's KDP Select program. However, bringing out my most recent book, The Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles, just two weeks ago, I've decided to enrol it and see how it goes. I get a lot of questions about KDP Select, so let me explain my reasoning and how it is useful.

First of all, what is KDP Select?
Amazon's ebook self-publishing platform is called KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). It is the easiest way to get an ebook listed on Amazon, you just go to their website kdp.amazon.com, sign up and then load your book up through them (you need to have it all formatted and the cover already created, you just upload it and they turn it into an appropriate file format and put it on Amazon.com for you).

When you upload your title to KDP, you will be offered the chance to join KDP Select, which is slightly different to just KDP. KDP Select is a program that you enrol in for 90 days at a time. With this program, you promise that you will exclusively sell this ebook through Amazon for the 90 days (though you can do what you want with hardcopies), in return they give a number of benefits such as higher royalties in certain countries, the chance to be paid for Amazon Prime members to 'borrow' your book, and the chance to do a temporary promotion of your book for free, just for 5 days within the 90.

When I brought out my first book, I was put off by the fact that I couldn't sell my book elsewhere. I wanted to sell it through my own website, as well as use Smashwords to get it onto Barnes and Noble, iBooks, etc. I assumed that the sales from these other avenues would make up for any benefits that the program could offer.

My other logic was that the biggest thing they offer is that you can give your book away for free. However, I didn't want to give my book away for free! I had worked hard, and it deserved to be paid! So, they could just keep their program.

Since then, I've realised a few things:
1. For the majority of indie authors, about 80-90% of their sales come from Amazon. All the other platforms such as Barnes and Noble only make up a small percentage of sales, particularly at the beginning. Therefore, going exclusive for just 90 days is not a big loss.
2. If you don't have a very large platform, for example 1,000 dedicated followers who would all buy your book the first week it came out, offering your book for free is the best and easiest way to get noticed. It is sometimes the only way to get noticed.


Let me explain how this works:
First of all, there are literally millions of books on Amazon and other online bookstores. Yes, there are also millions of readers, but I am not exactly sure how I expected those readers to find me. If they did find me, why would they buy my book? How often have you bought a book by an unknown author that hasn't been recommended to you? I've done it occasionally, but really not that much. So, even if they did find me, strangers are not going to pay full price for a work that they have no proof is going to be any good.

So, indie authors need to overcome two problems: they need to be found, and they need to convince people to take a chance on them. Amazon has set up systems to overcome this, but it does require some movement of your books. 

Amazon actually has a very good marketing system. Once some people start buying your book, Amazon will add you to their recommendations, you know the 'customers who bought this book also bought this one...'. If you can start appearing in these, you are suddenly being found by readers who have never heard of you. This expands your reach beyond what you can do yourself.

Next, they also help promote you as an unknown author in two ways. First, they allow readers to write reviews. Shoppers feel more secure when they can see other people have reviewed and liked a book. The more reviews, the greater likelihood someone will take a chance on you. Second, Amazon creates lots of different lists which you can get yourself ranked upon. If you can get yourself in the Top 10 of any of the lists, then not only are more people able to find you, but they also have more security that you must be good (because other people are buying you).

This is all great, except that as most new indie authors will tell you (and as I found out with my first book), you need sales in order for any of Amazon's systems to start helping you. This is where listing it free really comes in.


The Advantages of Listing It Free:
There are people constantly searching the free promotions on Amazon that will take a chance on almost anything. My aunt's book, which is a very specific book about church abuse and bullying got 79 downloads in two free days, and this is considered a very low amount. However, these were 79 people who would have never found the book otherwise.

Now, sadly not all the people who download your book will bother to read it, and if they bother to read it, only a few of them will write a review. However, it is still one of the easiest way to get reviews (especially if you put a call to action at the end of the book asking for them).

But even if you don't get anyone reading your book from the free sales, you still start moving up the sales rankings, and still get added to the 'customers who bought this...' marketing system. Though, as of March (I think), Amazon did change its algorithms, so that 'free' sales are not worth as much as paid sales, but if you don't have any paid sales, it is still a great way to start appearing on some of these ranking lists. There are also specifically free ebook lists that you can climb.

What Is Considered A Good Promotion?
I said that my aunt did a two free day promotion, and got 79 downloads. This is considered a reasonably low success rate. When I did it for Dave's book, Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists, in three days we got about 380, which is a much better number, but not great.
Based on what other indie authors say, it seems that above 250/day for a non-advertised promo is good.

How Do You Make It Better?
Now, the interesting part. There is now an even better reason to try doing free, you can get free advertising on other websites because of it. 
There are a whole lot of websites and mailing lists that send out emails promoting books that are free on kindle. Some do ask you to pay, but there are many that are free, you just have to give them a week's notice (though they can't guarantee you will be featured).
Someone is advertising your book for you, and getting it in front of people who would never have seen it otherwise. How great is this? And they only do it because you are listing it free.
If you do get featured by one of the big ones, such as Pixel of Ink, then your free downloads can be in the 10,000's. This can shoot you up the rankings, and means you are much more likely to get reviews, which can equal sales later.

The problem with this is that it is very hit and miss. There are hundreds of lists out there, and it takes time to submit your book to them all, and they may or may not even bother to run it. And even if they run it, you don't actually know how many people will read it. I did Dave's first promotion without any external advertising, and we got about 380 over three days. The next time I submitted the promotion details to probably around 20 different websites with plenty of advanced notice, and even paid the 'guaranteed' fee on some of them to make sure it was listed, and in two days we only got about 220. So it doesn't automatically mean it will get you anywhere. And even months later, we only got one or two reviews from the promotions. However, I have noticed that a lot of people in GoodReads have added the book to their shelf because they got a free copy, so that's an extra way to be found.

And Even Better?
The best benefit of this is when you have more than one book for sale. If you only have the book you are offering for free, you get some advantages from everyone downloading it, in that you are in the marketing system, but you have pretty much lost all those people you have touched. (How often do you remember a single book you read a few months later and make the effort to see if the author has written anything else?)
But, if you have more than one book available,when they find you through the free promotion they have something to actually spend money on. This is particularly true if the books are in a series. (and you are giving away the second one for free.)

So How Can You Make the Most Of Your Promotion?
1. You need the book to look attractive: great cover and good description.
2. Try and get as many reviews beforehand as you can. I know that part of the purpose of this is to get reviews, but you should have a few already up to encourage people. Send out review copies before you actually publish the book so that you can get some reviews as soon as you can. A lot of the free kindle promotion sites will only take books with a certain number of 4+ star reviews. So the more reviews you have, the better chance you will be picked up by a website to promote.
3. Price your book a bit higher just before the promotion starts. A $4.95 book for free is much better value than a 99c book for free. Just don't be ridiculous. 
4. Organise your promotion at least a week in advance. Most of the websites require at least a week's notice before the free promotion starts in order for you to be featured. A few will only take promotions on the day it actually happens, so keep note of these and come back on the day to do it.
If you are looking for sites to submit to, I recommend goind to those listed at the Author Marketing Club submit your book page (you don't need to sign up to the club, just go to this website and click on each of the links at the bottom: http://authormarketingclub.com/members/submit-your-book/).
5. Get the word out on facebook, twitter, any way that you can. Most people don't mind being offered free stuff, so let everyone know that they can support you by downloading a free copy of your book. Once people start downloading it, you go up in the 'free kindle book' rankings, along with other rankings.
6. Run the promotion for more than one day. You have a maximum of 5 days you can use in any combination that you want. One day is usually not enough to get the ball rolling, so you will need to experiment with 2-5 days. With Dave, I wasn't particularly happy with three days, because we started to drop off the front of the 'free books' listing, and so didn't get much on the third day. But if you list it for two days, and it's going really well, you can always add on extra days as you go.
7. Time it: from what I've heard, the weekends are better for listing, because more people are searching. But in some fields there are certain days people are looking for new content, so know your market and target your promotion days to them.
8. Analyse, rinse and repeat. Work out which parts worked well for you, and keep trying until you start to really take off.

I am currently running a free promotion for the Nice Guy's Guide on Amazon, and would love your support downloading my book for free (and then reviewing it if you get the chance!).
So if you are reading this on the weekend of the 30th Nov - 1st Dec 2013, I would appreciate it if you took two minutes to stop by http://www.amazon.com/Nice-Guide-Online-Dating-Profiles-ebook/dp/B00GS1GE9G/ and download your free copy. If you wanted to got the extra mile, let your facebook friends or twitter followers know that they can pick up an awesome book for free just for this weekend!



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

I'm Not Dead

Hello everyone,
I thought I should send out a quick message just in case some of you were beginning to fear.
I'm not dead, I'm just writing... which sometimes can appear the same: closed door, never coming out, strange smell starting to gather. You know, the usual.
Though, for those of you who missed it, I just released my latest ebook last week:

http://www.amazon.com/Nice-Guide-Online-Dating-Profiles-ebook/dp/B00GS1GE9G/

Now available on Amazon for just $4.95US. And I have to admit that it has some pretty great advice, if I do say so myself. Even re-reading it for editing I was like 'wow, that's a good idea, where did that come from?' As with a lot of my good advice, I'm better at sharing it than implementing it myself. But at least I hope it will help a few nice guys out there find happiness. (Though, the advice actually works just as well for nice girls, you just need to think of different examples.)

And a personal shout out to my wonderful parents: David and Sue Greentree who have been married for 40 years!
Last weekend we had a wonderful celebration for those 40 years, and found out that for all this time neither of them had realised that the other also listed Pavlova as their favourite dessert. Oh, the missed opportunities.

I was also pretty proud of my YouTubing abilities, which allowed me to make this Ferraro Rocher tower as their celebration cake. (Just to give you a hint: over 90 chocolates, a craft cone, foil and lots of toothpicks.)



I am now heads down and tails up trying to get a few more first drafts finished and something else out by Christmas. The theology book, I suppose unsurprisingly, is taking a little longer to write. Possibly because it is three PhD theses rolled into one. But I battle on. 

And as a little reminder, I can always do with a few more reviews on Amazon/GoodReads/Smashwords. Your support is always appreciated. It helps me keep turning out the good stuff.

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Problem with Writing Characters From Real Life

There are many advantages to writing characters who are based on real people. The most obvious are that you don't have to think them up, and you can finally give them the endings those people/actions really deserved. (Yes, I am assuming most people write as wish fulfillment. Just me? Really? Well, me and all the other romance writers out there at least.)

However, today I want to talk about the difficulties and problems of using real people to base your main characters on. (You can continue to use them indiscrimentently for minor characters, that's completely fine by me.)

The topic comes from my recent efforts producing my brother's book for publication: Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists (available any day now on Amazon in hard copy! Just waiting for it to move over from Createspace).

The main character, Tom Grafton, is based (unsurprisingly) on my brother. I make no judgement about this, as nearly all first works of fiction are autobiographical in someway, which is why my first creative writing subject at Uni was called 'Autofictions'. However, while reading it, I came across some of the problems that occur when you develop a character from a real life person, even one who you know as well as yourself.

1. They don't always make sense.
In real life Dave acts based on a set of motivations developed from years of different experiences. Therefore, when Tom is faced with a situation he simple does what David would have done in that situation. However, for the reader it sometimes doesn't make sense, because they only know a little bit about Tom, not all the factors that have led David to act as he does. Even the most complex character does not have all the intricacies of a human being and why we act as we do. (Have you ever noticed that bad guys in real life are rarely as satisfactory as in stories, because they are generally not as clearly evil or predictable?) With too many motivations, desires and backstory, people are not going to be able to connect with the character within the space of one book.

Therefore, to create stronger characters, you need to narrow down on just one or two aspects of your personality that you really want to gift to your character, and pull out the backstory and current desires which support that.

2. You have both done things the other hasn't.
In Tom Grafton Vs The Environmentalists there is a really good scene where Tom goes deer hunting for the first time, and Dave records the emotional impact that making that first kill had on him. This gave me a very interesting insight into Dave and his love of hunting. However, I had a slight problem with it for Tom.

Tom, unlike Dave, had been in Iraq, and in a series of short stories, he had gotten into gun fights with terrorists and fearlessly rescued a captured ally, killing those who had taken him hostage, and saving the day.

The fact that he had no emotional reaction to killing a number of human beings, but then goes on to have this revelation while killing a deer caused certain problems for me. Now some of it is the difference between an action short story and a more serious novel. However, the fact remains that in any fiction story, by the end the characters should have gone through something you haven't, so you need to make sure they react appropriately.

3. All because it happened, doesn't make it a good story.  
Often we base scenes in fiction on things that really happened, because they were important to us or seem easier to write that way. However, often we also need to put on a different ending to follow the appropriate narrative arch. As a hypothetical example, imagine that you liked a girl who in real life ended up knocking you back. However, you use some of the dialogue and situations between the two of you for the romance in the book. As it turns out, this makes for pretty dull writing, because the reader keeps thinking 'wow, that really doesn't sound like she likes him that much!'

Or the other extreme is that you put all your wish fulfillment fantasies into her mouth, and it sounds even more unrealistic than if you had just made up the character to begin with. So be wary, very wary.


4. Always keep in mind that fact is stranger than fiction. 
All because it happened in real life, doesn't mean that someone is going to believe it if they read it. This is sad, but true. This isn't a trap that Dave has fallen into, but one that I've seen other people succumb to. When you give such writers feedback about it they always get defensive and argue 'oh, but that's how it really happened.'

Well, I don't care how it really happened, unless you are writing a memoir. I only care about whether it is a good narrative feature, and in this case, it isn't. It makes no sense and turns your reader off.

So, writing characters from real life can be great, but in my personal rule book, only minor characters should be exact copies of people. Major characters can contain certain elements, but don't one-for-one try and copy a person into a book. It's lazy writing and comes across as such (or takes so much work to do well, you would have been better off just starting from scratch at the beginning).

Quick update on me since I last posted:
1. I finished the thorough edit of my Christian YA, Sally Hunt Vs. God, and sent it off to a publisher who had shown some interest. Fingers crossed. (The website said they would respond to submissions in 3-6months, so have got a while to wait. Hoping for a nice Christmas present, though that is pushing the timeframe a bit).

2. I re-wrote the first section of The Nice Guys' Guide To Online Dating Profiles, made it less academic, and quite funny, if I do say so myself. That is now with one of my editors getting a thorough red-ink workout (or Word track changes, as the case maybe). Am still open to suggestions on making the title snappier, by the way.

3. I've started (/continued after my failed attempt earlier in the year) to write my first theology book, The Great Divide, a layman's guide to the fundamental differences in concepts of knowledge between liberal and conservative (Protestant) theologians, and how to protect against them. This is my morning writing workout, for 2+ hours a day. I can't guarantee this one is going to take two weeks, as it is a bit more challenging than historical romances :D

4. I am currently spending my afternoons re-writing A Little Bit Of Leaven, the book my great grandfather wrote.



(So, either I've been quite prolific, or I just haven't posted for a while. I'm going with the former.)

On the nomadic side of things, I've finished house sitting for my parents in Woodend, as they have come home from America. I am now squatting at my brother's place in Sunbury for the foreseeable future. It's working pretty well, as he leaves for work before I get up, so I have the house to myself all day. Then he comes home, we eat dinner together, then he does his own thing and I can do another few hours of work. We'll see if that is enough to get a number of things out by Christmas!

By the way, on request I've created a new cover for Tom Grafton, which is being used on the print on demand version (only tell me if you like it, as it's too late to change now. The old cover is more appropriate to the second book in the series, as it turns out, because it has the girl and guy together (spoiler alert!)).



Anyone got any really good examples of characters based on real life that totally blow my theory apart? Would love to hear your thoughts.


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Late For NaNoWriMo!

It's the second of November! When did that happen? Are you already into your NaNoWriMo project?

If you are a writer, you will very quickly hear about NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. It's simple, you just have to write 50,000 original words on one project in one month. How hard can that be? (She laughs as she remembers the two years it took her to write the first draft of her first novel). 

Last year was the first year I've ever done it, and while I did make the 50,000 it was by the skin of my teeth. The month really did not go as I planned (for more read my end post). My big lesson to anyone is definitely spend time planning or at least getting to know your characters before you start writing. Even now is not too late! 

(Annoyingly, I've finished the first draft of The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp, which perfectly covers preparing you to tackle a new project, which would be super useful for everyone doing NaNo, but it's not edited or ready for general consumption, so you'll just have to wait until next year for it to help you.)

Last year for NaNoWriMo I successfully did my 50,000 words for After The Winter, my 1920's Romance. I was quite proud of that story, and thought I was near the end. However, I've just spent another three weeks trying to fill in the gaps, writing nearly everyday, and I'm still not finished. 50,000 words is not a novel. 

I've been saying to myself, probably for the last week: Oh, I might be able to finish it today! Hopefully today is the day that comes true :D Maybe tomorrow. Does anyone else find the finish of a book always feels just another scene away until you start writing, and a few scenes in it is still just a scene away? 

NaNoWriMo is a wonderful kick up the pants to get you writing. If you are stuck putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, this is the challenge for you. However, sadly a lot more work needs to happen before you even finish your first draft, let alone redrafting, editing, polishing etc. 

Why am I writing this discouraging post? Largely to make myself feel better for not having turned last year's project in a published book yet, but also to help you stay on track. It is an awful thing to cross what you think is the finish line, only to find that you are actually only halfway through.

It feels like forever since I've given you a general update, so here goes:
- I've finished the first drafts of The Nice Guys' Guide To Online Dating Profiles, but it is sitting on a shelf for a bit because I need to re-write sections to be less academic. 
- I've also finished the first draft of The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp, Book 2 in the series after Retreat. However, that is also sitting /third edit etc.).
- For the past two weeks I've been writing After The Winter in the morning, and doing a thorough edit of Sally Hunt Vs. God in the afternoon (It is truly amazing how much I've improved my craft in a year and a bit since I finished the first draft of this). I'm hoping to finish both of these off this weekend.
- Then I'm moving to spending the mornings re-writing A Little Bit Of Leaven to smooth it out and make it more readable to the modern reader, and the afternoons editing The Nice Guys' Guide, or perhaps After the Winter

As such, I'm not going to be doing NaNo this year because I'm not going to be working on anything completely new. It is definitely time I polished things up and got them out there into the world, rather than just telling you about them all. So, hopefully within a month, there will be more online from me for you to enjoy. 

Anyone signed up for NaNoWriMo?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Guest Post - Michelle Dennis Evans, Spiralling Out Of Control

Today I have the great pleasure of talking with Michelle Dennis Evans, fellow Christian writer and author of the newly released Spiralling Out of Control:

Spiralling Out of Control:
Temptation, depression, seduction, betrayal ... Not what Stephanie was expecting at fifteen years of age. Uprooted from her happy, all-girl high school life with a dream filled future and thrown into an unfriendly co-ed school, Stephanie spirals into depression. When charismatic high school senior, Jason notices her, Stephanie jumps in feet first and willingly puts all her faith and trust in him, a boy she barely knows. Every choice she makes and turn she takes leads her towards a dangerous path. Her best friend is never far away and ready to catch her … but will she push Tabbie too far away when she needs her most?

