This is a strange post for me, never have I done one that is so image rich but I want to share a small triumph in my writing. As a hobbyist writer I am pretty tight when it comes to spending money on marketing or editing, this also includes book covers. As an ICT and Computing teacher I utilise what technology I have as well as my knowledge of computers to knock up some pretty basic covers. At present it has been a few filters on a photo, logos designed in Adobe Flash and imported into Photoshop or getting other stock images and making them one solid colour. I spend the most time choosing my font. The covers do not look bad but they are not particularly professional. I decided, therefore, that for ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ I would take a different approach. I would attempt to draw a scene. The only problem being, I can’t draw! However, in my excited state I bounded down to town and headed to The Works (it’s a UK shop that sells books, art supplies and games that are ex-stock and so now cheap!) and bought myself an A3 pad with pencils and a book on how to draw. This then sat on a shelf for about three months. Having completed NaNoWriMo and gone back to ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ to edit it, I finally picked up a pencil. Below are step by step stages of how I did, I am not saying the writing is exciting so feel free to just look at the pretty pictures…
Stage 1 – Basic shapes
I found out quickly that the art book I purchased did not actually give you many tips on drawing fantasy characters so I grabbed my phone and used the Internet instead. As my first proper drawing ever, I decided to take the three main characters and have them facing the reader, looking scared. Action scenes are a little too far for me at the moment. The story is set in a moustache so I wanted them standing above a depiction of one. I drew lines for the moustache and connected these up then used the characters head sizes to work out arm and body lengths. At this point things were going well!
Stage 2 – Body outlines
The next stage was to get the general outlines for the bodies, I was quite impressed with how I did this, using lines to link up shapes. They were actually starting to look like humans! They did all have massive heads though so the rubber supplied with my art set came in very handy! Also I could not get the leg width correct but that did not bother me at present as I could change that later.
Stage 3 – Faces
I cannot draw faces, as is clear from the image to the right! However, these are the best faces I have ever drawn. Again my wonderful drawing book was no help so I looked on the Internet and did a half copy, half reimagining job. I really like Wignut (the one in the middle) but the other two did not come out as well. I decided at this point that I was going for a rustic look so, despite a bit of editing, left them as they are. My wife thought the eyes on Wignut were the weakest but they are actually my favourite, along with his hair. I think it is because they look a little cartoony and that goes better with the ‘I can’t draw very well’ look.
Stage 4 – Wignut’s clothes
Guess what?! Yep, that’s right, the book was absolutely no help with clothes! Again it was an Internet affair, looking at different images of drawn medieval clothes and cobbling something together. But I am happy with them, I particularly like the belt and the way I have made the clothes look a little like fabric by adding lines and making seams billow a little. There is not much detail but it gives the gist. My original plan had been to do basic outlines of the characters and use a fineliner pen to thicken the lines so it was more of a line drawing, but I liked Wignut’s look so decided to just go with the drawings at this point.
Stage 5 – Svetta’s clothes
Svetta, if you have not work out by the fact she is the next one drawn in, is my female protagonist. I wanted her to look pretty but show she is a fighter and a quite good one at that. It was clear I could not draw pretty faces but maybe a nice outfit would make her character look better. Again it was on to the Internet to look at clothes. All the female medieval clothes were flowing dresses with lacey tie ups so I had to look at male warriors clothes and adapt them. Now I was not just looking at the characters outlines I could add some shading to my cover. That was in the art book but it had been so unhelpful up to this point I ignored it! If not as much as Wignut’s clothes, I do like the look of Svetta’s. She is clearly more than a pretty girl.
Stage 6 – Barnabas’ clothes and moustache
I found Barnabas’ clothes the easiest to do, I had learnt from both Wignut and Svetta and as he is the hero’s aid I gave him basic clothes. I was worried how the pack on his back would look so tried not to do anything complicated and draw stitching or have it open with contents spewing forth. I think it works though. I also did the moustache as well, I was worried how to get the texture right but by not using a fineliner pen I could add strokes to it from the pencil I was using. I changed to a thicker pencil do to this. I don’t know why, it just felt right. I had picked a 3B for the rest, who knows why? Not me! Looking at the final picture I was quite happy, yeah the faces could be more detailed and the arms seem a bit long but I had managed to make the legs look better and there is the rustic charm I was after, or rather consolidated myself with. It is the best drawing I have ever done after all!
