Dusting Off the Blog

A very long time has passed since the last post here, and not because there’s not been anything to write about! I’ve spent two weeks in the Philippines, done a lot of gaming after getting very much into Guildball and I published my first book! What excitement! After six weeks on the market I’ve had ten sales and made about £15, which works out as about £10 a month. I’ve done minimal advertising so I’m not too upset, and I also haven’t quit my day job, so this isn’t tragedy – on the contrary, I’m really frelling chuffed about it! It’s got me keen to write the sequel, especially as a few of my customers (read: friends) are asking about it frequently.

So I’ve set myself the goal of writing five thousand words a week for it. If that sounds a lot, it’s deceptive. That’s about three hours hard type, four hours relaxed. Obviously I’m still working my office job and have a pretty full (of fun) social life, and I’m slowly but continually editing Man of Shadows because it is, despite my claims, imperfect. However, I still have more time I could put into writing – but more on that later.
I’m about to talk about criticism and I want to make a quick note on this. ‘Criticism’ has somehow been separated from its original meaning. How do I know this? Because we need the phrase ‘constructive criticism’. Criticism is a critical review or analysis, and should always be constructive. Simply listing off a series of flaws, imagined or real, in a thing is only half the job. More accurately, about one fifth; identifying problems or mistakes is definitely the easy bit. If someone criticises my piece that’s fine, but I don’t want to have to ask, “So what do you suggest to improve on those areas?”. Partly because I’m lazy but also because I fear people replying “I don’t know. That’s your job.” Yes, it is, but if someone says “This book needs romance” simply because they want a romance in the books they read, it might detract from my novel if I throw one in just for the sake of it.
The first bit of criticism I’ve received (besides the fact I hadn’t finished editing it as fully as I’d thought) was that Man of Shadows didn’t have the interpersonal character exploration and introspection that, in the reader’s words, would have changed it from a good book to a great book for her. My immediate response was to ask where this could have been included in the novel, in a believable way. While there is plenty for the group – and the main character especially – to discuss and address in this regard, there is never a time when it could feasibly be done.
Slight spoilers here – the three main characters are a dramatically and dysfunctionally drawn together group. This is mainly due to the actions of the protagonist, Seb. His first meeting with the other two main characters are not positive experiences, which is the source for a lot of introspection and character analysis for Seb. However, he doesn’t do this completely or in a necessarily healthy way, because he’s not a trained psychologist and the things he has to deal with about himself and what he’s done, the things he has to thing about, range from personal to moral to philosophical – all while trying to unravel a convoluted conspiracy and convince the other two characters not to kill him. There’s a lot of trust issues between the group, and a discussion about their emotional states requires a lot more trust and time then they have.
So I early on made the decision this needed to wait until the second book. There was no real way the characters would have time to resolve their emotional issues in the first book, so they all shelved them – not just because it was convenient for me, but also for reasons that made sense to them. I wouldn’t have had them do it if they hadn’t all had their own reasons to, if that makes sense, and this is why I can forgive the absence of this element. Also, they do not all live happily ever after in immediately trusting friendship after the novel, even had it been a stand alone book, so this lack of resolution of emotional and interpersonal conflict still affects their lives and actions so there’s consistency in that.

Apart from that I haven’t had anyone finish the novel who hadn’t already proof read it, so I had their story, plot and character feedback. Having decided I would deal with this in the sequel, I had a clear goal for what I wanted to achieve in it – and early on. At least in part; when I came to writing it, I felt it would be unnatural or unrealistic for the two characters with the biggest emotional beef to resolve everything within a few thousand words. There’s also a few other facets of their issues that form larger story arcs, so I couldn’t have them resolve everything too quickly. Having set myself a target of 5000 words a week I’ve achieved that over the last month. That includes a differently traumatic prologue for my main character, although perhaps not quite as shocking for the reader. But if I can keep this up, I’ll have the book finished by Christmas. Exciting times.

I’m also working on at least one other novel or novella at the moment, a kinda of semi-comic superhuman story about some people with a medley of abilities. It’s somewhat of a parody, somewhat of a tribute, and entirely a combination of several superhero themes and ideas I’ve been playing with for some time. Part of the reason I’m starting this blog again (again) is to keep myself motivated for writing, and I want to start getting at least three thousand words a week done for this second piece so it’ll be mostly done by the time I’ve finish my sequel. I’m also going to get a short story compilation out by then as well. So I’ve lots of plans, and keeping this blog going throughout that time should keep me motivated and focused. If not anyone who reads this should harass me about it.

I’ve also rekindled my writing club, which is open to anyone who wants to come along and should hopefully be running at least once every two weeks. We’ve grown a little since what I’m calling the first season, partly due to the absence of a requirement for people to write – people can come as readers and just give feedback and, hopefully, encouragement to those who do want to present or workshop their work. This is the main forum for me to develop my superhero piece – titled Thunder & Lightning after the two main characters. As it’s a little more pulpy it than my sequel to Man of Shadows, a more public review system should benefit it more.

 

So exciting times indeed for me and my writing. There’ll also be more posts about some of the gaming stuff I’m doing, but mostly it’s for my writing career. So cheer me on, follow me or buy my book and tell me what you think!

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