We met last year at the Caleb Christian Writers conference, and caught up again last week at this year's conference, just before she released her new book. So I quizzed Michelle on her writing process (one of my favourite topics to ask other writers). Sit back and enjoy!

I feel so honoured to be here today on Buffy’s blog. The writing process is such a personal and unique thing for everyone. Years ago I found I was great at coming up with ideas, good at starting to write a novel but terrible when it came to finishing. Back in 2009 I found NaNoWriMo, an organisation that supports authors get the story down by writing 50000 words in 30 days during November. In 2009 I drafted my first complete novel from start to finish. That draft would become Spiralling Out of Control.

Nanowrimo is now an annual event for me. It’s like an extreme sport for writers. For me, it works. I put months of thought into a new story with an intriguing plot and sub plots. During this time the characters develop in my mind and I begin to really know them like you would know the person you live with. Then, during October (sometimes October 31st), I write one or two pages of basic notes in point form to give me a little direction on how I would like the story to go. When I begin to write, I let the characters take over and often they take the story to places I would never have dreamed.

The not so good side of Nanowrimo is the mess that I am left with after writing without caution for thirty days. Some sentences are almost perfect … but most need a lot of work. So generally, I spend eleven months revising and editing the mess I write in November. This year I also wrote a verse novel using a similar process. I joined in with Kat Apel’s Month of Poetry in January to force myself to write a poem every day and get my verse novel written. For me, working with a community keeps me accountable and helps me to get to the end. Do you prefer to work on your own, or are you a community kind of person?

Michelle writes to inspire, take people on a journey and escape their world. She is married to an amazing man, with four adorable children and loves living in paradise on the Gold Coast, Australia. www.michelledennisevans.com



Let us know whether you prefer hermit or community writing. I'm offering a copy of Michelle's book to everyone who comments with their thoughts before the end of October. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Spiritual Obstacles To Your Writing

Courtesy of ShadowRave at stock.xchng

So, I was going to write this post as a debrief on the Caleb Conference I attended this weekend. It is a Christian Writers Conference organised this year by the Omega Writers group, and was great. But instead, I'm going to relay (and expand in Buffy style) to you just one of the sessions. Anne Hamilton, president of the Omega Writers, gave a talk on the spiritual obstacles to writing. Fair warning, I'm writing this aimed at Christians, and am not going to phrase it in terms of the secular worldview because I can't do justice to the topic that way. So, please don't be offended if you aren't a Christian, some of it may still be very enlightening.

(In case anyone was wondering, yes there are Australian Christian writers, and they are awesome! If you want to check some of them out, see the website of the publishing house Even Before Publishing.)

The Wonder of Writing:
Writing like all creative pursuits is an amazing insight into the nature of God. God is the Creator, his Word brings things into being. Further, he is The Storyteller. He can hold so many interweaving subplots in his hands, that range over millennium that even G.R.R.Martin would faint. For example, he took one person's pain at barrenness, and a thousand years later turned it into salvation for the whole human race. Similarly, Jesus, even just in his everyday interactions, taught all the people in stories.

God loves stories, and he has blessed us with the ability to create them as well. How amazing is this?

As such, there is something hugely satisfying to the soul about writing. You won't always feel it, but after a good writing session, where you have been able to create a new scene that never existed before, to give characters more depth, or find just the right words to describe the beauty you see, there is contentment.

The Downside:
However, as we all know, it is not always so perfect. Sometimes when we sit down it is like our brain has become wrapped in sandpaper. Any efforts to try and pull out a word gives us a graze. Or other points when you realise that you have been following the wrong track and have to delete (or hopefully put into a scraps folder, because you never really know when it might come in handy) thousands of words. And the thought of having to go back and start that part again seems to overwhelm you.

Then, on a larger scale, there are the years of rejection, or the periods where all you want to do is write, but life demands all of your time. The heart break as we sometimes pour good money after bad trying to get our work noticed. We might get sucked into bad contracts, be had by vanity presses, pay through the nose for different forms of advertising, and finally feel that after all this work, no one is ever going to hear its message.

At these times we all can fall into doubt. If God really wanted me to be a writer, it would be easier, he would open doors, he would make it a best seller. Doesn't he want his message out there?

The truth is that we have an opponent. We have someone that the more we are on God's path, the harder he will try to derail us.

So much I knew, though I might not always call it to mind at the necessary times. However, Anne went onto to talk about two particular obstacles that can affect writers. Identifying and then working out how to overcome these obstacles has been the most useful thing someone has taught me about writing for a long time.

Obstacle No. 1: Constriction. 
We often feel that there is just so much coming against us that we can't define it easily. But stop and think. How often in your writing life do you feel a sense of panic around being constricted somehow?

On the larger scale this can be constricted in time for years. You know you want to write, but every moment just seems accounted for, and people just keep wanting more and more of you, so that there is nothing left at the end. You might try getting up earlier in the morning, but exhaustion soon overcomes you, and you feel you are living in a bleary, unfocused world until you finally collapse. Then there is also monetary constriction. The publishers demand that you pay for it to be edited first, and its going to cost hundreds of dollars. Where are you going to get that sort of money? Or even after it is published, you are hoping that it will pay off, and you watch as only a dollar here or a few dollars there come trickling in, and you feel you need to throw more money into advertising, but don't know if that will ever be repaid.

Then on the smaller scale there is constriction within your writing session. That panic that arises when you have set a word limit, or a particular speed per hour, and yet the words are so painful in coming out that you know you aren't meeting it. And you know it is a downward spiral, that once you start focusing on the lack of words, even fewer will be produced, but you can't seem to stop it. This, for me is a form of 'Constriction'. Anything that makes you feel like you are being choked, held back from what you know your writing can be because of some form of constriction.

Obstacle No. 2: Wastage.
On the other side of the spectrum, but still just as deadly to your writing, is wastage. It is any point where you use your resources and get nothing in return. You pay for a new computer, only to have it not work or do what you need it to. You spend hours formatting your work, only to have it not save and everything is lost. It can even involve being sucked into research, trying to find the one bit of information you need, but spending hours doing it and still not getting what you need.

It can be a large wastage, such as spending years working on a manuscript only to find that no one will publish it because it doesn't fit the proper categories. Or it can be a small scale wastage, having just twenty minutes to write and at the end finding out that what you've written doesn't make sense so you have to delete it.

Wastage can be just as soul sucking and destructive as constriction. It feels like no matter how much you pour into your project, nothing ever produces the results that you know it should. And this happens time, after time, after time.

The Problem:
With both of these it is easy to think that if God really wanted us to write, he would take away these obstacles. We have heard of and experienced in other parts of our life God just turning up the time that we need by having something cancel. Or someone comes and gives us the thing we need right when we need it, without us having to pay or ask for it. So why doesn't he do this now? The obvious answer would be that he doesn't want us to write.

That is possibly one solution, I'm not going to deny it. It could also be a 'not yet' situation, where God does want you to write, but after you have faithfully raised your children, or gained more life experience, developed your craft, whatever. That is something you need to discuss with him. However, this is not the only answer.

The second possible answer is that God definitely does want you to write, and the strength of these obstacles shows just how important it is. The devil is trying his hardest to stop you, in any way that he can, because it is important. So why is God allowing this? Possibly because he wants to use it to develop your character. The most important work of God in any life is to build a strong, faith-filled character. He wants this much more than anything else. Building up your trust and reliance on God might be worth the project being set back a few weeks or hundreds of dollars.

The third possibility, though, is one we seriously need to consider: that at some point along the way we have been faced with the obstacles of constriction and wastage, and rather than submitting to God, we have tried to appease them ourselves. Somehow we have sacrificed to them, giving up our time, money, faith in order to make them go away. And we are now reaping the harvest we have sown of further trouble. We might have started on God's path, but just took a little side track to get around a problem, and now are heading off in our own direction, which maybe parallel to God's, but on a much rockier road.

The Solution:
Never fear, though. God has your back, if you want him to. If you think this third option might just apply to you, it is a big step in the right direction to acknowledge that. You then need to ask God's forgiveness. Anytime we sacrifice anything to something that isn't God, we are caught in idolatry. Once we have started on that path, without asking forgiveness we can't get back. 

To give you an example, I realised during the talk that one of the things I had done because of the obstacle of constriction was to give up my sabbath. Preparing for the conference I felt I was too busy, and it would just be for a few weeks, and surely God wouldn't mind since I was doing his work. After I did that, I found wastage attacking me. Days came and went where I got nothing done because nothing was working. I would spend hours at my computer, trying to work out ways around different formatting problems, downloading new programs, trying to work out how to use them, etc. And then I felt even more constricted, and searched for other things to sacrifice to make it all work. (I luckily stopped before sacrificing my daily Bible time, but it was a temptation at times). 

So I had to ask forgiveness for that. And I'm sure over the next few weeks God will point out other ways that I also sacrificed to these two obstacles. 

The next step is not to confront each individual case of wastage or constriction that arises, but ask God to help deal with the issues that allowed these obstacles to take root in your life in the first place. For example, I got to the stage where I felt forced to give up my sabbath, but that was after a long period of building constriction. The original problem was that I was lazy. God had told me to start working on these things months ago, and instead of just getting in and doing them, each morning I would ask 'do I really need to do it today? How about tomorrow, instead?' 

I should have clued into this one earlier, because in my Bible time I kept getting God rebuking Joshua for not taking all of the promised land after many years. (I now listen to the Bible on my computer, on shuffle. Trying to work out what the context is for each chapter is a great way to reenforce the original purpose of the text.) God had told the Israelites to take the whole land, and after a generation, they had gotten distracted and settled for just having some of the land. And God didn't pressure them during this period, it was just at the end he said 'You want to know why it's all not working? Well, did you do what I said? No!' 

So, for me, the issue I actually had to deal with is not doing God's will when he says. That is not going to be the same issue for you. For you it might be that you rush in to complete God's will when he wants you to wait. Or it could be something completely different. But we need to find out these underlying issues and ask God to help us sort them out if we want to get the constriction and wastage out of our lives. 

I'm still praying through where I've fallen down in my writing and life, but just being able to define my fears and what is going wrong has been an immense help. So I hope it will help some of you too.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Queensland Baby! Goodreads Giveaway, New Books Available, and My Last Chance Prayer

Hello from beautifully sunny Queensland!
Yes, that's right, I've left the (not so cold now) weather of Melbourne, and flown the two hours up to Brisbane for the annual Caleb Christian writers conference!
Have been working my little backside off trying to get ready for this conference for the last few weeks, as I'm actually getting a table and selling books! My first physical event as a bookseller. Pretty exciting, no?

I have a lot of little things I want to cover just to keep you all updated, so I'm just going to lay it out.

GoodReads Giveaway:

First of all, big thank you to everyone that entered the Goodreads giveaway for the hardcopies of The Five Day Writer's Retreat. Over 1,000 people entered! It was really amazing.
I've sent out the five copies, but apologise to the winners in the UK, as it won't arrive until early December. 

I am sorry that only 5 people could win the hardcopies. However, to make it up to the rest of you, I'm offering 50% off the Smashwords' electronic copy of the book. This can be used by absolutely anyone until the 10th November, 2013. All you need to do is go to Smashwords and use this coupon code:

WD79W
 
You are more than welcome to share that around. I appreciate the support, and want to share the fun.
 
Colostrum - A Handbook of Spiritual Antibodies for New Christians.
 

I've finally published my father's first book! It's available as an ebook at Amazon, and soon will be coming as a hardcopy (I'm testing out Lightning Source rather than Createspace for it, and will give you a full report on the two once I get the proofs and hardcopies of Dad's book). 

Dad's been an Anglican minister for over 30 years, and has put together a handbook of the worst heresies that tend to shipwreck new believers. From experience he passes on the spiritual antibodies needed to fight these diseases. 

It was so much fun editing this book for Dad, largely because it was just so... Dad! Reading it is just like listening to him speak. I could even imagine his gestures and facial expressions. It is colloquial, and excited, theologically sound, and sensible. Highly recommended for all new believers, and would make a perfect baptism present. 

If anyone would like a review copy, sign up for my reviewers' list just on the left hand sidebar of this blog to always be offered free review copies, or send me an email at b.greentr@gmail.com.

Prayers, Please!

Finally, tomorrow night is the Caleb Dinner, where the winners of the Caleb Awards will be announced. My Christian Young Adult Supernatural, Sally Hunt Vs. God is a finalist in the unpublished manuscript section. To be honest, if I don't win I don't mind in that I get control of my manuscript and can publish it myself. However, at some stage I do want to be a Hybrid Author, with a combination of traditionally and self-published works. Largely, I want to see the difference and how well traditional publishing now compares. This would be a great opportunity. 
Also, just knowing my writing is of winning standards would be nice.

