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.

10 things I have learned whilst promoting my novel

  1. Advertising works, even when you are not getting clicks. Spend sixty dollars on a Goodreads campaign and play with the text every now and then to test the traction. Link straight to your retailer page – you want people be directed to where they can buy your book. If they click, the fund goes down. If they don’t, they’re seeing the cover of your novel, even if they’re  not directly looking at it. Thousands of people will see your book advertisement each month. Never underestimate the power of the familiar subconscious.
  2. Get on Goodreads. Without Goodreads my novel would be sitting sadly on Amazon, all alone, with two or three reviews. Granted, it only has six now but lots of people are seeing it through my regular giveaways and over 1,400 people have added it to their ‘to read’ list. That means something, right?
  3. With reference to the above, run regular giveaways. Just list one copy of your book, make the eligibility worldwide and let it run for a couple of months. Then when a winner is chosen put the next one up. It’s not exactly free advertising but it’s pretty cheap advertising – your book is being continuously advertised in the giveaway section. People’s friends will see when they enter thus spreading the word.
  4. Tweet! I do not Tweet nearly enough, but I try. If you’re doing giveaways or Kindle Countdown Deals let the users of social media know. Make a Facebook event, mention it in blogs, email group organisers on Goodreads and (responsibly) ‘spam’ the relevant folders in the forums. Just let readers know what’s happening, when; and share your excitement about your book as often as you can.
  5. It seems to be the thing for authors to follow five thousand people on Twitter in order to get five thousand people to follow them back. Except at some point they start to unfollow those five thousand people to make themselves look established. If they’re all doing it, it probably works, but it’s entirely false. Mostly they’re all just DMing each other asking one another to read their currently free book (yes, I know they’re probably selling more novels than me).
  6. Time is money, money is time. Do you have the money to splurge £500 on your latest advertising campaign? Can you pay for verified reviews from top reviewing/endorsement agencies? No? Do you have 36 hours a day to make the posters and find the reviewers/endorsers yourself? No? Do you have the money to get someone else to do it all for you instead?
  7. Promotion is time consuming and time spent not writing, but it works. 17 ratings on Goodreads may seem a low amount to most authors (shh, I’m going somewhere with this), but there are plenty of self-published (and agency-published) books out there that go their whole first year without. one. single. review. Oh, the horror.
  8. Visual aids help even the most learned of readers. Have a promotion? Then declare: FREE EBOOK! Now let’s try something more visual:

    FREE EBOOK!

    Slightly more eye-catching? no?

  9. Free ebook giveaways are better than discounted ebook sales. Whilst this is true for unknown authors like myself, someone like J. K. Rowling would probably benefit more from a discounted ebook giveaway bonanza. When I ran my Kindle Countdown deal with a discount on my novel, I achieved a grand total of 3 downloads. Better than none, obviously, and those people are probably more likely to leave a review. When I ran the free equivalent I got over 500 downloads. Have any of those people read my novel yet? There’s no way to tell. But it got me in the top five of the Arthurian books category for a couple of days at least (side note: Harry Potter is NOT ARTHURIAN!).
  10. Try to keep up with your social media appearances. Homely images of your novel next to coffee on Instagram will draw attention, or pen a declaration of how actively you are living the life of a writer. Share something like: New ideas for new scenes today. Writing from the heart, with a picture of you gazing out of a coffeeshop window. I haven’t tried it yet, but I see other people posting such stuff on Instagram and they get more likes than me, so they must be doing something right.

Time is running out!

Work, work, work. I haven’t been doing much of it lately, mostly because I’ve been tied up in an (unsuccessful) stint at Paris Fashion Week. Those of you who know the industry will be aware of just how fickle it is, how options and confirmed jobs can evaporate at the final hour, leaving you with nothing but a hole in your pocket and a sense that perhaps you shouldn’t have bothered at all. Though of course, it is human nature to always be happier with the fact that you tried – that way at least opportunity is something that isn’t left unexplored.

With my time in Paris came the inability to do much else but castings and go-sees each day, which inevitably impacted on the progress of self-publishing. Now I am fairly certain that my release date of The Future King is premature, and am having to readjust my expectations to early November instead. This is no disaster given that I have no contract binding me to a completion date, and the few who are waiting with baited breath for the book release can be easily updated via Facebook. After all, I never released an official release date, so I have some time to consider when exactly it should be made available. A lot is influencing this date – awaiting news from my proof-readers (and re-reading it myself) is one, making any changes is another, and then adding hyphens into the whole document is an unexpected third. In a way it is good it has taken me so long to get myself organised, otherwise I would have made the mistake of releasing a formatted novel that has only been justified, and not amended to look pretty with the odd sentence strategically hyphenated here and there. Apart from that there is the “tax interview” to sort out through Amazon, the amending of my spine width to match the new page count, the finalisation of the book cover, and then the ordering of the first printed copy to check that all is as it should be. This is all pressured by an immediate move, scheduled for the end of this month.

The text for my children’s book is finalised however, and I am halfway through drafting the illustrations. In the meantime I have started writing the text for another children’s book (I’m excited about this one), and have identified yet another written project which is pressing prominence in my head as probably the most important and most lucrative idea to run with next  – and I was considering writing something unrelated to TFK over the Christmas holidays before I start on book two, anyway (sorry, fans).

Here in Belgium the leaves are turning despite the glorious sunshine and hot weather we’ve been enjoying. The park is filled with the usual reds and golds, splattered amongst the still-deep greens, but also with bright fuchsia – a colour I had previously not expected to be possible in a leaf at this time of year. My to-do list has peaked at the annoying number of  14, and though I have stormed through some of it already it is one of those lists with points that take months to strike off. My priority for today however is to get through another hundred pages of TFK (still noticing missing speech marks and a few comma/full stop swaps), and to hopefully organise a few more illustrations for my picture book. Oh, and I need to milk the plants. The apple trees have powdery mildew, and an effective treatment is to spray them with part-milk part-water. So far it seems to be working, and for the first time in weeks there is new, undamaged growth. They’re still a long way away from being proper apple trees yet, but as I have no garden currently in which to plant them, I won’t be hurrying them along too much.

Progress on self-publishing!

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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.

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!