• Reflections on the A to Z Challenge

    A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

    Reflections

    The A to Z challenge is difficult. I tried to find a perfect post length, long enough to make a point, but brief enough that people find it easy to finish.

    This year, I had completed all of my posts in advance, which made the experience less stressful. However, one of my reflections is that I felt more detached from the challenge this year, undoubtedly because I was not writing a post each day.

    That said – I am not sure that I have enough to say to post every day. I am reasonably certain that few people have time to come by and read every day. I am absolutely certain that I do not have time to write something every day.

    There is an inherent danger that a focus on quantity adversely impacts quality, and for that reason, I am not sure that the challenge is for me any more.

    Does that mean that the challenge is no good? No, it doesn’t.

    The challenge is an excellent way to practise discipline and to generate some traffic to the blog. My reflections on the exercise have also made me think about how to publicise my blog posts.

    Many people that read my posts, do it from another platform – Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. Tempting though it is to release multiple messages on each of these platforms directing readers to the blog – it quickly becomes wearing on those people who are connected to me on those platforms.

    I greatly enjoyed the challenge this year, but I suspect that I will not do it next year. My focus will be to post regularly – but advertise selectively. I am grateful to have learned that.

     

     

  • Z is for Zenith

    Matterhorn

    If the A to Z is a Challenge, then today is the zenith, the highest point.

    This post was drafted in early April. It represents the clearing of the decks – leaving me free to concentrate on the redrafting of the best debut novel ever written by me. So, by the time you read this, the first draft will be no more, replaced by a pacier, tighter draft. You, the reader will be propelled through Central Europe in the last decade of the twentieth century, where ambition could make you rich and get you killed.

    To get to that point, a zenith of sorts, I have meandered through a variety of writing approaches and spent a kings ransom on stationery and fountain pens. I have driven my wife to distraction and even the poor dog is sick of listening to tales of Sean and Natalya.

    Congratulations to everyone who completed the A to Z Challenge. Give yourselves a big pat on the back.

    Thank you to all of you lovely people who came by, commented or signed up to the blog.

    I entreat you all. Sign up for updates from any blog that you enjoy. It is a massive boon to the writer. Read more. It’s the zenith of learning and civilisation.

    And of course, buy books.

    Read new authors.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • Y is for Years

    SnakeOil

    ‘Last month, I wrote a book, one hundred and twenty four blog posts and made six hundred and eighteen thousand dollars.’

    Well done! It is always nice to see a fellow writer do well.

    There are a few claims like the above out there. Gurus who have cracked the secrets of making gazillions from writing ‘by following these few simple steps’.

    One of the few simple steps is, of course, to wire some money to the guru.

    I am an open-minded sort of guy and have read a few of these ‘written-in-a-month’ books. My overriding feeling on finishing is always ‘what did you do with the other twenty nine days?’

    I’m sure that there are writers out there who write fast, edit quickly and publish in a heartbeat. I’m sure that they have produced brilliance. I just haven’t found any yet.

    I can tell you from experience that there are definitely writers out there who write fast, edit quickly and publish in a heartbeat. They produce crap.

    Books that have moved me contain years of work. Years of thought, years of experience, years of work. The drafting might not take years, but the process as a whole does. At least that is my perception.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • X is for Xenophobia

    sabre-tooth-tiger-_1117360c

    (Image taken from The Daily Telegraph.)

    Xenophobia. ‘Fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.’ Wikipedia.

    More recently Xenophobia is understood to mean specifically a fear of foreigners.

    In the best debut novel ever written by me, the hero Sean finds himself in a new country, facing new people and challenges.

    He is Xenophobic. Of course he is. We all are. We would be stupid not to be. I am no evolutionary scientist, but I suspect that fear of the foreign or strange was essential. It is what made our ancestors look at a sabre-tooth tiger and think ‘Hmmm… Not sure that I’m going to go give that thing a hug’

    When I hear or read the word xenophobia now, people are using it to lament that prejudice remains. Prejudice about gender, race, disability and sexuality. I believe that it is in our nature to fear that which is strange or foreign. We overcome these fears through learning and education. At the root of learning is reading.

    Read more.

    book_guide_hero_books

    To eradicate prejudice, we need to read more, to learn more, to become familiar with more and more different people and situations. This will help us overcome Xenophobia.

    In short, sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I’ll let you know when the best debut novel ever written by me is available – and you can join the fight.

    By buying it.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • W is for writingchat

    twitter

    Every Wednesday evening, at eight o’clock, a bunch of people get together on twitter. Each week there is a different writing related theme determined by a shadowy collective that I think of as the ‘White Witches of Words’. (Boy, am I going to get stick for writing that!)

    For any not familiar with twitter – to participate, we add #writingchat to each comment and then follow all comments with that #.

    The chat is light-hearted, and fun. Participants are generous with their time, knowledge and experience. The forum that the chat provides allows newbies like me the opportunity to glimpse other writers and learn that many challenges are shared by all.

    I have met some great people at writingchat, not least, my writing buddy Amanda Fleet. As you are reading this, the self-effacing Amanda is too – and muttering to herself something along the lines of ‘stop talking about me.’ That night’s writingchat was ‘Writing Buddies’ and neither I nor Amanda had one. We skirted the subject shyly. An experienced writer tweeted “Just swap 1,000 words and see how you get on.” So we did.

    Despite her best efforts, she can’t shake me now.

