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The problems with being a hobbyist writer

I have recently had some comments about my writing, both positive and some improvements. This has got me thinking about the plight of being a hobbyist writer i.e. one who works for a living and has a family, so writing becomes an interest more than a career pathway. At some points I have felt like giving up writing, then I remember that I am really only doing this for fun, any success I gain is purely coincidental, or rather good luck. As one person recently said to me, “as long as you enjoy doing it, keep doing it.” This made me realise that I do want to write, but there are three obstacles that I find when try to sell books, or even get people to read my free books. These are…

  1. Time – The biggest issue in all our lives, but for the hobbyist writer time is very, very limited. If I get a couple of hours to write and edit in a week that is fantastic, mostly I have to steal five minutes here and there, often writing on my phone. I have also been trying to promote myself on twitter and facebook, but some days I don’t even manage to check them. I appear to have lots of followers, but when I post or comment I am just shouting into the void. I don’t have that regular contact that allows me to build up a good following. The same goes for this blog, until I started writing my serial novel and updating every week, posts were sporadic, in fact the ones that are not about ‘Islands of Hope’ still are. As for actual stories I am writing, I have so many half-finished projects, or things that are written and awaiting editing. I now have to be very self-disciplined and only work on one or two projects at a time. Some days I just want to get on with writing, but house work, my job, family and other adulting comes first, which leaves me with very little time to do anything. Some would argue I should spend my writing time actually writing rather than doing this blog post!
  2. Editing – The majority of the feedback from my work is, “the story is great, really engaging, but there are a few typos and it could do with a bit more editing.” The problem is, I have spent hours editing everything myself. I really could do with a professional editor to help clean things up, particularly as there are many pitfals I fall into (passive voice, missing commas, disconnecting sentences etc.) However, the cheapest I can find an editor for a 40,000 word novella is about £400, and that is only for line edits. I am a hobbyist writer remember, I don’t have that money. Well I could find it, but I do need to pay for other things, and it is money I won’t see back in sales, so I cannot justify the cost. My wife is an avid sower, and is thinking of trying to sell a few things. She may spend £400 on a new sowing machine, but that is a one off payment for an item that will last a number of years. I would need to pay over £400 per book I write. I just can’t do that, unless I want to be a full time writer, but then again I’m the main bread winner in my house so quiting my job is not an option. The only way I have slightly got around this is by getting an editing program, but as any writer knows, these only help you see where some edits might be and does not necessarily aid with the flow of the writing or eliminate all typos. Maybe I should just continue to put all my stuff up for free on Smashwords. I have to admit, though, that the lure of a print version of a book through Amazon is too big a draw!
  3. Marketing – So, I have a book out, it should have been edited more, there are a few typos, but a lot of people will overlook that because the story is good. Also I go back to books and re-edit and release new versions, so it’s not all bad. So, how do I get sales? How do I get interest? Well, I post blogs as well as use twitter and facebook and, yes, once again, I am shouting to an audience who don’t want to listen (well maybe they are listening and then ignoring me!). I could get some better marketing, pay someone to make a better cover than I can do with my limited Photoshop skills or get a twitter promotion, maybe even go on a blog tour. Wait, that means money again! Money I cannot afford to spend. I tried touting my book through a blog tour by offering bloggers incentives such as retweets, reviews of other’s books, little rewards that cost no money but may increase social media traffic. Once again, no biters, so no blog tour. I even offer free books in return for reviews (if anyone reading this wants one of my books free in return for a review please contact me!) So what do I do now? Continue to shout, continue to hope. It all seems in vain, it all appears as if I will not get any sales, or even reviews on my free work. Maybe I should call it a day!

So there we are, I am despondent at times, frustrated, safe in the knowledge that with a bit more money and a bit more time I could make more of an impact. I don’t have that, so am I failure? I’m not sure. What I do realise is that I love writing, love creating stories. So surely, as my friend put it, I should just keep going, safe in the knowledge that it is all a hobby and that, even if no-one buys my books, I can still say I’m an author.

