Monday, 29 April 2013

The flow of a story

Things have moved on a lot since I last blogged about the structural work I was doing on my novel. I've broken the previous draft into pieces and spent time reassembling them like a jigsaw. The current table is now much more colourful and information packed, with extra columns for the day of the week, rows for transitions between sections, and different colours to show where scenes are set. It's almost at the point when I can assemble all my notes and previous drafts into the order governed by the master plan table and start rewriting. Of course, first I'll strip out all formatting using notepad.exe. Since things have built up over the years from different versions of Word and different style sets the underlying formatting is probably a mess. Best to nuke it. Believe me, it is quicker to go through with a consistent style adding occasional italics back in than it is to try and format an e-book from a Word.doc that is a complete mess of hidden codes. I've been there and it wasn't pretty,

I've always been interested in Kurt Vonnegut's mapping of stories as graphs. There's a lovely graphic explaining it here, or just watch the video below. I'll wait while you do that.


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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Microfiction


I got distracted yesterday by a flash fiction competition. I thought "Hey! I have one already written, I could enter that!" It turned out my existing story was more than three times too long, since the limit is 99 words. 99 words! It's amazingly few to tell a story. Try it. I started drafting a new one, which hovered around 104 words despite all my chopping and polishing.

Having an external limit sometimes leads to greater creativity as you work around the constraints. I decided that instead of a long word count I would make each word work harder, and allow multiple interpretations. So far it is ambiguous enough to sustain three different meanings. It will be interesting to see if I can pull it off.

The competition is the New Welsh Review Flash In The Pen - Microfiction Competition. Write something. Enter. The joy with such a small word count is that it takes only minutes to write 99 words but much longer to polish them. It's like an equation, add and subtract, change variables, strike out a line and start again. Pretty much prose poetry, which is always worth practising.
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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Cold Fusion 2000 nominated


I found out the other day that Cold Fusion 2000 has been nominated for the 2013 Carapace Prize for Best Indie Novel. It was a complete surprise to me, and left me grinning like a Neoclinus blanchardi. At that time I was one of three nominees - now there are four, and the list is sure to grow, but knowing I was one of the earliest to be included makes me glow like a Lobate ctenophore.

PS Don't worry, I am human. Just.
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Sunday, 21 April 2013

'M is for Monster' - anthology review

M is for MonsterM is for Monster by John Prescott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the concept for this collection – 26 letters of the alphabet, 26 stories, each letter gets its own story and monster. Some were guessable, some were left-field, and with some I still didn’t know the relevance of the letter even after finishing the story! It doesn’t matter though, and doesn’t affect enjoyment of these well-written tales. As usual with this kind of thing I’ll pick out my very favourite stories and explain why I liked them, though I won’t give away the monster if I can help it. So, my favourites were:

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Friday, 19 April 2013

My writing week


Every day in Wales is just like this

Writing is so nice. Today I was working on structure for novel 3, since if I get that perfect before I start re-writing it will save loads of time and keep me on track, even though it looks like distraction tactics to an observer.

I'm really pleased with the good reviews of my work recently: and I didn’t even have to sleep with anyone! On second thoughts, just as well, that could lead to bad reviews.

I ran up and down the local cemetery a few times today, possibly a 45% gradient, it is my current favourite ‘quick burst’ exercise as a break from writing. Hard work in the sun, and with the ever-present possibility of a rotten hand grabbing me from underneath the ground. Burpees are a close second. I also want to do one of the zombie fun runs this year, which will give me something to aim for. Either Zombie Run or Zombie Evacuation. Do any of you have any recommendations of good exercises for writers so that we don't become decrepit from days sat on our arses?

Talking of exercise has made me want some more so I'm off to watch the Youtube video again...
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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Business cards #2

My new cards. Five different front designs. 
The bottom right shows the backs of the cards.

I've nearly run out of the Moo Minicards I ordered back in 2011 so decided to get some more. They have many uses: one of mine is to slip them into my books when sent out for review. I had been thinking of holding out until my third novel is published, but in the end decided not to wait, since I can always get more later! Plus, since I write in two genres, these won't go out of date - any future horror books can have a Turner card/bookmark slipped in, and any future literary ones get a CF2K card. So if people like the book they then know what my previous book of that genre was, and might go and buy a copy.

This time I went for the greenest option, which excludes the minicards (Moo still don't offer a green paper option for them). So regular-sized business cards it was; and to be honest, they are a better form factor for displaying a book cover. They're just not so obviously like a mini bookmark when tucked into one of your books.

If you want to get some Moo cards (or just look at their options) then if you follow this link then you will get 10% off your first order, and I gain some credit! My order also included a card saying that I could pass on the code for people to get 15% off their first pack of 50 business cards (enter code G2MSCG at checkout). I imagine you can only use one code or the other. Remember that the cost of promotional cards are legitimate expenses to include in your self-assessment tax return if you are a writer.

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Monday, 15 April 2013

Working on sub plots

Columns for plots and sub plots, rows for scenes and events in the novel,
running in order from top to bottom. Explained in detail below.

You have the idea for your novel, and the central plot. This includes what is at stake for the protagonist(s). Love? A glittering career? Survival? Unravelling a mystery? In itself that may leave a rather straightforward story, so it is useful to weave in sub plots to add depth. The simplest is to throw in a love interest but that is rather predictable (and is the Hollywood sub plot of preference). One of the criticisms of a draft version of one of my earlier works was that it needed more fillings in the sandwich, more sub plots to keep the reader engaged. And that's what I'm working on at the moment.

I've already blogged about the process of listing what I already have from the previous draft. Next I created a table in Word. I headed it with the protagonist's name, then used headings for each sub plot, however minor. So we have a column for each sub plot, split into rows. The top row is the start of the novel, the final row is the end. Now and again I would create a heading by merging cells, representing some important section of the novel, breaking it into more manageable chunks.

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Friday, 12 April 2013

It's not bent, but it is Rubery


If you're quick you can still enter the International Rubery Book Award. It's open to indie and self-published authors.

First Prize £1000 (and the winning book will also be read by a literary agent)
2nd prize £200
3rd prize £75

Closing date: 30th April 2013

£35 per book entry fee. It seems a lot but that may reduce the number of entrants and increase your chances... Maybe...
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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

US tax numbers and UK writers - EIN, ITIN (k that it is complicated)


Update April 2016: this doesn't apply any more, so don't read beyond this paragraph if you are after current advice! Nowadays you just provide your National Insurance number to prove you are UK, then get access to the tax treaty so pay 0% US witholding tax. For example, Amazon asks you questions to determine this, so it can all be done online with them in about two minutes.

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One thing I don't enjoy is dealing with tax people. It's bad enough in the UK (no email, don't answer the phone, don't ring you back, confusing systems). Unfortunately if you publish via US organisations then you have to deal with the US tax department too. It's quite a rigmarole. Basically the US and UK have a tax treaty, whereby you don't have to pay tax on books sold via a US site. However, the US tax system requires you to send letters back and forth to America, waiting for months and hoping they are being processed and haven't gone missing. A process you have to repeat from time to time, using confusing forms and confusing guidance. If you don't then the US Government takes a 30% cut of all profits by default, even though they're not entitled to do so. Oh for a world where you could easily click a box online, or the US bookseller could just tell them you are a verified UK author and therefore don't pay 30% tax.

This applies whether you sell via Smashwords (guidance here) or Amazon.com (guidance here). I have to admit that I've started this process twice already due to things going missing, and still don't have the required forms and numbers. And it isn't clear if you have to do it for each seller, or just once. Also some forms implied that you have to send important documents such as your passport to the US (something I don't want to do, in case it goes missing). I'm a writer, not an accountant!

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Friday, 5 April 2013

"What do we do with a drunken re-write, ear-ly in the mornin'?"


What am I doing at the moment? Working on novel number three. To be more specific, I am re-writing novel number three. New structure, new plots, change of order, new scenes, loads of deletions, heavy work on the language. Snipping away Tommy Telling and replacing it with Simone Showing. It's an amazing experience. One minute you are down because you've just read something written a long time ago and realised it is poop; the next you are up because you are full of ideas, and fixing a broken thing can be satisfying. Sort of like recycling.

Since Cold Fusion 2000 was finished I have been doing lots of promotion for that novel, and research for the new one. I can put it off no longer. I now have to start re-writing and editing. And taking thousands of ideas and notes, then deciding which to keep and where to put them.

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