Another update.

Success! It’s working! Or at least, it feels as if it is working as I finish writing for the day and head to the homepage to update my ‘live word counter’. It’s not really live – to actually do that would require some sort of link between my website (the inter-web) and my 2009 version of Word – and that terrifies me. Anyway, now that my word counter has evolved into a ‘live word chopper’ it is safe to say I am making some progress.

Slow progress; mind you. At the moment I’m squeezing 238,722 words to fewer than 130,000 so I can stuff in all the scenes needed for the narrative to form some semblance of novel. My method requires it: I pour it all in, everything – all the brain-mess and the overused words like looked, interjected, exclaimed, gazed, shifted – it’s all about the body language in my first draft. Then, horrified by my bloated document, I force a temporary end so I can throw most of it away. The parts where I get to bin whole pages are the most satisfying: away you go, small talk, here’s some plot advancement instead. These alterations to conversation, timing and place get me thinking about the nature of real life – does free will exist, or are we bound to some plot arc with small details that may change, but that never ultimately affect our final destination?

You can tell I’ve been watching too much Doctor Who. Every evening, storming through time and space with the Doctor in the TARDIS – when episodes are watched in close succession the disruption the Doctor inflicts upon his companions seems darker than before. Comparing the series I would definitely rather travel with Tennant or Smith – so far all of Capaldi’s companions seem to have ended up highlight for spoiler>indisposed<highlight for spoiler. Despite my many distractions I am confident I will get a decent first draft done by the end of the summer, which will (with a lot of hard work) set me on course for publication in 2018. Hopefully. I announced it on Twitter so it has to happen. I’ll show you the cover as soon as it’s ready – it incorporates the New Moral eye-cross in a way that is quite sleek.

Anyway, plans for this year: still many. My Resolutions To Do list has birthed two more: To Do This Week and To Do In The Flat. As you can tell from Twitter I’m following UK politics closely – the offer from the EU guaranteeing citizen’s rights seemed fair: it would have guaranteed (for life) freedom of movement for those that have already used it. Whilst too many would still miss out, at least those who rely on freedom of movement would have their roaming protected in future. Of course the UK came back with the suggestion of fewer rights in Britain for EU nationals (and one can assume also for Brits abroad). Given that so far during my adult life I’ve had to move every two years, the default ‘five-year residency equals potential long-term residency rights’ wouldn’t work for me. I estimate this will be a significant problem in my future.

I opened up Word to do some editing and I wrote a blog post instead. Details. Keep watching the homepage for updates on the ‘live word chopper’ – and if you haven’t read the first instalment to The Future King yet, where have you been? Pick up your copy here.

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So things have been busy lately. Not busy in the sense that I’ve got mountains of work done, am now half way through to publishing book two (or indeed that children’s book I was working on), but busy in the sense that real life has got in the way. New job, new home, and a new schedule that so far has left little time for anything else other than working and sitting in the sofa each evening, thinking about how much you should be doing with your evening time versus how little you are actually doing (LOTRO, I blame you).

That said, I have managed to get a couple of things done and will get back into the swing of working on projects evening and weekends soon enough. I’ve just organised another Goodreads Giveaway for the months of June and July and, feeling festive, have sorted out a Kindle Countdown Deal for the Spring Bank Holiday. Ironically in order to do this I’ve been shut inside fiddling with graphics and promotional material rather than actually sitting outside enjoying said spring weather, but so far I’m pleased with what I have planned. The phrases I’ve used to make the promotional posters come from the pages of my novel itself; lifted straight off of the New National propaganda posters that Arthur walks past on a regular basis.

Smile and the world smiles with you, read one. A happy worker is a happy person, read another. You have the things in life you deserve, proclaimed the next. And, would you know if your neighbour is housing illegals?

These posters will be released randomly in the run up to the Goodreads Giveaway I’ve organised, hopefully to rally up some excitement, so watch this space. In the meantime I’m hoping to break through book two syndrome, you know – something halfway between blank page syndrome and where the hell do I start syndrome. Don’t panic if you were expecting me to have already drafted book two by now – it’s all there, ready to go and planned on paper – I just want to start it right.

Except then I remembered that book two isn’t book two at all. I don’t need to worry about starting a new novel – it’s a series. And more specifically the second instalment of the series was always intended to be the second half of Logres, married entirely to Volume One. In fact, they’re not even separate: they should be the same book, just divided into two publications. Suddenly I don’t have to worry about new novel syndrome. Now I can just pick up where I left off – start a new chapter – without worrying about the final finished polished package.

Meanwhile I’ll keep working working, will adapt to my new routine and continue to anxiously await reviews from my read-to-reviewers, the people who are offering an honest review in exchange for a free copy of my novel. Yes, I now know I should have organised all of this before my release date way back in December last year, but I’m new at this book-writing book-promotion thing, and really I’m learning as I go along.

14 things… The Future King: Logres

With many thanks to Mlpmom (blogger, reviewer, and all-round nice person), I present to you my very first guest post: 14 things… The Future King: Logres, as hosted on Mlpmom’s amazing blog, My Guilty Obession!

14 things… The Future King: Logres

I’m excited to bring you a very special guest post from new author M.L. Mackworth-Praed and her fantasy book, The Future King Logres.

This looks like it is such a fun and interesting read and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Thank you so much Meredith for being here today!

Please do take a moment to visit My Guilty Obession to see what I’ve been up to. In my post I offer insight into what led me to the Arthurian Legends, how my characters first emerged and 14 things I learned whilst writing my debut novel. So check it out!


 
Want some links? Here are a couple:
My Guilty Obession (Mlpmom) on Amazon
Mlpmom (My Guilty Obession) on Goodreads

The Future King Logres is available to buy on Amazon!
Just click here.

 

 

Five books ordered for Goodreads Giveaway!

The books are ordered, all five of them, ready for the giveaway and ready for me to sign. I’m still coming to terms with scribbling in books (I was always taught that defacing a book was hugely immoral), but I suppose that scrawling one’s John Hancock doesn’t really count. Then again, my ‘actual’ signature really can’t be counted as anything other than an irregular, scribbled mess.

Not so for my ‘author’ signature though – you know, the one you put in books – because I have been practicing on several scraps of paper to get something different than what I might scribble in a chequebook. Not that I expect anyone to forge said signature if I do include it in the leaves of my own book, but I’m sure that I once read somewhere that having an ‘artist’s’ signature is the thing to do.

What with my free trial of Amazon Prime, the books should all arrive via courier tomorrow; though I have experienced a certain amount of guilt as a result. It seems a tall task to print five copies of my novel, pack them up and then drive them over to their delivery destination in what is effectively 24 hours. I’m fairly certain that I’m not yet making enough sales for The Future King: Logres to be on the ‘print-and-stock-it-just-in-case’ list, so they’re probably being run off the printing press as we speak. With the novelty of being a published author still relatively new, I must admit that I am looking forward to handling so many copies of my ‘brain-baby’ at once.

In other news, I’m awaiting the moment when it’s appropriate to start spreading the word about my signed copy Giveaway on Goodreads (this will be a fairly labour-intensive task, I assure you), and have been struggling through writing the opening of book two (well, technically Volume One: Book Two, as Logres will be published as two instalments). It’s proving a challenge to get right. I think I’m going to have to accept that after all the polishing I did in the editing process of Book One, I can’t expect the prose for Book Two to be immediately as ‘perfect’. It seems I’m going to have to force myself to take my own advice, which is along the lines of, write and don’t stop. No looking back, no thinking it could be better, you can do all that later in your months of editing (which will inevitably take months) – just go for it, ignore that niggling in your head that it’s not quite there yet – ignore, ignore, ignore – until you get your groove back, get back into the flow of things, finish the story – only then can you go back and rewrite the whole not-quite-good-enough book (thrice, probably).

That said, it is natural to want to get the first few scenes absolutely right from the beginning so that you’re setting off at the right tone and pace. It’s exciting to be starting from scratch (despite the blank-page syndrome!), but writer’s block is still trying to unsettle me, and to top it all off a recent move means that I no longer have my old writing desk (everything is now done on the edge of a very cluttered dining room table).

But don’t despair, if you have read Logres: Book One and are looking for an indication of when Book Two will be on the proverbial shelves: the answer is soon, hopefully either the end of 2016 or near the start of 2017. To avoid the risk of getting myself into a George R. R. Martin-book 6-type scenario, I’m not going to promise too much too soon; but do keep checking back for progress, which I assure you I will undoubtedly post (probably in the form of word-count updates) as regularly as it’s worth.

In the meantime keep sharing The Future King: Logres, Volume One: Book One with anyone you feel might enjoy it, rate and review it on Amazon and Goodreads, enter my free signed copy giveaway on the 1st of Feb, and have a good, creatively embellished week. I will probably be sat at this dining table writing, then rewriting, and tapping out notes for The Future King: Logres, Volume One: Book Two.

Blurb for The Future King: Logres

So! After blood, sweat and tears (not literally) I have finally completed my blurb for the back of my book jacket. Could I have a drumroll, please?

(Courtesy of http://freepercussionlessons.com/how-to-play-legato-drum-rolls-on-timpani/)
(Courtesy of http://freepercussionlessons.com/how-to-play-legato-drum-rolls-on-timpani/)

Here it is, my blurb for The Future King: Logres!

Britain, 2052. In a world of war, disease and hunger the UK stands alone as a beacon of prosperity under an all-powerful ruling party. Life at new school Logres seems promising for fifteen-year-old Gwenhwyfar, and quickly she falls for the school’s handsome catch, Arthur. When Arthur’s rival, Lancelot, returns after a suspension, her heart is immediately divided. Realising that behind the UK’s prosperity lies unspeakable cruelty, Gwenhwyfar sets off on a path to dismantle everything the government stands for. Suspenseful, raw and awash in a dystopian setting, The Future King: Logres is a story of identity and discovery against this backdrop, the second coming of the Arthurian legends.

The main thing is that it fits on my book jacket, right? Less is more, seems to be the resounding advice that I’ve collected from looking at various ‘how to’ sites. If anyone has any thoughts, please do share them. Meanwhile, whilst I’m waiting to hear back from my proof reader, I’m finishing off another project (a children’s book), which I’m hoping to release before Christmas. I won’t give away too many details just yet, but I’ve outlined the approach for the illustrations, and will hopefully be completing them (and posting updates) in the next few weeks. Exciting! (Well, it is for me.)

Progress on self-publishing!

sir-mador-s-spear-brake-all-to-pieces-but-the-other-s-spear-held

So! Yesterday (was it yesterday? Actually, I think it was Friday), I finished my edit/proof read of my novel. That’s right! All five-hundred and something pages checked, double-checked, and tweaked. Surprisingly the new format of the novel made catching things that I’d never noticed before much easier – such as missing speech marks, duplicated words, or words that had clearly hung on despite the rewriting of the sentence. Inevitably, I will have missed one or two things. My three-pronged approach of reading in my head, reading aloud, or getting dictation & speech to read for me can’t have picked up everything. As a result I have sent my final draft off to my proof-readers, and am awaiting their verdict. I shall have to resist the urge to edit again when comments come back – after all this is the start of a story, and there are always so many ways to tell it.

In the meantime I am trying to work my way through the minefield that is writing your own blurb. I should be able to manage it, I’ve written a novel, right? I edited that novel, then after that I did the unthinkable – I trimmed down 120,000 words into a one-page synopsis. That, at the time, seemed impossible – but as it is often shown, the impossible turned out to be possible after all. 200 words or less is a much shorter order to work to, however, and (so far) I’ve found it’s the sort of thing that can only be approached in short bursts.

One draft – a splurge of sentences on the page that make little sense. Break. Another draft, writing an alternative to the above. Research, lots of research – or at least just a little bit – looking at book blurbs in your own library and googling ‘how to write a book blurb’, only to find that there are several ways one can do it. Writing again, with these strict guidelines in mind. Deleting all the above because, surprisingly, the guidelines were actually quite helpful. Break, because what you wrote needs to sink in before you can edit it. But you’re there, you’ve got the tone and the content right. Now it just needs to… pop.

Other than that, my schedule at the moment includes getting other aspects right – in particular things like text for the acknowledgements. As I am destined to a reasonable wait before I can continue with the whole publishing thing (everything is on hold now until the book itself is ready to be uploaded), I will probably return to some of the other points on my to-do list for a while. Scanning my grandfathers’ slides of plants and butterflies is one, illustrating a few projects is another, working on a children’s book is my third (nearly done, I just need a decent ending). Presently I am battling the urge to try restructuring my book completely, just to see if it would be better (or worse). Knowing when to stop tweaking is a good skill, and it’s easier to do when working on a painting or drawing. The result of a drawing is usually completely visible on one page, and is therefore easier to conclude that it is, actually, finished. Perhaps someday I will be able to transfer such understanding to my written work, and the whole process may become a little easier to draw a line under.

10 things I have learned whilst proof reading

  1. Unless you are a professional proof reader, it is inevitable that you will always miss something (but then I wonder, do professional proof readers miss things too?).
  2. It is surprising how one can read a manuscript multiple times, catching double-spaces, incorrectly formatted dashes and dots, missing words, extra words, and yet on the hundredth read discover an entirely overlooked error – in my case missing speech marks at the end of some lines.
  3. Relying on speech & dictation to catch things for you is a very useful method (particularly for spotting typos) – but it is not to be relied upon 100%. Only yesterday my reader Alex decided to add ‘that’ into my sentence. Clearly he thought the sentence was better with an extra demonstrative pronoun.
  4. A formatted manuscript is much easier to spot mistakes in than a non-formatted manuscript. I suppose it’s the increased space between lines, the fewer words per page, or something.
  5. Fewer words per page and a smaller page size means that you’ll have twice as many pages to proof read, yet somehow because of this the whole task seems to go faster (120 pages per day! Woo!).
  6. Knowing when to stop proof reading is a real issue. How many times do you go through it? With each change lies the potential for fresh mistakes. What if you have a blind spot to the difference between her and his? You meant his, but you typed her. You might not see you typed her until your book is already in print.
  7. I suppose the above is why I am asking friends and family to read through my manuscript for me (trusting, of course, in their superior ability to sense typos in a sentence – much like those who sense a formidable, horrible disruption when one digit is off in pi – can you? 3.141592653589793238462643383279
    50288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482
    534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812
    848111745028410270193852110555964462294895492038196442881097
    56659334461284756482337867831652712019091456485).
  8. The fear of releasing one of those books that we’ve all come across – when you’re on page seven, and a word is missing, or wrong, or repeated – is quite possibly irrational, but also very real.
  9. Don’t try to proof read if you’re tired or hungry. Unless you’re in the right frame of mind whilst reading, you will approach the end of the chapter with the feeling you have not done as well as you could have, and then resign yourself to combing through the same pages again later, when you’re feeling a little less useless.
  10. With all the above taken into consideration, a novel can always be amended to fix any overlooked errors. After all, we all know that’s what editions are really for, right?

10 things I have learned whilst formatting a book in MS Word

  1. Apparently, if you’re going to be making changes to your book after formatting, MS Word is your best choice as it’s easier to edit content. That, and InDesign is just scary if you don’t know how to use it at all, really – so what hope would one have when it comes to formatting a whole novel?
  2. You’ll probably start with a font size which will make your book seem shorter. But then you’ll change the page size, line spacing and margins, and suddenly your book will seem longer. Much longer. Not good if you’re self publishing and more pages=less profit.
  3. It is surprising how bookish your book will look with only the things mentioned in (2) formatted. Because yes, surprisingly, there is more. Once you do get to the ‘more’ part, MS Word will start to seem like a living, thinking thing that does illogical things just to annoy you. This sense of working with a living, thinking thing will not deter you from insulting it frequently with all kinds of profanities, however, and you will feel no guilt in doing so.
  4. If you’re a first time self-publisher and have no experience in publishing, well, anything, you’ll inevitably have to refer to other (more traditionally published) novels to figure out what yours should look like. This is useful, and you should do it. Pick one book you like the look of and use it as a point of reference. Preferably something from your genre. After all, you don’t want your crime-thriller looking like erotic fiction (though if it’s all about tension anyway, what’s really the difference?).
  5. Referring back to point (3). You will format, you will think you are done, and then you will notice something that isn’t as it should be. For example, paragraphs breaking on the next page, thus giving you uneven line-to-page frequency. (Tip: if you have this problem, uncheck window/orphan control in format/paragraph for the whole document to fill your pages completely with lots of lovely prose). There will be other things, but at least you will feel accomplished when you fix them.
  6. Even if you do the above and check off window/orphan control, if you have inserted chapter dividers that look fancy, this will knock off your layout on your lovely new-chapter pages. Still trying to figure out how to fix that one without simply changing the font size of the empty line above said fancy chapter dividers (because, somehow, that seems crude).
  7. Headers and footers are important – format them well! Choose ‘different odd/even pages’ and make sure you mirror your margins through format/document. This does something else to make it look more bookish. From looking at various books I have determined that authors usually have their name on the even page and the title of the book on the odd page.
  8. Inserting Section Breaks is an absolute nightmare. Seriously, first you figure out that you’re supposed to inset a Section Break relative to whether it’s an odd page or an even page, then you figure out how to get the page numbers to start at ‘1’ on the fourth actual page, and then you realise through exporting to PDF that each new Section Break has skipped a page number and thus created a ‘phantom page’ with nothing on it before every chapter in your document. Huzzah.
  9. Confident in all the abilities you have learned (as listed above), you calmly go through the document to rectify the problem, only to have one Section Break change reset all the others into a paradoxical chaos of wrong numbers and jumps and gaps where your book is suddenly longer or shorter than it actually is (but not really, hence the number-paradox).
  10. You fix the above (9) without screwing everything else up. But you’re still editing or there’s a few things left to change. You now wish you had finished the final draft before even attempting formatting, because you’re terrified the slightest change might destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Who knows? Maybe a paragraph more or less will confuse everything and you’ll be stuck undoing everything you’ve done in order to redo it properly. Let’s hope not.