Stage 7 – PhotoShop
The final stage was the one I was most comfortable with, popping the image into PhotoShop. Firstly I scanned the image then working out what size my book would be and set up the relevant canvas on PhotoShop. Using the magic wand and rubber tools I removed the background as best I could. I did need to clone some areas where there were imperfections from the scanning process as well. After this I found a font I wanted. The most annoying thing about cover design is finding a font that is free for commercial use. I wanted something to go with the hand drawn theme and found Mr. B. It is a little more like pen strokes but I can live with that. A little placement and thinking about a tag line and the cover was taking shape. It is amazing how hard it is to create a tag line for a story about heroes setting out to gather snot from a nose as they live in a moustache. I decided to ignore that and go with the humour of the book instead. After this I tried solid colour backgrounds but none worked, I then went for a pattern which looked even worse. So onto the stock photo sites I went, looking for paper and found the one I have. Again it is free for commercial use. All in all I am pretty happy with it. It won’t win any awards but it looks professional enough, it not up to the standards of Penguin or HarperCollins publishing houses but it will do.
So there we have it, a quick run through of how I made my cover. I could go into more detail but it gets a little dull after a while. So now I need to finish editing the book, which could take a month or more, then create the spine and back cover. Hopefully it will be out some time in the next few months, I wouldn’t hold your breath though!
So here we are again, at the end of another year and once more, like nearly all writers, I am doing a look back at the year blog post and, in terms of writing, what a year it has been. Right, after that really long sentence let’s begin.
I always start off by reviewing my targets from the year. I specifically kept them simple in 2016 to avoid disappointment and another year of failure, simply put all I planned to do was ‘do some writing’ and I certainly did that. It is probably clearer to look at my three successes…
Poetry – as you may know I am bad at poetry, but that has never stopped me writing it! I managed a whopping six new poems that included topics such as Nintendo, love, Star Wars and not being able to write well. I have never had a repository for my poetry so decided to make one rather that it just sitting on this blog. That meant that ‘Bad Poetry you probably never want to read’ was born. I popped in my older poems that were on this site along with the new ones. As it is a work in progress it is only available on wattpad at the moment. You can read it here. There was to be a seventh poem for the year but nanowrimo took over and it was abandoned. Please feel free to ignore my poetry but if you do read it can you leave a review? It can be good or confirm my belief that I am terrible at the medium.
A Close Shave with Destiny – I finally finished my first draft of the story I started in October 2015 for Movember. It turned from a 5000 word short story to a nearly 40,000 word novelette. I finished it just before the start of nanowrimo so it still needs a proofread and a cover created. Expect it out in paperback and ebook format in 2017.
The Fifth Coin – this was my story for nanowrimo, which I am happy to say I won thanks to sticking very close to the target daily word count. I really like the story and have pushed myself to keep writing it in December, although not at nano pace. I am now on 60,000ish words and only have three chapters to write to finish the first draft, two of which I am already half way through. I hope to have it out next year as well.
So overall nothing published but a lot of words down, the most in any one year. This is largely thanks to Google docs which allows me to write from anywhere. I often sit for five minutes and add the odd hundred words which does add a little to a novel and keeps you in the flow. In fact I am writing this blog post on Google docs on my phone whilst my daughter is asleep in my arms.
Right on to next year, there is a lot I would like to do but the ‘just write something’ idea worked really well this year so I am keeping it. That said, in an ideal work ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ and ‘The Fifth Coin’ would be published and I would have started work on something else as well as a few more poems being released. We will see though!
Thank you to everyone who has supported me this year, I look forward to 2017 in the hope that it is good for writing. Thank you to new followers through the media hop set up by Raimey Gallant, I do look at your posts even if I rarely comment. I do hope you enjoy this blog and find it useful. Anyway, to every out there good luck in whatever you do next year, unless it involves hurting kittens, then I am afraid I cannot condone it!
In previous posts I have talked about using different apps for writing so I can write on my phone and tablet. All of these have involved uploading files to cloud storage then downloading them on a different device or copying the text and emailing it to myself. I got a little fed up of this, even though it only takes a few extra minutes. Now I have given myself over to Google Docs and use the app on my phone and tablet. I can still pick up a device and write on it without having to turn on my computer, however now I do not need to think about uploading as the content is saved automatically and can be access from any computer or device. I could even forget my phone and tablet and be at a friend’s house, ask to use their computer or device and log into Google and access my files. It is such a brilliant system, I have written so much more recently by just using Google Docs. Even better, with Drive you get Google Sheets as well so I can use a spreadsheet to keep a list of character/location descriptions or the order of events. I do not know why I did not think of this before. I have all the tools I would in any other word processor as well. It is amazing how much further I am through stories than I would be without using Google Docs. It is simple, it is free. More recently I have been writing in sections, rather than moving in a linear fashion I am choosing which part of the story I want to work on. By using the outline feature you can also set up titles for sections and quickly jump to them without having to scroll through all the text. So now I am not looking for any specific writing apps that require me to spend time uploading and sharing to get my work into the right format. Now I am using Google Docs. The only issue is that you need to be online to access files, however you can now work offline. I have not tried it yet but will do at some point. So, get yourself a Google account and download Google Docs on your tablet and phone. You can get a quick bit of writing done whilst waiting for someone to get ready, during the breaks of TV shows or even whilst you sit on the loo!
It appears that setting no goals has somehow improved my ability to write, I have written more so far this year than I think I had at the same point in the previous two years. One reason for this is joining a book club (which I talked about in a previous post), another is the lack of pressure on myself and I feel a third is now having a tablet. Using the Writer app on android means I can quickly pick up my tablet and write a few lines in a spare five minutes, I don’t have to turn my laptop on and wait an age for it to boot up in which time I have lost motivation. In fact I am writing this on my tablet at the present moment. Another bonus of the app is that I can write on the go. My car broke last week and I wrote most of a short story on the train over two days of commuting, quite fantastic really.
Anyway, back to the point of the post, where I am at with writing. I am a little behind where I thought I would be with the moustache story but that is not to do with being unmotivated. Instead I have been working on a story for my school. The plan is for me to start the story then students will finish it off, all in the name of getting kids to write. Since starting my new job I have realised that the Librarian and myself both share a love of books and writing. We are working on a school based murder mystery as well as the story. Unfortunately, as these are for my school they will not be released to the general public although it is an exciting time for me.
Outside of school writing I will continue to work on the moustache story and then plan to start on my first young adult novel. Since I realised that The Last Human was not going to work I have a new, much more exciting idea and am starting to get a plan together. Basically, things are looking good. A time scale? I have decided not to commit to those anymore!
Like many hobbyist writers I would love to get big from writing (or at least make some money!) but do it mainly for the pleasure, and like nearly all hobbyist writers I have very little time to write. This blog has a plethora of posts about how self-set deadlines have been missed due to work and family commitments. It is so hard to find even an hour to get away from the rat race and put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard!). I tend to get the odd ten or twenty minutes of down time when I could be writing but by the time I have turned my laptop on, or realised I am out somewhere waiting for a train or appointment so am nowhere near my words, the time has passed. I have tried to use the Wattpad app on my phone, but it needs to be connected to the Internet to save what I write, or use the Notes app that comes free with the phone, but this can cause undue pain when trying to export to a decent file format.
It seems that getting a decent app for my tablet or phone would be a solution to my problem, they are always on and usually near me so I could just pop in my passcode and write away. When I start a large writing session I often need to look back at previous words as it has been so long since I last managed any writing but by using a smartphone for the odd ten or twenty minutes every few days the stories would be fresh in my mind. Recently I found an app that has allowed this to happen and much as I have mused over how good it would be to have a way to easily write on my smartphone I am noticing that the reality is even better. The app I am using is the free version of Documents by Savy Soda. I stumbled across the app when I was looking for a way to produce office documents for my work, basically it offers word processing and spreadsheets using common free file formats that can be opened by any major office software. Whilst I use it for work purposes on my work supplied tablet I now have a copy on my smartphone for writing stories, ok the keyboard is a little more fidley but I have written about 1000 more words in the last few days than I would have if I had only been using my laptop. The word processing files are saved locally on the phone as rich text files (.rtf) so they can be edited in areas where no Internet is available. Further to this, the app has a direct link to many file storage websites. With a click of a button I can save my files to my Google Drive then download them when I manage to sit down to write on my laptop. Ok so rtf only offers a limited number of fonts, on the fly spell checking and changing text to bold, italic or a few different colours, but it is the words that count. I can use my laptop to do the proper editing and make them look fancy to upload to Kindle or Smashwords at a later date. The only downside is that it only works for Apple products, however that doesn’t bother me as those are the produces I have!
So, if like me you are finding it hard to get time to write I would suggest getting a free text editor app. If you get Documents then all you need to do is save your files as .rtf in your office application on your computer then upload to a file storage site such as Google Drive or Dropbox, you can then write on the go safe in the knowledge that you can save your words on your phone/tablet then upload back to your file storage site when you get in range of some good wi-fi, download onto your computer when that finally gets turned on. It also means you don’t need to plug your phone in and wade through the endless folders to find where the files are actually saved. You know, thanks to Documents I think I might end up finishing a few stories that would otherwise have fallen by the wayside.