In a similar vein, I've entered the first chapter of After The Winter, the 1920's historical romance I did as my first draft for NaNoWriMo last year, into the Harlequin 'So You Think You Can Write' competition a few days ago. Little did I realise that if I get through to the next round, I need to submit a full manuscript by mid October! I have 50,000 words, but I never actually completed the first draft. So, pray that I do get into the next round, and then that I can get the manuscript written to a high enough standard in just a week! 
 
If you want to read the first chapter, check it out at: http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts-sytycw-2013/after-the-winter/

If you were wondering what my ROW80 goals for the next week... well, you can probably guess now. Intensive romance writing!
 
Anyone that will be free in a week or two to do some quick beta reading, I would love you long time!
 
Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Giveaway Winners and A Mother's Story

The Giveaway Winners!
 
Big thanks to everyone that drop by and read Philip's guest post on writing radio plays. Though, I was surprised to see how many people actually left a comment to win the prize compared to those who dropped by. I know that hundreds of people read the post (got to love stats), yet only a few entered in to win. (Any deep sociological cues I'm not picking up on, feel free to let me know in the comments!) 

Well, I'm sorry for all the rest because everyone that entered has won a copy! So Lisa, Ben and Anonymous (yeah, going to have to do a bit of detective work on that one... please let me know who you are if you are reading this!) you will have a copy coming to you soon!

A Mother's Story:

 

In other news, the true story I was developing into a print on demand novella for my aunt is now available through Amazon/Createspace. 'A Mother's Story' details the bullying and emotional abuse suffered by the six Dobbs children as well as their parents at the hands of Figtree Anglican church, New South Wales. It is the events as experienced and told  by Machele Dobbs, their mother. It is an incredible tale of what happens when a seemingly normal church actually has a cult like control over its parishioners. They wrongly accused Dr. Scott Dobbs of being a child abuser, and then persecuted him and his entire family in a fashion that was much worse than anything Dr. Dobbs was ever supposed to have done.

The hard copy is only $5, to cover the cost of printing, because we just want to get the story out there. Figtree Anglican has tried to pretend it did nothing wrong, and is even refusing the Archbishop's directive to make a public declaration that they wrongly accused Dr. Scott Dobbs. But if that is not enough, the Sydney Diocese is also refusing to acknowledge that it inflicted any pain or suffering on the rest of the Dobbs family. So the only recourse we have is to make the situation known.

As some of you might know, when I was a teenager my family went through a very similar case where my father, an Anglican minister, was victimised by the hierarchy. I know exactly how much damage those who pose as Christians can cause, and want to defend the name of Christ by showing these people for what they are - manipulators and power hungry individuals that have nothing to do with the will of God. 

So if you are interested, take a look at A Mother's Story on Amazon.
(The electronic version will be available later this week... hopefully. I've had a cold and been feeling sorry for myself (aka, not doing work).)
 
I am more than happy to give away review copies, just leave a comment or email me at b.greentr@gmail.com

Other than that, I plan to kill my brother. 
I'm sorry, but it just needs to be done.

After working on the electronic version of his book, he decides he wants me to create the print on demand version. I tell him, repeatedly, that I want him to read through what I've done with the text (as I had to make a great number of corrections and try to smooth some parts over) before I do it all, because once it's in print, it can't be changed. However, he says he's totally happy with whatever I do, and it doesn't matter, just get it done. Once again, before submitting the file I ask him to check it, but he says he doesn't need to. I tell him that I want to take this book to sell at the conference I'm attending, so this is his last chance to check it if we want to do that. He still says go ahead with it.
So I order the proofs from createspace, just to check, before planning on making the order for a number of books. Once the proofs arrive, my brother tells me he is now going to read through it with a highlighter for all the bits he wants to change, and he no longer wants this cover!

See, I just have to kill him!

So, the print on demand version of Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists is not going to be ready for a while yet. And, if I can't restrain myself, the rest of the world may never read the last two books in the trilogy, because the author will be dead. 

I think I'll be able to still write while in prison, so not that great a loss. 

I just keep reminding myself that I can charge him for all the extra time it takes when he keeps changing his mind.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Guest Post: Philip Craig Robotham on Writing Audio-Dramas (With Giveaway)

Hello all! Well, it will be a week tomorrow since I packed up everything, moved all but a suitcase (and a bit)'s worth into storage, and started my freelance life. Still trying to sort everything out but am carrying on.  So thank you all for your patience and support as I upend my life... again. 

Today, to fill in my very conspicuous gap, I have the wonderful Philip Craig Robotham doing a guest interview.

Philip has started up his own company, weirdworldstudios.com, producing audio drama scripts in the style of old time radio plays packaged as a fun dinner party idea. While still holding down his day job, Philip has created radio plays for three serials; Pulp Adventure, Gaslamp Mystery and Fantasy Noir. Today we talk about why radio plays, how he writes, and the challenges associated with starting a writing career.



What inspires you to write?

For me writing is enormous fun. I do it because I love the thrill of creating and allowing my imagination to run wild. I'm also an old-time radio fan. I enjoy everything from adventures like "Gunsmoke", "the Green Hornet", "the Saint", and "Yours Truly Johnny Dollar", through comedies such as "the Goon Show" and "Fibber McGee and Molly", through science fiction like "X Minus 1" and "ProjectXx", through to horror and suspense like "the Inner Sanctum". 

It's typical of me that the genre of writing that gets me excited the most is one which died out more than forty years ago. All the same, it's what I love and seems to be having something of a resurgence lately via the internet. There have been some great examples of audio drama made available recently from podcasters online. These include the fabulous "Adventures of the Red Panda", the haunting and creepy "Wormwood", the extremely professional "Leviathan Chronicles", and far too many others to list. 

I'm not a particularly florid writer. I like plain speech and simple exposition. I'm also not overly fond of having to write lengthy descriptions of people and places. As a result radio writing seems to have been made for me. 

Host your own Old Time Radio Drama script category - Pulp Adventure
Host your own Old Time Radio Drama - Pulp Adventure - The Alligator Menace
The first of the Pulp Adventure Series
How does writing an audio drama differ from other genres?

Writing for the ear is very different to any other kind of writing that I have ever done. For one thing everything is exposition. In real life no-one ever says "look out Claire, he's holding a gun!", but in an audio drama it's essential to spell out what is happening for the listener. It's also very hard to write an audio drama with a lone character in it. If you do then you'll find yourself forced to have the character talking to him or herself constantly. The old Sam Spade voice-over was probably invented for radio shows relying on a single main character:
"I walked the last 18 steps to the battered old front door. The lock had been jimmied and swung creaking on its hinges in the evening breeze." 

There’s great atmosphere in these monologues but, personally, I like my characters to have company and it lets me indulge my taste for banter:
"What are we doing here, boss?" 
"Old man Cranston invited us to come visit him up at the house." 
"Yeah? Battered looking old place isn't it? Give me a second and I'll try the door... Hey, the lock's broken! This door's been jimmied open." 
"What gave it away, genius? The fact that it was swinging back and forth on its hinges or the crowbar lying in the dirt beside it?" 
I also like conflict and a bit of "sass". It’s harder to have that with a lone character. 

One thing you really develop when writing an audio script is your ability to do dialog and characterisation (especially dialog). That's simply because dialog is all you have to work with most of the time. You don't have to spend a lot of time labouring over descriptions of people and places when you write for radio - the listener will supply all the detail with their own imaginations - but you do have to manage dialog. In fact a judicious lack of physical description engages the listener’s imagination more effectively and helps them to identify themselves more fully with the characters. 

The other thing that is surprisingly hard to do in audio is action. A fight scene needs to be over really quickly because otherwise the listener is being treated to a whole series of bangs and whaps that don't provide anything much for the listener's imagination to grab onto... and a blow by blow description (while in keeping with many of the conventions of the genre) starts to sound like a commentary at a prize fight. When it comes to descriptions of what the characters see, hear and experience, you want just enough to tell the audience what they need to know about the environment without it sounding so unrealistic that it jettisons them out of the story. 

Another thing that's easy to forget is that the listener will not know who is speaking unless someone among the characters refers to that character by name. My very first (and thankfully long buried) attempt at script writing suffered from this problem but I still have to go through my completed scripts and make sure all the characters have been properly identified out loud before I send them off to my editor. 

BTW - finding a skilled editor to whip my work into shape is an absolute must as a self-publisher. I can't begin to say how much embarrassment I have been saved by the sharp eye of my editor. That isn’t to say that there isn't plenty more embarrassment to be had for which I am solely responsible.

Host your own Old Time Radio Drama - Pulp Adventure - The Cult of the Teeth
Pulp Adventure - Episode 2

How do you structure your work?

I write in episodic format. That is, I write as if I'm writing episodes in a radio serial. Most of the old radio stories of the past were limited to around twenty to forty minutes or so. I find that twenty minutes is too short for telling the kind of stories I want to tell (though the discipline of paring back a story until it can be told in twenty minutes is a good one). I write what I call "feature length" plays to be read over an hour and a half to two hours and while I am writing self-contained episodes they do each contribute to a larger story. 

When it comes to the structure of my writing I find the good old three act story structure really helpful. I know lots of writers hate it, find it confining and formulaic, and in some cases even deny that it exists, but I find it helpful as a way of keeping momentum in my writing and stopping me from becoming dull. It also gives me a bridging structure for the wider story arc of each serial I write. Personally I'm not a high-concept kind of writer. Don't get me wrong, I wish I had the talent for that and envy those that do. Instead I write the kind of stories I enjoy; adventures, usually with a deal of mystery and supernatural suspense thrown in for good measure. I also write to entertain. While I like to have good-guys who are good and bad-guys who are bad, I'm not writing to instruct or make any deep moral statements about the world. I leave that kind of thing to better writers than I am. I'm simply having fun and hoping my readers do as well.

Host your own Old Time Radio Drama script category - Gaslamp Mystery
Host your own Old Time Radio Drama - Gaslamp Mystery - The Visitor from the Gloria Scott
Gaslamp Mystery - Episode 1


Do you have a specific process or schedule?

I have two small children and a day job so writing is something I do in my spare time. I try to write something every day but I don't always get the chance. I don't beat myself up over this. Life happens and if I get to spend some time writing four days out of seven, I call it a win and move on. I begin with a fairly detailed outline, breaking down the acts, plot points, and character points in the story. I don't bother breaking down the scenes at this stage but I do build a pretty clear outline of all the events in the story before I sit down to write the first draft. For me an outline is essential – it gives me confidence that most of the plot problems have been solved before the writing begins. 

I write the first draft straight through. Not necessarily in one sitting but usually without going back over the text until it is all complete. I have found that if I start polishing before the first draft is complete I waste a huge amount of time writing and re-writing the same material over and over and eventually abandon the whole thing. 

Once the first draft is written I go back to the beginning and start revising. I look for plot holes, stuff that doesn't make sense, redundancy, places where my pace is either too slow or too quick (still working on this one), and points at which I can punch up the character interaction. I also check to see that I've been able to maintain the voices of my characters authentically. Finally, I revise for spelling, grammar, and punctuation problems. 

Technically I guess that's just three drafts, but my second and third drafts are a form of death by a thousand cuts where I go over and over the text until I feel that I can stand to look at it without complete embarrassment. I'm not the kind of writer who will spend forever perfecting every turn of phrase. I like telling stories and am too impatient to connect with an audience for that kind of perfectionism. Besides I've ruined more than one story by overworking it. They say that no work of art is ever finished, merely abandoned, and I guess that's true of my writing (though whether it qualifies as art is something I'll leave to the reader).
 
Host your own Old Time Radio Drama script category - Fantasy Noir

Host your own Old Time Radio Drama - Fantasy Noir - Predator's Row
Fantasy Noir - Episode 1

What's the most unique thing about your writing?

Probably the most unique thing about my writing is its packaging. The plays I write, while fun to read in their own right, are designed to be performed as part of a dinner party by a group of from 6 to 8 participants. The six episodes I've published so far include everything you need to host a fun dinner party and script reading; costume ideas, period recipes, instructions for a "build it yourself" sound effects kit, and, of course, an original script. I came up with the idea as I puzzled over how I might take part in the apparent revival that audio drama online has been enjoying in recent years. Unfortunately I don’t have the technical expertise to create a podcast, nor access to the acting talent necessary to create an audio drama. 

In light of this I spent some time thinking about what I really enjoyed about the radio dramas of yore and I was suddenly struck by something. For me, the fond memories are all tied up with the time spent listening with family. It was about the fun we had together living the experience in our imaginations. I would laugh myself hoarse listening to the Goon Show and other programs. They were great times of fun, family, food and community. 

As I thought about this it occurred to me that, as much as I love professionally produced audio drama, there might be a way to recapture some of that sense of fun and community without necessarily having to invest heavily in technology and good actors. Earlier this year we held our first dinner party/script reading with an original script that I wrote to celebrate my forty third birthday. We had a blast. Food, friends, fun, and one thing more that I don't think you get by merely listening; a sense of being inside and part of the story.


What's the biggest challenge you face?

The biggest challenge I face as I enter the world of self-publishing is that of marketing my own work. Frankly... marketing is not what I'm best at. Like most people who enjoy writing (a fairly solitary task by its very nature) I don't actually know that many people. The big challenge for me, then, is spreading the word that these stories exist.

Thanks Philip!
So, with Christmas just 13 weeks away, why not take a look at hosting your own party, or giving a radio as a unique and interesting gift from as little as 5.99? 

 
Philip Craig Robotham is the author of our range of Host your own Old Time Radio Drama scripts of adventure, mystery, and suspense.
Philip Craig Robotham’s “Host your own Old-Time Audio Drama” scripts are available in pdf, e-book, and print on demand versions. Check out the facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/weirdworldstudioscom) and website (http://www.weirdworldstudios.com/) for more information or to place an order







To convince you of how much fun these can be, I'm giving away 5 copies of any of these scripts. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment saying which radio play you want, and you'll go into the random draw to win one. Entries close in a week, Tuesday 1st October. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mid-Move Update

So today is the day. I'm moving from my beautiful little 1 bedroom apartment in trendy South Yarra and starting the life of a nomad for a few months.
Apologies all for not updating regularly. Here is what's been happening:

Decided last week that I needed to get my aunt's novella and my brother's book ready for print on demand within two weeks. Then my father asked if I could also get his short handbook proofed, formatted, cover made and ready for print on demand as well in that timeframe. I, being silly, said I would give it a go.
The reason for the rush is that I'm off to a christian conference on 11th October, and want to set up a table with the other book sellers (makes me feel quite official, sort of like a publisher!). However, since I'm printing with Createspace, the time it takes to get the proof shipped out and then the orders, even paying the ridiculous amount for express post, still means I need to be done much, much earlier.

On a side note, this is one of the reasons I've started looking at Lightning Source instead, as they have a group in Australia, so I wouldn't have to wait or pay the postage. I'm in the process of signing up with them, but there is a lot more involved, as I have to be approved as a publisher (which I have been, yah!), and then sign all the contracts etc. As my business paperwork (and people thought I was silly for actually registering as a business) is of course in the packing. But hopefully when I have it all done, it will be great. The sales rep also let slip that they actually do all Createspace's actual printing, so I was sure to be happy with the comparison of quality. Good to know.

In summary, I finished my aunt's book, and the proof should be coming late this week. My brother's book is formatted, but I'm still proofing it as I found more typos. I've also finished the full cover. My father's book I've started formatting and proofing, probably done the first half. Have an idea for the cover, but nothing more.

Then I've spent the last two days doing nothing but packing. Have I mentioned how much I hate packing? The removalists are here right now taking it all away, yah. This is the first time I've hired removalists just for myselt, and it was a brilliant idea.
I'm madly trying to type this before i disconnect my wireless internet :D

On my own writing side, I haven't had a chance to edit After the Winter yet, but I'm one session off finishing The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp, and it's really good (if I do say so myself). The rest of the week is probably going to be a write-off, but maybe on the weekend I can get it finished. Haven't quite decided which of the next ideas is going to be my project, and whether to put my effort into editing The Nice Guys Guide to Online Dating Profiles or After the winter first.

So will let you know more when I'm not standing surrounded by boxes.

Lots of love,
Buffy

Thursday, 5 September 2013

My Love For Scrivener Continues...


I mentioned awhile ago, I'm sure I did, that I had moved over to using Scrivener for my writing. At first it was just because Word does its weird auto-formatting thing that makes e-books unpredictable. As you have to use Word to upload to Smashwords (though, I think they do now take epub, but you still need to get your word document to epub somehow), I wanted a more reliable way than writing the whole thing and then spending hours removing all the formatting and redoing the whole thing. 

I had heard a bit about Scrivener, and one friend had tried to tell me that if I was serious about writing I should really test it out. So I finally took the plunge and signed up for their 30 day trial (which, by the way is awesome because it counts the number of days you use it for, not 30 calendar days from when you sign up.) 

I'm in love. I don't think I've taken up a new piece of software as quickly as I've accepted Scrivener. I can't imagine working on any of my drafts not using it now. It does take some getting used to, but its benefits are so useful straight away that it's worth it.

I highly recommend watching at least the 10 minute video tutorial, because it is so packed with features that it is hard to work out everything it can do. I must admit, there is a 30 minute walk through tutorial which I've never done, but maybe one day I will. 

I'm still discovering a lot of the features, and there are a few things which I find annoying and am sure there must be a way around, I just haven't worked them out yet. However, I just wanted to highlight one way that it has totally changed my writing. 

Scrivener works in scenes and chapters, and when you are finished you 'compile' it altogether into whatever document type you need. So I've been going through importing the previous stories I've written in Word, and breaking them up into scenes so I can see how it is all fitting together. This has highlighted a serious problem in my previous writing: my chapter and scene lengths were all over the place!

Scrivener automatically displays the word count for that section down the bottom. So as I've been dividing these long documents into their scenes, I've suddenly realised that my chapters vary between 1,000 and 4,000+ words! This might be okay if I were doing it on purpose to make certain points. But I wasn't, I just wasn't writing very well.

I'm currently going through my 50,000 word draft of After The Winter. It is really illuminating to see it all broken up into scenes, because I can see where I need to expand, and other areas that are too long. Using Scrivener's outline form (which looks like cue cards on a corkboard, see below) I can type up short summaries of each scene and what I need to add to make the story work. It is giving me a clear path on what needs to be done and taken away a lot of the fear I had about it last night (to the point where I didn't start editing at all, because I was just overwhelmed with what needed to be done). 

It also helps that I can easily jump around the entire document, because the scenes outlined on the left hand side. When you are editing and/or planning, this is invaluable because I keep getting ideas like 'oh, I need to explain that when they first meet', and can skip back, put a note on the card, and be back to where I was in less than 20 seconds. Much easier than scrolling to where you think that scene was, trying to find somewhere you can leave a note, then scrolling back to where you were. 

So hopefully I will have a much more evenly written book by the time I'm finished, and more fun while I'm doing the actual writing (which is not to be underestimated).

Anyone else have great tips or features they have found with Scrivener?