10 things I have learned whilst making a book cover

  1. Pre-existing book covers are your friend. Look at them, examine them and focus on studying books in your genre, but don’t be too disappointed if your self-publishing platform doesn’t support the trim size you inevitably fall in love with as a result (five by seven, five by seven!).
  2. Make sure the cover correlates with the interior feel of the actual novel (and then dance about celebrating your own brilliance when you think of something that looks really cool).
  3. Having twenty layers live at once in Photoshop will destroy your computer. No, really. The fan on mine has just… died, or something.
  4. After spending four hours trying to align font at the bottom of your page to font at the top of your page, your eyes will go funny and everything will look wonky anyway.
  5. The longer you stare at the block colour red, the more it begins to look like some whacky gradient.
  6. Apparently due to variations in book binding the artwork for the cover will sometimes end up on the spine, and spine on the cover. You will be advised to avoid sharp lines and complex patterns, so naturally use them anyway.
  7. You should (and probably will) print out your book cover and wrap it around some other less important novel just to see what it looks like on a bookshelf (mighty good, I tell you).
  8. An actual, real life plastic ruler can be very helpful when determining layout spacing on your screen for the less technically gifted of us.
  9. Asking (non-graphic designery) people their opinion on your artwork can be confusing. Just focus on the things they agree on, and ignore anything they don’t.
  10. Making a book on a template before you have your final page count is just asking for trouble. You think you’re finished, then a last-minute cut adds or subtracts a page or two. New spine thickness, new document! Yeah!

Part-time post

By now you’ve probably sussed the title of this blog in that I’ve been absent for a couple of days. I’m not yet sure at which frequency I will ultimately end up posting at, but as long as it’s higher than zero I feel I will be doing well. I’ve been up to a lot in the past few days, though mostly it’s been the same thing, cutting my novel on paper.

As of yet I’ve no idea how many words I’ve lost, but the experience in itself has been surprising. How, after roughly five re-writes and several more proof-reads are there still errors? Not many, granted, but one missed missing word can be catastrophic enough if not caught – as can typos, punctuation errors – and even worse: whole scenes that just don’t fit with the rest of the narrative.

It’s easy to end up with a scene that doesn’t work, particularly when said scene was written afterwards and inserted in the hopes it would further develop a character. The scene in question continues something that has already been resolved, yet expands the issues raised and gives a good relationship boost to the two main protagonists. As a result it must either be cut or re-written (we’ll see how the word count goes). Three people missed it when reading through it, though one reader said they were just too caught up in the storyline to even notice the discrepancy. I suppose that’s why people hire editors.

And so begins the three-day process (hopefully!) of trawling through my corrections in Word. Each revision always risks new mistakes, much like some sort of wordy vicious cycle, but then I suppose that’s why people hire proof-readers, too. Not something that’s doable without a substantial budget, so I’ll have to make do.

In other news I have been embroidering a bit this week, my family crest for the name Mackworth (a raven’s wing with ermine, see below). This goes with the unicorn head for Praed, though often it’s only the unicorn head which is depicted for both. Heraldry is another one of my interests, and I look forward to seeing these two finished and framed next to one another.

Crests for Mackworth-Praed, embroidered by M. L. Mackworth-Praed, 2015.
Crests for Mackworth-Praed, embroidered by M. L. Mackworth-Praed, 2015. Embroidered with two stitch types: stem stitch and couching, the stitch types used for the Bayeux Tapestry.

That’s all for now, it’s time to steam through this edit. Hopefully afterwards I’ll have a more realistic page count and can finish formatting and start uploading to Amazon. I will keep you updated on any progress. Until the next part-time post!