 

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10 Books that have had an impact on me

Recently, on facebook, I was nominated in one of those post ten things over ten days and then nominated someone else challenges. They annoy me a bit as I feel I am spamming people’s feeds for ten days then bugging them by nominating others. However, this time it was about books that had an impact on you. As an avid reader and writer, I quite liked the idea. So instead of doing it on facebook and bugging people, I thought I would do a blog post about it. That way you can do it if you want, but I am not telling you to by tagging you and making you feel bad if you don’t do it. The original post looks like this…

I was nominated by <insert name here> to share 10 books that have made an impact on me or are an all-time favourite. I’m to post only the cover with no explanation, I can share only one book per day, and I am to nominate one person each day to join the challenge. Anything that shares a love of reading has to be good right?

So, with no explanation and in no particular order, here are the ten books that have had an impact on me…

10_books_impact

Feel free to comment with a link to your list if you want to.

 

 

Should we re-edit published novels?

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I have started re-editing ‘World Cup Dreams: Extra Time Edition,’ but is that right?

I have released a few novels, solely editing them due to not having funds to pay for an editor. This is largely due to me being a hobbyist writer and having another full-time job as well as a young family. Despite looking at my novels repeatedly before release and getting the odd beta reader to take a look, I still find silly errors in my work after they are published. I think to myself, ‘how did I miss that? It’s not like I rushed the book out.’ In fact, I feel quite embarrassed when I see them. So surely I should get a proofreading editor at least, well they are a couple of hundred pounds a pop and I won’t see that kind of return on my books so I will lose money. So I thought to myself, ‘why don’t I go back and edit them again?’ Is that fair though? Releasing something then changing it, making people pay twice for the same work, just one piece being shinier and generally better written? But as Leonardo Di Vinci said, “art is never finished, just abandoned.” I don’t want to think of my work as abandoned, I want it to be the best it can be. Even if no one reads my novels, I will still know there are mistakes. Then there is the issue that re-editing takes time out of stuff I am working on now, not to mention that when they were released that was a snapshot of the writer I was then. They sort of show how I have improved or developed.

But then we can look at other medium, especially movies, where you get multiple versions of the same items. Have you seen a movie even if you have not watched the directors cut? Have you truly experienced a film if you have not seen it in the cinema in 3D? Who knows? I certainly don’t want to think of my books being media that you have to consume in multiple forms to really say you have read them. If we think about books like ‘War and Peace,’ have you really read them if you have not read the unabridged versions? I suppose what I am say is, is it about the story or the version you read? Should we, as artists, release something then say that’s it, not tinker with and let the public decide, or should we be constant revising until we are happy? Will we ever be happy?

From my point of view, I am not an author by trade but by hobby, I have not sold lots of copies, I am not making major edits, just adding punctuation and correcting the odd word. It’s not a hard job for me to know that re-editing is the right thing to do, but is it morally right? Would I be doing the same thing if I were top of the bestseller list? Maybe I should just stop worrying about it, maybe I should bite the bullet and pay for an editor. If my hobby was something like coin collecting I would easily spend a couple of hundred pounds in a year wouldn’t I? I suppose one good thing is that if I make the big time and you have an original edit of one of my novels you could make a bit of money on it on ebay!

So, I have noticed that a lot of blog posts end with questions. Maybe to get readers to comment, maybe to feel like they are connecting with others. Anyway, here are mine for today…

  • Do you think authors should keep going back and editing novels, making them closer to what they want?
  • Have you ever gone back and edited a novel after it was published?
  • Have you ever got annoyed when you have read a book then a new edition comes out with more stuff in it?

Right that’s it for this little blog post except to say that if anyone would like to help me edit my novels then I would be grateful. I am going back to ‘World Cup Dreams: Extra Time Edition‘ and ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.‘ If you want to have a quick read and tell me any errors you notice that would be amazing. All I can offer is a free copy of the book(s), a mention in the thanks section of the new versions and possible a blog post or tweet about your work. Thanks for reading.

The good old (slightly late) end of year review – 2018 Edition

Another year over, another review of the year. This was supposed to come out at the end of December but it has been a very hectic festive period. Right, on to the review, it’s been a great year for writing with the release of my comedy fantasy novella, at last! Also lots of poems written and my sci-fi serial novel going well. So here we go, a quick look at 2018…

 

cover-blogA Close Shave with Destiny

Three years ago I started writing a short story to sell for 99p so I could raise money for Movember, a charity that helps men’s health causes. You grown a moustache in November and get sponsored. The short story developed into a 40,000 word novella so I felt it best to donate some money to Movember and release the book as a piece of work in its own right. After three years of writing and editing I finally released the book in both e-book and print formats. I am really happy with the story but could have done with more proofreaders. Still, I hope people enjoy it. You can get it on Amazon using the following links…

Kindle UK

Print UK

Kindle US

Print US

 

Islands-of-Hope-CoverIslands of Hope

My serial novel was in its second year in 2018, again the plan was to update something every Saturday, even if it was only about 150 words. I am happy to say I managed that, updating every week. The story is now about 45,000 words long, so almost actual novel length. I will continue to update it throughout 2019. I have just got to a good bit so am excited to carry on. If you have not read it yet, it is set two hundred years in the future where a corporation runs most of the Earth. Kira, a girl living in a slum, steals some bread and is caught. She is sold into slavery, but her buyer is not the cruel man people think he is, instead he is building a resistance. If you want to read it so far you can on wattpad, just click here.

 

Bad Poetry Cover BLOGPoems

I don’t write poems that often, just four or five a year when I get some inspiration. They are housed in my collection on wattpad entitled, ‘Bad Poetry You probably never want to read.’ I managed six in 2018, which I think is pretty good. You can read the whole collection by clicking here, or head to the blog posts for each of the six poems (just click on the poem titles), they were…

JanuaryPolishing a sheep is a so hard job – the title comes from a phrase my, then four year old, son said. It made me think of something a crazy farmer would do, for some reason it rang around my head in a west country accent. I wondered what else the farmer might do, like iron a chicken or hoover a cow. But why do that? To get them ready for a show of course!

MayA Great British Holiday – In the Easter holidays I went to stay in a holiday cottage with my parents, wife and children. We had a great time sampling the delights that the midlands had to offer, however it kept raining. This poem is my love affair with what Britain has to give to the traveller, even though the weather can be less than desirable.

AugustAn Ode to the Greatest Toy – As a parent you can shape your children to like the things you like, reliving your childhood through them. I made sure my son was into Lego a long time ago. We always worked together to build models, however, in the last year my son has become able to make models by himself. He now likes to rebuild old models we did together so I have been relegated to brick finder, this poem speaks of my frustrations.

OctoberChange – Change is a poem about a tree growing, dropping seeds and new life beginning. It was written for National Poetry Day. There is not much more to say it about it really.

NovemberCancelled – I wrote this poem at a train station whilst waiting for a train after the one I should have been on was cancelled. Even more annoying was that I had rushed to get the first train. Oh well, at least it gave me an idea for a poem!

DecemberThe Boy who Saved Christmas – My last poem of the year was released just before Christmas. The family had visited Father Christmas and the big man’s hat had fallen off. My son picked it up and gave it back to him, I like to think he may have saved Christmas. Even if he did not, I got the idea for this poem out of the situation.

 

2019

So, all in all a good 2018 in terms of writing. I set my goal as ‘just write’ as usual, and I feel I definitely achieved that. So what about 2019? Well, I have never hit targets when I give myself a list of them, so I will go with ‘just write’ again. I seem to write more with less pressure on me! Having a time-consuming job and a young family also means I do not have the time to write that I would like. That said, it would be good to get my Young Adult novel, ‘The Fifth Coin,’ ready to send to publishers for query and complete the first draft of my serial novel, ‘Islands of Hope.’ I do also want to write another Super Lizard short (I’m actually part way through one) and a flash fiction for ‘The First Flash of Hope.’ So, yeah, plenty to keep me going.

 

Right, I will sign off with a Happy New Year, thanks for reading my stuff, and I hope 2019 is great for you. Also I hope you continue to read my work, and maybe even review one of my books on Amazon or Goodreads…please, pretty please!

A Close Shave out, so what next?

It is amazing that I have actually finished a project, I seem to start so many but never get over the finishing line. So, with ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ now out (if you haven’t got your copy you can get it on Kindle in the UK here or US here, it’s even free if you have Kindle Unlimited!) the real question is, what now?

Well, as I said I have a few projects on the go at one time, so here is what I’ll be doing…

Marketing – I will carry on promoting ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ with numerous tweets. I will be popping up a new vlog about the story and generally badgering everyone to buy it. I have put feelers out about a blog tour and reviews of the book but am still awaiting responses, so I will carry on with that too. I’m sure if I keep annoying everyone they will give in soon!

Islands of Hope – my sci-fi serial novel will continue to get updated weekly on a Saturday. It is currently over 40,000 words long. If you have not started reading it you can access it on wattpad by going here, infact you can access it there even if you have started reading it.

Flash fiction – before I limited the number of projects I worked on at one time I stared a project called ‘The First Flash of Hope.’ It is a book on wattpad that will be composed of twenty sci-fi flash fiction stories, I had intended to update it regularly but it has fallen by the wayside. So, one of my first ports of call will be to write another flash fiction piece for the book. If you want to read what is there already you can do by clicking here.

Super Lizard – if you have followed this blog for a while you will know of Super Lizard, if not, he is a Nigerian fat-tailed Gekko who lives in North Yorkshire. He got covered in toxic waste and turned into a mild-mannered super hero (got the plot from a random plot generator!). I have written two Super Lizard ebooks, the first one is a short story, the second a collection of four short stories. Again, before limiting projects, I was part way through the first story in a new collection. After my flash fiction story, I will complete this and pop it on wattpad. If you want to read the other Super Lizard stories you can on Smashwords, just click here.

Another project – I have two other projects to look at after this, firstly is finishing editing of ‘The Fifth Coin,’ a YA novel I started for NaNoWriMo back in 2016. I need to run it through ProWritingAid and then check a paper copy, before sending it out to query. I also have ideas for a younger children’s chapter book. I may start writing that as well.

RPG – during the time I was limiting projects, I started a space based RPG. I will also continue this on and off to slowly get it finished. I have even considering doing something through Kickstarter with it.

So, plenty to keep me going. Oh, did I say I had just released ‘A Close Shave with Destiny?’ You can get a print version from the UK here, or US here. Nothing like ending a blog post with a shameless plug. Oh look, here’s a picture of some of the print copies of the book looking beautiful…

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NaNoWriMo and Novella

Just a quick update about two pieces of work, well one piece of work and an event. I will start with the bad news, once again I will not be taking part in NaNoWriMo. Not out of a lack of time, although it would be tight to get 50,000 words written, but because I have other projects to finish and I told myself I would finish them before starting another. OK, I did start another, creating an RPG, but I’m not going to start another till I have finished some projects I am on now. So, yeah, no NaNoWriMo this year.

Right, on to the novella mentioned in the title. If you have read any of my other posts you may know I am writing a novella set in a moustache called ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.’ Random, I know, but there is a reason. I started it three years ago as a way to get sponsorship for Movember but it expanded from a short story to a novella so I didn’t release it and will now donate a bit to Movember then just sell the novella as a normal book. Now I am on my last pass through; it is written, has been edited on a computer, run through ProWritingAid and finally I am on to editing a print version. I am almost finished the paper pass, after this it will be time to publish. Usually I would look for beta readers but I have already had someone look at it. That said, if you would like to beta read it then please got in touch. It is a lovely fantasy quest with comic tones, all set in a moustache.

Basically, to sum up, I am not doing NaNoWriMo but my novella will be out soon. Sometimes I think I could sum these blog post up in one tweet! Sorry for waffling!

How I edit

I often see blog posts and tweets promoting good editing techniques, however a lot of these require money. As a hobbyist write, I want to make my work the best it can be but not by spending a lot. My main job is being a teacher, I am also a husband and father. Writing, though important, sometimes needs to take a back seat. With plenty of things that need money spent on them (food, days out, car, house etc.) I try not to spend money on my hobby when I can do a lot of the work for free. So, to those people in my situation, and any others that want to listen, here is how I edit. Is it a foolproof plan to success and great final drafts? Not by any means, it just makes me feel like my work is the best I can do on my own. Anyway, on with the show…

 

Editing process

  1. Once I have written my first draft I have a read through on-screen, this is basically to see if there are any plot holes or issues I need to address. Sometimes this may be moving chapters/sections around. I generally find I do not have too many issues; as I do not get to write a lot I spend a lot of time thinking about the story, asking questions like, what would the character do in that situation? How can I get the story from a to b without missing key details? What would x look like in that situation? I also plan a lot before writing so have already done a lot of the world building and mapped out major plot points, although the bits in-between can change a lot. Therefore, this part of the editing process often does not require many changes, either that or I am rubbish at seeing plot holes!
  2. I read through a second time, this time looking for grammar and spelling issues. I can often fix many but a lot slip though the net. Writers are notoriously grammar blind, they read what they wanted in their head and skim over the fact the comma is missing, they have spelt the word incorrectly or have forgotten ed or s at the end of the word. That is where step three comes in…
  3. Now this is the only place in the whole writing space where I have spent money, and it is not even my hard-earned money! No, every year I get asked what I want for my birthday and every year (well the last two), I have asked for money to renew my subscription to Pro Writing Aid. This year I got enough birthday cash to do a two-year licence so will be able to spend my birthday money on more tat next year! It is only about £30 for a years license. Pro Writing Aid is a program you can download or add as an extension to other word processing programs. You can definitely get it for Microsoft Word but I use it with Google Docs. You can run a range of reports then go through the results to edit your manuscript. Where there is an error, it highlights and you get a choice to ignore or make one of a list of possible changes. There are lots of reports but I tend to look at writing style, grammar, overused words (I never knew how much I use the word was until I got Pro Writing Aid!) and consistency. It can take ages to run a report on a whole manuscript, and then you need to go through every change which takes many hours. I always copy sections of about one A4 page into a different document and run the reports on those then copy them back when done. A simple bit of changing text colours shows me what I have run through Pro Writing Aid, what I am working on and what I have yet to do. I suppose I should say, to be balanced, that there are other editing programs out there, I just really like Pro Writing Aid.
  4. The next step is the print read through, I often find that I spot different errors when I read my work on paper. I, therefore, arm myself with highlights and a pen and go through a page at a time. It is generally commas that I have missed. I then update my online manuscript as I go so I know that once done I can get into formatting.
  5. The final step is to get some beta readers, so far I only have one, but that is better than nothing! They read through, give you comments and point out potential mistakes. Once they are done with it I can format the book and get it out there.

 

What am I missing?

There are only really two steps that I think would make my editing process even better. There are…

  1. Paying a professional editor – These are rather expensive and I would never see any return on my investment due to not spending money on marketing. I would really have to go for it, moving from a hobbyist to telling myself I am an actual author and throwing my weight behind my claim. I am not confident enough in myself and do not want to bankrupt my family, so am not going down this route. If a publisher came along and offered me a deal then I would happily get a professional editor; I can dream!
  2. A critique partner/partners – This would be great, to have someone to look at my work and give me advice. The two problems here are that I do not have lots of time to meet up but, worse than that, I do not think I have the time to read other people’s work in a critical capacity, therefore would be letting them down. I have not searched for a critique partner but have thought about it. If someone approached me then I would give it a go, but for now I am happy to just say I wrote a book! Also no-one is telling me my story is rubbish, which it probably is!

 

Where am I with editing current projects?

Before the two projects I am currently working on, I did not have Pro Writing Aid. Also previous work I have done is either short stories or collections, so I basically read through them twice and looked for errors. Needless to say, there are still errors in the books! Of they two projects I am on, my novella, ‘A Close Shave with Destiny,’ is almost ready to go. I jumped the boat, getting over excited by people seeing my work, so have already sent it to my beta reader who got back to me. This was before I had even used Pro Writing Aid. Therefore, I am doing my final print check then it will be released. My other project, ‘The Fifth Coin,’ has been read through twice and is sitting waiting till I release ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.’ I will then run it through Pro Writing Aid, do a print read and get some beta readers. An interesting development is that I won a competition for a query letter edit so I may have a good query letter for ‘The Fifth Coin.’ I may actually submit it to publishers! As you can expect, working full-time and having a young family, it takes me ages to edit. I am also writing a serial, ‘Islands of Hope,’ which I update every week on wattpad. This is to show that I am releasing work. Here I read through the section twice and run through Pro Writing Aid. As updates are anywhere from two hundred to a thousand words it does not take long, a sort of editing as you go type affair.

 

Anyway, there we are. That is how I edit, whilst trying to spend as little money as possible. I hope reading this blog post helps you with your editing. If you have any questions or advice then please do contact me. Cheers!