Friday, 26 February 2010

Five Rules for Readers

Enough of didactic statements for us scribes; what about the ones on the business end of the writing food chain? They've had it far too easy for too long in my opinion. It's about time readers bucked up their ideas and obeyed some simple rules:

1. If you like a book, tell everyone. Get tee shirts printed. Give it five stars on Amazon. Write lovely things on Goodreads. Demand that your library stocks it and ask about it in a loud voice at Waterstones at least twice a day.

2. But don't lend your copy to anyone. Tell them to buy it themselves. Full price. No shirking.

3. If you don't like a book, don't ever ever ever tell anyone. Ever. Certainly don't post a bad review anywhere, because you will be personally responsible for the unhappiness of the author involved once their Google Alert picks it up.

4. If you're reading a book in public - for instance, on the tube - can you lift the cover up a bit? It's difficult for the writer sitting opposite you to tell if you're reading their book if you selfishly keep the cover in your lap.

5. Everyone is different. Everyone enjoys different things. If you didn't enjoy a book, try to bear in mind that it's your fault because you didn't understand it, and it bears no reflection on the writer. Who, by the way, worked really really hard on it and knows a lot more about it than you do.

As an aside, I hear there's a new punctuation mark available for sarcasm. I might have to invest in that.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

More rules for writers

  • Always finish a sentence with a full stop
  • Don't make tpyos.
  • Use capital letters at the beginning of proper nouns, jim.
  • Lots of lovely mice that will hunt you down and want degrees in sociology.
  • Don't throw in dream sequences or surreality for the sake of it.
  • t is probably not going to enamour you to your readers.
  • It's doubtful leaving sentences half-finished will eith

Monday, 22 February 2010

Rules For Writers That I Have Broken

Yes, yes, I know that the only rule in writing is that there are no rules, but that's not strictly true, is it? We know if the dialogue tag says, 'he asked wonderingly.' then it's probably not the best book ever. It's not a hard and fast rule, but it's certainly in the region of being a guideline. And you do have to know what the rules/guidelines are before you can go around discarding them. Although that rule isn't set in stone either, apparently. Right. Anyway. These are some of the rules that I have broken.

- Don't have kids. I'm quite glad I ignored that bit of advice. Stupid advice. Writers have to be selfish, do they? Why? You want to write, you will. You don't need all the time in the universe. You don't need not to share yourself around with anything else. Grow up. *

- Don't use any other dialogue tag than 'said'. I quite like people to shout occasionally. Or huff. Or spit. Just to break up the monotony. But in a comedic piece you can't beat a good 'he said'. 'He said' is quite funny, sometimes. I'm not sure why.

- Don't tell the reader the moon is shining. Show them the glint of moonlight on broken glass. Yes, but what about when you've got acres of stuff to get through and you've just lovingly described their discarded wedding dress on the bed or their forgotten doll high on the shelf or some such? Sensory overload does exist, I'm sure of it. Choose what to show and what to tell. Decide what's important. Yeah.

- Don't make your main character unlikeable. Erm, guilty. Likeable and interesting aren't the same thing, though, are they? And when we first meet a character, our impression of them doesn't have to be true. We have to get to know them. We might hate them to start with, and end up loving them. Even though they're still unlikeable. I like lots of unlikeable people. Grumps are fun. Maybe don't put your reader totally inside the head of a complete git might be more pertinent advice.

- Don't use adverbs. Ah, heck. Again, in comedy, you can't beat a good adverb sometimes. She opined grandiosely.

So what is true about being a writer? You won't learn unless you keep reading and writing, I think. Not consciously dissecting it, but doing it until it gets stuck in your head and you begin to know without knowing when a piece of writing is good. Oh bum, that's pants advice too.

*I should point out that I'm not saying you should have kids. Please don't go around procreating because I said so. I'm just saying, you know, if you wanna, and you're all in a good place with it, do it. Blimey, what a minefield.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Doug Worgul's Thin Blue Smoke is finally coming out in paperback, and it has a luvverly cover. To whit:

In other news, Aliya and I and a bunch of MNW authors met up on Monday at Brown's in Covent Garden and a nice old chat was had by all. I'm sure Matt Curran will be posting some of the pictures he got the waitress to take in lieu of not bringing him any pudding.

And also, I suppose this should have gone at the top really, a winner has been selected to be the cover model for The New Goodbye. Congratulations to Cat Lane (she's the one in the picture below, which she also took). Nicole will be shooting the cover sometime early next month.

Also included in the app as they made the shortlist are Susie Harrison, Saroj Patel, Jaci Berkopec, Sam George and Alle Mind. Thanks to everyone else who submitted.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

What’s new buckaroo?

I thought some of you might find it interesting to know what’s been afoot on the Red Diesel app front. Well, the biggest change is the title of the book. I figured (and Aliya agreed) that The New Goodbye was a more appropriate title for the novel itself, short story collections of the same name by the same author notwithstanding. This means that The New Goodbye short story collection is now out of circulation. So the few hundred out there who actually downloaded a copy now have in their digital paws something of a rarity. And who knows, maybe a collectible.

Where we’re at now is the photo shoot for the cover is halfway to organised, there’s a lovely title track by my good friend Rich Watson with a kind of Bond-theme/Take That vibe and I’m having a final sweep through all of the prose one last time.

The contents for the app are shaping up to look something like the following:

  • The New Goodbye (50k novel, by me) with chapter plates by Johanna
  • The Dialogue of the Dogs (by Cervantes) with a very special illustrated app-thingy by Johanna
  • Three of my short stories: The Leaving Present (most bits previously unpublished), Twenty-One Again (from The Elastic Book of Numbers) and The Listening (from Gratia Placenti—I just need to check the copyright status of this one come to think of it)
  • Several videos, including a little documentary of the cover shoot and the music video

So, it’s coming together; it’s coming on. And a few months and it should hopefully have arrived.

In the meantime I’m working on a feature about text legibility on websites and in apps for Web Designer magazine. Anyone suitably knowledgeable feel free to chuck me some pointers.

Friday, 5 February 2010

I'm getting that Kindling feeling...

The honest truth about my Kindle is that I love it.

Scott Pack has been blogging about his over the last week or so too. I reckon I probably prefer it a bit more than he does, but that's not to say he thinks it's without its merits. Go take a look after you've read this. His latest post is a comparison with the Sony Reader, which might help anyone (Matt) who's considering buying an e-Reader.

I own a batch of books I love, that I'll go back to again and again and the books as objects have sentimental value. There are maybe fifty or so of them. Other books I generally give away, or they end up dusty in the loft. So from now on, that collection won't grow as much as it did. I'll be using ebooks instead, especially for my commute, for which the Kindle is ideal.

What's so good about the Kindle? The main advantage over a computer (or phone or netbook, or, yes, iPad), is that, like all the other eReaders, it uses digital ink rather than a LCD or Plasma display, which is pretty much print-quality text on a screen. (If you've not seen e-ink in action before, it looks like someone has pasted some actual printed text on an acetate to a screen.) Reading from it really is a very similar experience to reading from print (except for light reflection on the screen in dim light.)

I've tried out the Sony Reader and the Sony Reader Touch in a couple of bookshops before, and also the horrible BeBook. Aesthetically, some people, like Scott, prefer the Sony product, some the Amazon. I side with Amazon. But the real advantage of the Kindle over the Sony devices--at least at the moment for UK users--is the Kindle has wireless access to Amazon's Whispernet (using a bunch of wireless networks, including 3G), which means you can use the Kindle without the need for a computer (other than the initial setting up of an Amazon account).

This is getting a bit wordy, so let's try some bulletpoints:

Why I like the Kindle:
  • Easy to hold and don't need to hold pages open with your hand
  • Shorter width of the page than a standard paperback means faster reading
  • No headaches or eyestrain, unlike using an LCD screen
  • Can hold thousands of books
  • Wireless connection
  • Can store other file types (although I think a USB stick or iPod Shuffle is better suited to this, it's good for emergencies)
  • Free wireless inbox
  • No distractions from other programmes (such as email) while you're reading
I'm also in the middle of editing a good few hundreds of pages of work. The Kindle has saved having to print these out for the final read-throughs, as you can also use the (not-magnificent) keyboard to annotate the work if you crunch it into mobipocket format.

So there you go, my tuppenny worth on using an ereader device. There're lots of other points to consider from the point-of-view of an author, and from the point-of-view of the publishing industry, but more on that another time.

(Bonus points to anyone who can spot the TV reference in the title of this post.)