    Very soon, Amanda is releasing her first novel, ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’ as a paperback and e-book. Skip along to her blog here for details – and even a discount if you are quick enough.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • V is for Venality

    dollars

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines venality as;

    1. The quality or fact of being for sale.
    2. The quality of being venal; readiness to give support or favour in return for profit or reward; prostitution of talents or principles for mercenary considerations.

    Like it or not, venality is a fact of the world that we live in. I don’t think that I have ever read venality used as a positive attribute, it is always used pejoratively.

    In the best debut novel ever written by me, the protagonist, Sean, could be characterised as venal. He is ambitious, he wants to get on and, he wants to succeed. He is prepared to work hard to achieve these aims. Does this make him venal?

    I suspect that it comes down to how far he is prepared to go to get what he wants. The actions that he takes will determine our view of his motivation. After all, one person’s ‘venal’ is another’s ‘driven’.

    Are we not all venal in some way? Certainly in the ‘developed’ world, many, if not all of of us, satisfy number 1 in the definition above. We sell our time and effort. That is how our world works. What is far more interesting to me is what principles we are prepared to put aside or suppress in return for reward.

    Is venality inevitable in our world?

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • U is for Un-

     

    bored-girl-with-laptop

    Uninteresting, unbelievable, unfair.

    Reading the first draft of the best debut novel ever written by me, I bumped into all three of these ‘un-s’.

    A lot of the novel’s narrative was based on personal experiences and real events. Tall tales of high times in Prague and Budapest.

    These were vaguely amusing to read about for those  present at the time, but uninteresting for anyone else. Minute detail about the journey from one part of the city to another, was nostalgic for me, dull for others. Uninteresting.

    “He wouldn’t do that!” I had pebbledashed the manuscript with muesli. I had made Sean, the hero, do something that moved the plot along, but did not fit with what the reader knew of him as a character. Unbelievable.

    A couple of characters were inconvenient. They had served their purpose in plot terms, but were a loose end. I invented a flimsy premise to remove them. Reading the passage, it felt like a cop out; which is exactly what it was. Unfair.

    These three ‘un-s’ and a few others will quickly turn off any reader.

    A good novel is built on trust. A trust that is built up through the book. A writer abuses that trust at his or her peril. Don’t let an un- turn your reader off.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • T is for ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’

    The Wrong Kind of Clouds cover

    It’s Saturday. One week until the end of the A to Z Challenge.

    Today I am writing about ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’, the best ever debut novel written by Amanda Fleet, my writing buddy. You can order a copy here, and even get a discount.

    Amanda Fleet

    I haven’t read it. Amanda had this one in the bag before I turned up. I have ‘met’ a couple of the characters. They turn up in a novella that Amanda is planning to let people have for free.

    The protagonist, Summer is someone I would like to spend some time with; tough, but good fun, I think. She also has a medical condition that I had never heard of; synasthesia. Broadly, any emotion Summer feels is ‘in colour’. Mad. But great.

    I’m looking forward to the release, I have pre-ordered a paperback version.

    Obviously, when ‘clouds’  sells well and Amanda topples J.K. Rowling, I’ll claim all the credit.

    ‘She’d be nobody without me, you know.’

    Go and pre-order one. If you are an e-book person, sign up to her website and get notified the moment the novel is available in your preferred format.

    Remember, you heard it here first.

    ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • S is for Stationery

    Spotlight logo

    I have already blogged about Bureau Direct, where I get my notebooks. Another outlet where I recently purchased lovely headed paper is Honey Tree.

    Spurred on by my enjoyment of writing in notebooks and sending letters, and egged on by my fellow addict Amanda, I signed up to Spotlight Stationery. For a small monthly fee, they send me a surprise box of stationery at the end of each month. Amanda wrote a great post on her other blog about these boxes.

    They are beautiful. I received my first one in March and was instantly smitten. The day of receipt, I sent all of the postcards from the box to surprised friends.

    Go check Spotlight Stationery out, they are fantastic.

    If you haven’t already deduced it, I am a big believer in enthusiasm. In the past, I ran training courses and had a slide that read;

    “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

    It’s absolutely true. Whether it be business, blogging, writing, love or even stationery, do it with enthusiasm. The outcome may not be everything that you hoped for – but does it matter? The other thing about enthusiastic people, is that they are forever smiling.

    Funny that.

    Must dash, my new stationery box is due any day now.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

     

  • R is for Reading

    Hemingway Reading

    ‘There is no friend as loyal as a book’.

    That chap Hemingway again.

    Like many people I fell out of reading for a while. Not on purpose. It just happened.

    After all, we are blessed with so much choice now. In the past we had a few channels of TV, a couple of choices at the cinema, our record collection or a book. All of those things were considered art forms. Now, there is ‘content’.

    Technically, you are consuming ‘content’ right now.

    In addition to reading these words, you might have the TV on, be listening to some music or keeping an eye on your e-mail. You might even be doing all of those things concurrently.

    At the time of writing, I am rebelling against the digital world. See here. I drafted this post by hand in a notebook, with a pen. One thing that I will not be giving up any time soon is my e-reader. The ability to have a thousand books to read in a device the size of a small paperback is fantastic. Much though I love a good old-fashioned book, I’m not a huge fan of storing them.

    One thing that I have re-discovered is the absolute joy of losing myself in a book; getting so engrossed that all distractions disappear. Only reading can do that for me.

    Since electing to be a writer, my reading has broadened. I read classics, best sellers and debuts from new writers. I find good and bad in all of them. I learn as much from the bad as well as from the good.

    Writers read.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge