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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

25,000 Blog Hits and 15,000 Monthly Hits

Three months. That’s how long it’s taken to get 25,000 blog hits. Many thanks to all of you that have clicked a link and landed on my blog. The popularity of the blog has far exceeded my hopes. May has been an exceptional month for traffic. The release of my writing for success series has encouraged many of you to try my blog for the first time. Again, thank you!

So, what’s next? Well, I’m going to have to come up with another series of blog posts for June. Something writing related, but off at a slightly different tangent. Then there are my books themselves – please don’t forget to head over to Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Smashwords and buy one. There are plenty to choose from.

There are a lot of things happening at present and I’ll try to keep you all up to date with the day to day news as we go. In the meantime, here’s to the next 25,000 hits!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hangover Part Two - A Review (Movies)


Yesterday we went to see The Hangover Part II and I have to say I haven't laughed as much in a movie theater for a very long time. I will also say it really, really helps to have seen the first Hangover movie before you go (because of several references back to it). Having said that, if you really haven't seen the first movie and you don't have time to see that one first, don't worry. It will still mostly make sense.

The second movie is set in Thailand where a wedding is due to take place. Now I don't know how you all imagine Thailand to be. But I guarantee that whatever it is that's in your imagination, then somewhere in the movie, that part is there! Scary.

The movie is a roller coaster of events, each seemingly crazier than the previous one. The movie starts out fairly slow and sedate but don't worry, after a while there's not even time to take a breath. Funniest parts? Too many to mention. All I can say is watch out for the monkey, and never underestimate the things that can happen in a strip club.

If you have a spare couple of hours - please go see the movie. It won't change your life but it will leave you weeping in your seat. Take extra tissues and be careful not to choke on the popcorn...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Weekend - Novels, Writing & Challenges

My first week or so back working in an office job and I still haven't got back into my writing routine. It's tough not being able to spend the time you want, writing and working on your books. I'm going to have to try a few different things this week to get back on track.

The good news is that the work done on my blog and Twitter over the past few months has paid off and I am still getting plenty of blog hits each day. I just need to find a way to keep creating new content and also continue writing and then editing my books. It looks like I'm just going to have to knuckle down and make it happen.

So, what's on the agenda this week? No office job on Monday - So I definitely need to write a couple more chapters of my book. If I can I also need to get ahead of myself with my blog posts too. Then there's getting more emails out to book bloggers. It seems that promises made there, aren't coming through very well at present. Those of you that are also struggling to become established Indie Authors - you have my sympathy. This is not a job for the weak-hearted. It's also not a job for those who don't want to spend every breathing moment thinking about how to get more exposure on the books you've written.

Okay, enough rambling today. The Memorial Weekend is halfway through and there's things that need doing, so I'm off to do them. If you're looking for a book to read, then I have several suggestions for you today. If you like YA Fantasy - try Xannu - The Prophecy, only $0.99 at all online bookstores. Are you looking for something a little younger? Then try Fergus Fedderfeeny's Food Factory, again only $0.99 at online bookstores. If it's a serious business book you're looking for, then try The 10 Hour Project Manager, $5.99 and selling very well. Finally if you're writing your first novel and would like some advice and help, try How To Write & Self-Publish Your First Novel, only $0.99 at online bookstores.

Plenty to choose from. Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The 10 Hour Project Manager - Still Trending on Amazon

Well, my Project Management book has been available on Amazon for two months now and it is still selling better than I ever hoped. Today it is trending in the top 100 in two categories:

Have you bought a copy yet? Why not? This is a terrific book, full of practical advice for the Project Manager. It's available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Smashwords, so just do a search for it (or click the image below to buy it on Amazon): The 10 Hour Project Manager.

Read about it HERE <- Only $5.99!!

The book is about the meta-rules associated with running a project. It’s about the management skills that will not only help you decide what you need to pay close attention to but also what you can safely de-prioritize. This will allow you to focus on the relevant and important items in a project. Every project is a little different, but the meta-rules are the same. By the end of this book you should have all the tools necessary to be able to successfully manage most projects in only ten hours a week (during the majority of the lifecycle). Just think what you will be able to do with all that spare time. Maybe you'll even be able to start that little money-earning side project you've always intended to get underway!

"If you are looking to do a great job as a PM and still have a life, get this book. It is written by a very practical project manager for individuals who would like to be more effective and practical in their role as PM. How do I know this? I worked with him for several years on long term international projects with large multinational team. This book accurately reflects what he preached and practiced on the projects and hence my recommendation. I did not decide to write this recommendation as a favor to the author but as a favor to individuals, who can use a really practical guide to managing project and have a life. This author with his approach made it possible for all the team members to have a real work-life balance even on the road. Under him, our team excelled in every area imaginable on a project. I am glad that he decided to put his thoughts into writing so others can benefit from his approach. This would also be a great book for someone starting out as a Project Manager, as well."

"This book is filled with genuine, practical insights from an expert in the field of project management. The author describes a project management approach that you can apply to any type of project, whether you are a new or seasoned project manager. Read this book if you desire to be a project manager who adds value to your team and organization."

Picture of the Week (#1) - The Weather and Tornadoes

This week I am starting a regular Friday series that will show my picture of the week. It's just something that struck a chord with me for whatever reason. This week it's a picture of the devastation that hit Joplin, MI after the recent tornado. Mother nature is a very powerful thing.

As one of the school kids that was interviewed said, "it makes you realize that every day is a gift. You never know when you will have your last." To all of you, go out and live your weekend. Make the most of it. Do those things you have been promising yourself you will do. Even better, keep doing it. Do it every day. None of us know just how long we have on this planet.

(Click for original full-size picture)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Seattle Sounders v Dallas FC - Possession Without Goals Doesn't Win Games

Well, I've just finished watching the latest Seattle Sounders football game and although they played better than last Saturday , they were outclassed. Possession alone doesn't win games and that was proven in style tonight. In the second half, Seattle had 72% of the possession yet couldn't convert anything in front of the goal. So what's to be done?

It's time for a coaching change. It's time for Sigi to either go or start to play a different system. Sounders just don't look like they will score and so often they are laid open in defense. He's had 3 years to build a team now and he has some talented players, but ultimately you need to score goals to win games. And Seattle is just not scoring goals.

Oh well, another week and another bad result. How much longer will it have to go on before something gets done about it? Tonight's players -

Montero: Sorry, but he played terrible. No touch and no real idea of what he was doing. Time to sit out a few games, Fredy.

Fucito: Gave his 100% and more. Keep him playing.

Friberg: Inconsistent. Some weeks he looks like he might make a breakthrough, but tonight he was mostly ineffectual.

Rosales & Fernandez: The best players on our team tonight and improving every week.

Alonso: You cannot fault his effort.

So, what's the problem? Terrible set piece plays (corners and free-kicks) and lack of position in play build-ups. Back to the drawing board, Sigi...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wallaby Found Hopping Around Dorset Garden

Of course when I first read this headline I was extremely worried. How did the newspapers know there was a Wallaby in my garden? Thankfully there wasn’t. It was a terrible mistake and the aforementioned Wallaby was, in fact, hopping around a different Dorset garden.

As you all no doubt know by now, I write under the pen name of Paul Dorset and many people ask me why this is. So I thought I’d write a brief post today to explain the reason. My real name is John Cox and when I started writing and came to publish my books I discovered there were many authors named John Cox. I didn’t want to be one of many. So, just like screen actors, I took another name to publish under. That name, of course, was Paul Dorset. But where does the name come from? Well I was born in England in the county of Dorset, in the town of Poole. So Paul Dorset seemed an appropriate name. And all has been well until this weekend; just when I discovered there was a Wallaby loose in my garden!

So, hop on over to Amazon and try one of my books. There’s plenty to choose from. If you like Fantasy, try ‘Xannu - The Prophecy,’ or if Middle Grade comic adventure is your cup of tea, try ‘Fergus Fedderfeeny’s Food Factory.’ Of course, if you’re just the serious type, then you will probably want to try ‘The 10 Hour Project Manager.’ Either way, you’ll get a great treat and also help keep me fending off the animals in my garden. Have a great day!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Angry Beaver Wreaks Havoc Through Town

With a headline such as that you can't fail to have a winning story can you? This is more or less the headline from a newspaper on Friday that claimed: Angry Beaver roams through NWT town (read the original story HERE). Of course it's a Canadian story; US papers usually try to be extremely pc about the headlines they print.

My blog post does have a point to make though. Headlines attract readers and the hook is what makes them pay attention to something. If you can't get a reader to spend a few seconds on your article, you might as well not write it. It's very important to think carefully about the wording of any blog headline - try and use inflammatory words or challenging statements - you'll get a higher number of hits. It's the same with books. Book title and cover art are two very important things. Your job as the author is to get the reader to pick up your book. So make it enticing. Because I for one want to know just what that angry beaver did, don't you? ;-)

PS. Today is my wife's birthday. Happy Birthday, darling <3 xxx

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seattle Sounders versus Kansas - A Piece of C**p!

As I have written before, there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. My last blog post took a few hits from people saying I wasn't a true Sounders fan - apparently because 'true fans' don't ever complain about everything. Well, to that, I say C**P! True fans still have a right to complain about things. Of course they want their team to win, but you also have to look at games objectively, and quite frankly yesterday's game was also a piece of c**p.

Sure, we have a few injuries. But, guess what, so did Kansas. Furthermore, Kansas are bottom of the league, playing away from home (they haven't even played a home game this season yet), and really shouldn't have been any kind of threat to Seattle.

So what went wrong? The game was boring. Seattle showed no imagination whatsoever, and had no one making any kind of plays. We had two shots on goal the whole game and one of those thankfully found the back of the net - in stoppage time at the end of the game. Again the officiating was dubious, to be polite about it. The referee had no real control of the game and no real idea of how to call fouls. Sounders manager, Sigi, continues to encourage the team to play a boring game that every other team in the league now knows how to defend against. Something has to change - and to change quickly if Sounders are to make the playoffs this year. Honestly, at present, it will be touch and go.

So, my call goes out once more - from a 'true fan' - Sigi - for goodness sake swap it up a little; and MLS league - you need to do something about the pathetic standard of officiating. Something is seriously wrong in the state of Denmark (my thanks to Shakespeare).

PS. Good goal Parkes! Congrats on scoring your first goal since 2004.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Corporate America is Calling Me to Dilbertland

It was good while it lasted. The days of spending my hours at home, being able to write non-stop and managing my social marketing during the day, have come to a temporary halt. Corporate America called me back to the office!

I have spent the last couple of days reworking all my schedules and goals so that I can still spend as much time as possible writing while passing my days in a cube in Dilbertland (is that a word?). The net result is that my new paranormal book is going to take a little longer to complete than I had originally hoped (but only by a few weeks), and my third Xannu book will have to wait an extra few weeks before it gets re-edited. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as by the time I get to Xannu, it will seem really fresh and new to me and the re-editing will be easier.

The change also means I will be changing my daily focus on this blog, Facebook and Twitter a little. Needs must. Having to spend five days a week in an office that does not support non-work use of these sites means I am going to have to set things up to run a little more automated. This will be an interesting experiment.

As from Monday I will be getting up at 5am in the mornings to start writing. The goal will be to write about 1700 words a day during the week on my book, before breakfast. Then it’ll be breakfast, shower and off to the office to do my eight hours. When I get home in the late afternoon I will try and play catch up on the social networks and also write the next day’s blog post. As I said, interesting times. But, and this is the positive thing, it’s all putting extra money into the bank that will help support my writing endeavors while things take the time they do to get fully off the ground. The number of books I still intend to release this year hasn’t changed - and that’s the good news. The last few months have also afforded me to get SO much done. Overall it definitely feels like the train is picking up speed!

So, enjoy the slight changes, keep following and we’ll see how the race between book sales, book writing and Dilbertland plays out. Have a great Saturday!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Slow Sunny Friday

It's going to be sunny in Seattle today. And sunny means it's going to be above 70F. I know that's not hot for a lot of places, but here in the pacific northwest we make the most of our sunny days!

So it's also going to be a slow day. And maybe even a slow weekend. What this means is that there's not going to be a lot to report on for the next couple of days. You'll have to bear with me while I decompress for a couple of days.

In the meantime there are plenty of books to check out. You could start with my latest ebook: How To Write & Self-Publish Your First Novel - it's a great read and something that will be of help to all aspiring authors. It's only $0.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Download it today!

So, until tomorrow, take it easy. I hope it's sunny where you are. Enjoy the weather.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Press Release: How to Write & Self-Publish Your First Novel

Paul Dorset Logo

How to Write & Self-Publish Your First Novel - an ebook

Redmond author and resident, Paul Dorset has published “How to Write & Self-Publish Your First Novel” a series of twenty-four essays that will improve your writing skills and lead you on a path to getting your first novel successfully published.
Writing for Success
Writing for Success

PRLog (Press Release) – May 19, 2011 – Redmond author and resident, Paul Dorset has published “How to Write & Self-Publish Your First Novel” a self-help book written as a series of twenty-four essays that will improve your writing skills and lead you on a path to getting your first novel successfully published. It is available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords for only $0.99.

Writing and publishing your first novel is tough. It usually takes a long time. Years for most people. It can be soul destroying too. You finally complete your manuscript; you send off samples to agents and publishers, and anxiously watch the mail for the responses. Then they come in, one at a time, rejection after rejection.

How does the author know this? He's been there. Does this mean he was a bad writer? No, but he could have used some help in those early days. Sure, he had purchased a few books on writing and he had tried to pay attention to the advice they gave, but there were so many of them and sometimes advice seemed to conflict other advice. It was way too much to take in.

But he persevered with his writing and now has been writing for several years and has completed several novels and other books, and his writing is totally different. His earlier novels may need a little re-editing, but his later works, oh wow he can spot the differences!

So, a few months ago he decided he would go the self-publishing route to getting his books out there in the big world. Things are changing in the book markets and so many people now have Kindles and Nooks and iPads and other electronic book readers. He thought to himself, why not do it himself? He knew he could write; He had that confidence. Enough complete strangers had told him they liked what he wrote, so why shouldn't he join that list of published authors? And why should he have to wait for some agent or publisher to take a chance on an unknown author before he got published? So he did it, and now he has the story to tell and the method you can use to generate your own success.

This ebook is a series of essays solely concerned with improving your writing skills and getting your first novel successfully self-published. It is written in a way that you can keep dipping into it, and keep coming back to parts of it, time and time again. It is concise and to the point and it is written from experience; thousands of hours of experience. Every essay in this book is relevant and has a purpose. Every essay will give you pause for thought.

Can the author turn you into a bestselling author? No - only you can do that. But he can set you on a path to success. He can give you clear guidelines about what not to do, and how to do things better. And he can tell you exactly how to self-publish that novel. This ebook takes your novel from the beginning and leads you along a path of self-discovery. When you have finished reading you will be Writing for Success and be someone who has a better chance than most every other wannabe author out there of becoming the next Tom Clancy, JK Rowling, Stephen King, or whoever else is your writing hero.

Good luck!

1. Don't Start the Story at the Beginning
2. Become a Successful Writer in 2,000 Hours
3. Poems and Short Stories
4. Creating a Good Plot
5. How Long Should a First Novel Be?
6. Writing in the First Person
7. Writing in the Third Person
8. Dialog Versus Narrative - Show Versus Tell
9. Writing Your First Novel: Words & Routine
10. Conflict and Its Importance
11. Plot Pace
12. Creating Believable and Well Rounded Characters
13. Writing Dialog - Or 'He Said, She Said'
14. Creating a Page Turner
15. Letting the Book 'Cook'
16. Self-Editing Your Novel
17. The Process of Pre-Reads
18. Creating a World of Fantasy
19. How to Write & Self-Publish a Novel: The End-To-End Process Checklist
20. Creating a Writing Environment without Interruptions
21. Reading to Write
22. Encouraging All Would Be Authors
23. The Self-Publishing Process: The Complete A-Z Instructions
24. Marketing Your Novel - The Relevance of Social Media, ARCs and Book Bloggers

# # #

Paul Dorset was born in England in 1960 but now lives in America. He has been writing for many years with early works published in 'teen advice' columns. He has many technical articles published, mostly in the field of Computing and now writes YA fiction.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So You've Been Downsized / Made Redundant?

This blog post is posted at the request of a friend. It comes from an old blog I used to keep and was originally written back in early 2009. Just so you know - Life does get better!

First things first, I am fortunate not to be in the same position as some American families who are currently struggling on a day to day basis just to get by on the basics. For that I am thankful. Indeed, I hope not to ever have to face that position. Even so, being 'unemployed from the corporate world' does make you think a little more about decisions made on a daily basis. I guess it's a sort of inbuilt survival mode. I hope this article helps you focus a little on how to survive a corporate downsizing and get back on the track to success.

Well, it's been 5 weeks now since I was downsized from X and I no longer get in my car at 7:00am in the morning for my drive to the corporate office. A lot of things have changed. As I was sitting at my desk in my home office this morning I was thinking that maybe it would be a good exercise to write a little about it and all those subtle little lifestyle changes that take place.

The most important thing to get past is the denial. This is crucial for your long term survival. Thinking "it'll be alright tomorrow" is not going to get you through. Spending more on your credit cards to compensate for the sad feeling inside is also not going to get you through. You need to admit that your income has taken a sudden decline and that you will have to change your perspective on living and spending for possibly quite some time to come.

Okay, so you've got past that. What next? First off you need to make a list of all your monthly and ad hoc expenditures. Be exact and don't miss anything out. Then add on 10% or so for all the things you also spend money on that you've forgotten about or don't capture. Now write down all the sources of income you have (i.e. Unemployment Insurance) and also write down what you have in savings. Then comes the scary part. How long do you realistically think you'll be out of work? 6 months? A year? In this economy it may actually be somewhere between those two numbers, or more. So, divide your savings between that number to give you a monthly spend and add to it your new income. Now compare that to your list of outgoings. Swallow. Then swallow again.

Obviously when you are unemployed some things have to change. Some of the little luxuries need to be struck from the spend list and then it's time to do some serious pruning. The idea here is to make your available money last as long as is feasibly possible. Don't be overly optimistic about getting another job. Try and be realistic. We are in a tough economy. So, you make alterations to your spend list and shave off a few dollars here and there, but somehow it still doesn't seem to match what you have available to spend. That's because you're still not being as cutthroat as you need to be. Now is the time to move into money conservation mode. Minimum payments, minimum expenditures, maximum efficiency. You're going to have to examine every aspect of your monthly budget line by line and make adjustments.

When you're done with all this you know better just how long you can manage for before it gets to the nearly poverty stage. The aim is that you never have to get to this stage. But what do you do next?

When you knew you were being laid off you probably made a list of a million things that you could do with your time. You probably also made a list of all the jobs you meant to get around to. Well, guess what, it doesn't quite work out like that! Along with unemployment comes personality and attitude changes. Subtle, but changes nonetheless. You have been so conditioned to doing your job every day that for some unknown reason you can't seem to get into a new routine. Instead you squander time, wander around aimless, look at job boards, chat to a few friends, and generally watch days pass by.

In the same way as you made a list of your monthly expenses you're going to have to make a list of your new routine. Otherwise you will never get things done. Make time every day for looking at and applying for jobs. Make time every day to get certain tasks done. Try and fill your normal work hours with things that are scheduled. Only use your normal non-work time to do the social things. Changing your routine is hard but it's this one thing that will ultimately determine your success. Being unemployed makes it very easy to put something off until tomorrow. Don't be tempted by that thought. You should be trying to get back to work and filling your time with useful and necessary things to do.

Stuck for ideas? Volunteer for something. Embark on a large project that needs planning and organizing. Give back to your community. Cook, redecorate, organize the apartment or house, do the garden. There are lots of potential things you can do. It's important to fill your working hours with useful and beneficial things. Don't cut yourself off from the world and spend your days watching TV, reading or playing World of Warcraft!

As time ticks by you will gradually settle into your new routine and it is this routine that will ultimately determine your success. If your routine is laziness and apathy, be prepared to spend a long time unemployed. If your routine is non-stop morning til night, then you'll be re-employed a lot quicker. The reason is fairly obvious. Staying busy focuses your mind, keeps you networking, keeps you pushing for something and substantially lowers the odds on you finding a new job.

So, there we have it. Just a few thoughts. You've been downsized; not shot at or physically injured. Get over it! You are ultimately in control of your future success and happiness. Sure, it may take some time. I didn't say it wouldn't. But it's times like this in our lives that define who we are and who we want to be.

Amazon to Stop Selling Books

Wouldn't that be a terrible headline? Can you imagine just what would happen to the book market if Amazon decided not to sell books anymore?

Over the last several years we have come to rely on Amazon for many, many things. Especially books. Amazon has been one of the leading companies in the promotion of ebooks, even launching their own reader, the Kindle. So, a world in which Amazon no longer sold books would be an interesting place.

It would be like Apple not selling iPhones, or Ford not selling cars, or Comcast to stop selling cable (okay - not so bad), or Mars not selling M&Ms! But, you know, every day some companies go out of business; businesses that people rely on and no one sheds a tear. Life goes on.

At some time or other, Amazon will stop selling books. What will you do then? In the meantime, head over to Amazon and get my books while you can... You know it makes sense.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Looking for Xannu Pre-Readers - HELP!

Are you willing to read one of my books for FREE? Can you spend the time to read an early manuscript copy of the latest in my Xannu YA Fantasy series? Sounds easy...

Of course it's not actually an easy thing to be a pre-reader. It entails reading my book a total of three times; each time looking for different things and completing questionnaires I will send you. Oh, and of course you will also have had to have read the previous two books in the series. You haven't done that yet? Well, go out and get them! Seriously, it's not an easy thing to be a pre-reader.

However, if you do have some time and you can satisfy all the above conditions, I would love to have you tear my latest book apart in order to make it better. It's nearly 'cooked' now and in about 3 more weeks or so I will be ready to send it out. So, you have three weeks to finish reading the first two in the series.

Get back to me...

Xannu - The Prophecy by Paul Dorset. $0.99 from
For fans of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter & The Narnia Chronicles, the 1st in a thrilling epic fantasy series. Would you wake up in a hot sweat if you lived your night’s dreams as a soldier battling un-earthly creatures, witnessing powerful magic and fighting to save your own life on a daily basis? English schoolboy Terry West does. Frequently. And someone wants him dead... *** READ 20% FOR FREE ***

Xannu - The Healing by Paul Dorset. $3.99 from
Continuing on from The Prophecy, this book follows the journeys of two groups of travelers who are both trying to heal their charges. Back in England, Terry West is distraught after the loss of his best friend. But as Teern Truthbringer the soldier, Terry is busy battling un-earthly creatures & witnessing powerful magic on a daily basis. But is he prepared for the perilous journey he has to take to heal his charge; the Xannu.   *** READ 20% FOR FREE ***

Sunday, May 15, 2011

16. Self-Editing Your Novel (Writing for Success)

Well, today unfortunately we have to stop the blog posts from my series on Writing for Success (UPDATE: If you have come here from a link, you can read the first 15 articles by scrolling down the page). The reason? Of course I would like you all to buy the ebook! You feel cheated? I don't believe that. Thousands of you have read the posts so far and the feedback has been great. But, unfortunately the last ten of the twenty-five posts are only going to be available in the ebook.

When can you buy it? In about a week (NOW!!). And it's only going to be $0.99 $3.99. That really is nothing for anyone who takes writing seriously and who wants to write a successful novel. So, I am sure you'll understand my decision...

In the meantime, today there are a lot of goodies for you to look at. Firstly, let's take a look at the full contents of the upcoming ebook: How To Write & Self-Publish Your First Novel -

1. Don't Start the Story at the Beginning
2. Become a Successful Writer in 2,000 Hours
3. Poems and Short Stories
4. Creating a Good Plot
5. How Long Should a First Novel Be?
6. Writing in the First Person
7. Writing in the Third Person
8. Dialog Versus Narrative – Show Versus Tell
9. Writing Your First Novel: Words & Routine
10. Conflict and Its Importance
11. Plot Pace
12. Creating Believable and Well Rounded Characters
13. Writing Dialog – Or ‘He Said, She Said’
14. Creating a Page Turner
15. Letting the Book 'Cook'
16. Self-Editing Your Novel
17. The Process of Pre-Reads
18. Creating a Fantasy World
19. How to Write a Novel: The End-To-End Process
20. Creating a Writing Environment without Interruptions
21. Reading to Write
22. Encouraging All Would Be Authors
23. The Self-Publishing Process - The COMPLETE Instructions
24. The Relevance of Social Media
25. Marketing Your Book

There's more than enough stuff to keep you occupied here!

For the remainder of your Sunday enjoyment, how about taking a look at some of my most popular posts? I'm sure there's something for everyone here. Have a great Sunday.

1. Dummies guide to publishing an ebook on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords
2. Don't start the story at the beginning (Writing for Success)
3. Amazon Kindle - Reading Books on the iPhone, Android, Blackberry & Droid
4. Become a Successful Writer in 2,000 Hours (Writing for Success)
5. FREE Xannu excerpt...
6. 16,000 Twitter Followers in 90 Days without steroids (Part One)
7. Ebook sales top paperbacks for first time
8. IndieBookBlogger: 5 Star review for Xannu - The Prophecy
9. What is epic fantasy and why do I write it?
10. Who is Lucy Weatherington?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

15. Letting the Book 'Cook' (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 15 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series.

15. Letting the Book 'Cook'
So the manuscript is written, you breathe a sigh of relief and your book is written! What do you do now? Of course, the tempting thing is to start going through it from the beginning again and see how it reads. Tweak a few words here, and tweak a few words there. That should do it!

But the best thing to do is to close your word processor and forget about the book. And I mean completely forget about it. At least for a month or so, or as long as you possibly can. I call this letting the book ‘cook.’

So why do you want to let the book cook? There are a couple of very good reasons. Firstly, it’s easier to see the story better from an editing point of view when you approach it fresh. A break of at least a month will give you that perspective. By the time you come to read it again you won’t remember everything and it’ll be like reading it for the first time. You’ll quickly spot those places where the pace isn’t quite right or the characters are inconsistent, or something needs to be changed around. Trust me. And that brings us onto the second reason. When you read the book a second time it will probably actually feel pretty good. What I mean is that time helps the book get better! Well of course it doesn’t but it does feel that way. You wrote the book in the heat of the moment and just put pen to paper. Your emotions were raw. If you go back and tweak it immediately you’ll probably change small pieces here and small pieces there, and you may even ruin the effect you were trying to achieve. Coming back to the book after a break will allow you to read it as it was intended to be read, with full-on effects. Sure, you’ll find some spelling and grammatical mistakes, but you’ll probably be surprised at how close the rest of it was to what you were trying to do. Trust your instincts! If you know how to write, you probably wrote a pretty good first draft.

Many debut authors write, rewrite and re-rewrite passages from their book, in a more or less non-stop fashion. What they end up with is usually nothing like they started with and most often it is not as good either. You have to trust your instincts and just let the book cook for a while!

So, what do you do while the book is cooking? It’s tempting to do nothing and just relax. Another mistake! You need to get straight on with another project of some description. Keep writing. I try and fit smaller books in between the big ones, or write a long series of blog posts or embark on other writing projects I’ve been meaning to do. The important thing is to keep writing and to write something totally unassociated with what you have just finished! This process will help you get better at writing (remember practice makes perfect and you need to write your 2,000 hours!), and also help you keep to your writing routine. I have written before that successful writing is all about routine. You can’t stop writing just because your manuscript is done. You need to get straight on with the next thing.

How do you know when your book is done? This is quite simple. Once a week or so ask yourself if you can remember how the book started and how the book ended? Of course you’ll probably have no trouble doing that. But what else can you remember about the book? What are ten of the major plot points? What does major character X do during the book? Once you get to the point where you really can’t remember a lot of it any more, you’re about ready! As I say, it’s probably a good month or so. And no cheating! Don’t go back to the plot points or the manuscript to remind you. There is no peeking whatsoever allowed. You may get tempted to take a look at something, but don’t follow through with it. While the book is cooking, there’s no opening the oven. It’ll cook alright without you helping it. That’s the thing about a good book, it becomes great on its own. And it will. Just don’t get tempted to look. Even when someone asks you to see a copy of it – and you know you want to show them your latest masterpiece – keep the manuscript closed.

Okay, you get the picture. I don’t need to reiterate it again, do I? Let the book cook and carry on writing. There’s plenty of space in the oven for another masterpiece.

Friday, May 13, 2011

14. Creating a Page Turning Novel (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 14 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series.

14. Creating a Page Turner
There are many ways to create a page turning book and I am sure there are some that probably even I do not know. Having said that however, I know several things you can do to keep readers reading your book. Let’s take a look at some page turning techniques:

  • Writing an interesting story – Yes, you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize you need to keep the story interesting in order to keep readers turning pages. Some authors seem to think that putting in a few boring descriptive chapters in the middle of the book is okay. It’s not – Just so you know!
  • Keep a conflict going – If you have set up a conflict at the beginning of the book; keep it going. The longer you can keep it current and in front of the reader, the more they will want to keep on reading to see how the conflict gets resolved
  • Make things worse – In the same spirit as keeping a conflict going, make things get progressively worse for the hero of the book. If at every turn your hero ends up in a bigger jam than before, the reader will definitely keep reading. Unless of course, it starts to get beyond the realm of belief!
  • Stop a chapter before the end – In the same way as I have written about never starting a story at the beginning; never end a chapter at the end! If a chapter ends with something terrible for the hero, or a new discovery that has to be investigated, or a murdered body that just turned up, guess what – the reader will keep on reading and won’t want to close the book to go to sleep
  • Change the character / plot focus – The story is moving along, hero A is just about to enter the pyramid and… Now the focus of the story is switched to troublemaker B. Of course the reader will want to keep on reading, just to find out what happens to hero A!
  • Combine the last two points – This is guaranteed to keep the reader turning pages! The chapter ends with the hero about to enter the pyramid and all of a sudden the next chapter is about something completely different. But I want to know what happened to the hero! Okay, I’ll keep on reading!

You get the idea. As I said, there are many different ways to create a page turning book and keep the reader hooked. The problem is that as we write, we (the author) want to create logical endings to our chapters. It’s natural. It feels good to finish a chapter and move onto the next. Unfortunately, although it feels good to us, it’s not such an exciting experience for the reader. So, the trick here is not to worry about it when you write your first draft of the manuscript. Just get the story out. Then when you come to edit the manuscript, take a close look at your chapter endings and see if any of them need to be changed. Quite often it’s simply a case of moving a piece of text from one chapter to another, either backwards or forwards. Then also, you may wish to move a complete chapter in between two existing chapters to break up the storyline a little.

The simple test to see whether you’ve got it right or not is to see how you react at the end of each chapter as you read it back. If you go ‘phew’ and breathe a sigh of relief, then you know you’ve got some work to do. If, on the other hand, you want to know what happens next, you’ve got it right. What do your chapter endings look like?

Finally I want to take a brief look at the idea of breaking the story up a little. How many parallel storylines do you usually have in your novels? One, two, three? The correct answer is definitely more than one! Of course at some point in time they are all going to come together, but until that time stopping each one at an exciting point and then switching to another, will create an automatic page turner. Then, as these parallel plots become more frenetic, and switch more and more, the reader has no option but to keep on reading. They can tell that everything is going to collide and believe me they want that collision! Keep writing, keep it exciting, and keep switching. Then finally – bang! The reader is left breathless at the end of your book. It was a page turning success!

Blogging for Success - How We Rely on Social Marketing for Brand Definition

It's been an interesting twenty-four hours. Yesterday Google's Blogger went offline. It is a service that is used by many, many millions of people. Initially the service went into read-only mode - no one could make any new posts, and then later Google rolled back the Blogger database to Wednesday. As of the time of writing I am still missing many of my updates. Hopefully there will be restored soon.

But it got me to thinking, if I couldn't blog then how else will I get my messages out to the Internet? Of course there's Facebook and there's Twitter, but they each serve a different purpose than a blog. I can write long detailed blog posts about all sorts of things and people read through these posts. I have been slowly building my blog traffic these last couple of months and I am now averaging about 500 hits a day. Now that's not a lot in the scheme of things (but it does put me in a very high percentile of blogs), but that combination along with my 2,000 Facebook friends and 53,000 Twitter followers means my messages have the potential to reach millions of people through referred links, etc. Anyone that is trying to build a brand needs to have every option available to them and just having my blog in the state it was in yesterday gave me slight cause for panic. I hope the updates I made to my pages get put back as soon as possible.

Yes, there are lots of great things about Social Marketing and the modern world we live in, but it just goes to show how reliant we also become on it. I'll be spending the remainder of my day repairing my brand definition - something that Google or anybody else will never and could never compensate me for.

Onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

13. Writing Dialog - Or 'He Said, She Said' (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 13 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series (NEW: Buy the book HERE).

13. Writing Dialog - Or 'He Said, She Said'
“Don’t you dare do that,” Sarah carefully said. 
“Why not?” David daringly replied. 
“Because it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” Sarah nervously laughed. 
“In that case, I’ll do it,” David triumphantly replied.
We’ve all read these passages before. And from time to time we all write them. Even my novels still have a few that I need to root out and destroy at some point! Sometimes they’re called Swifties (after Tom Swifty). Basically they are pieces of dialog where the writer has used adverbs to describe an emotion that has been added to the actual dialog. These adverbs usually end in –ly. The simple rule here is cut them out. Why? Two reasons. First they sound stupid. Try reading the passage above out loud. It just doesn’t sound right. Second you should be trying to convey emotion in the dialog and not in the description of the sentence. At the very least, add a little action to the dialog to help convey the proper emotion of the words spoken.

First let’s try the above example without the adverbs:
“Don’t you dare do that,” Sarah said. 
“Why not?” David replied. 
“Because it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.” 
“In that case, I’ll do it,” David replied.
Okay not bad, better than the original but now you need to get in that daring, joking, worried part. So let’s add a little action into the dialog:
Sarah took a step back before she spoke. “Don’t you dare do that.” 
“Why not?” David replied, picking up the paddle and waving it at his sister. 
“Just because. And besides, it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.” 
“In that case, I’ll do it!” David splashed the paddle into the pool, covering his sister with water.
A totally different passage of writing! It’s amazing what you can do with a few words if you try hard enough. Of course these are very short examples, written in a limited space, but you get the idea.

So that’s part one of our lesson – try not to use descriptive adverbs in dialog. Part two is even easier. Basically, you are allowed to use the following constructs in dialog: said, replied, asked, whispered, said quietly, said softly (the last two are allowed because they qualify the said, and are not new adverbs). On very rare occasions you may choose to use other words, but they must be very rare occasions. Then when you have mastered only using these words, you can further cut out how many times you actually use them.

How do you know how often you should use he said, she said in a section of dialog? Well, it depends on three things: the age group of your readers, the length of the passage of dialog, and the number of people speaking. Simply put, the younger the age group, the longer the passage, the more people speaking - the more you need the he said, she said parts. Mature readers, short passage, two people – maybe one or two he said, she said parts. Lesson over.

Dialog needn’t be that difficult to write, but it is a very important part of the story. It’s also the part that many people struggle with the most trying to create something that seems natural. It’s weird really if you think about it. We spend our lives in one part of a dialog and yet we have difficulty writing it down so that it seems natural. Try recording a piece of dialog between two people and play it back. It will sound nothing at all like you remember. And without the circumstantial surroundings you may not even remember what a certain part of the dialog was about! Creating good dialog is something that is a little artificial and yet when you get it right, readers will love your dialog. One of the things I’ve realized is that good dialog reads fast and keeps the plot moving forward. So bearing that in mind, make dialog say something and don’t complicate it too much with descriptive stuff. Pretty straightforward. Readers like reading dialog because the pages look empty and they can be skipped through. Also, they get a chance to see how two characters interact and that is always enjoyable (or should be). Let’s end with a piece of dialog that hopefully demonstrates all the points we have talked about. Good luck!
“You took your time,” Sam said, pushing a Guinness towards him. 
“Cheers,” Beau said, taking a sip and putting the glass back down. “I told you I had a couple of things to do. And then I hit the traffic. No one in this city knows how to drive once it starts raining.” 
“Tell me about it.” 
“So Beau, who’s going to be in your team?” 
Beau looked up to see Tim anxiously looking his way. “Tomorrow, Tim. I’ll be sorting this all out tomorrow. Tonight we are celebrating.” 
“To Beau,” Sam shouted above the conversation. “May he prosper and not suffer the same fate as his predecessor.” 
“To Beau,” everyone replied. 
“Thanks,” said Beau. “That’s very reassuring.” 
“You’ll be fine. You always seem to land on your feet,” Sam said. “I don’t know how you do it. I wish I had a tenth of your luck.” 
“Luck, eh? You think it’s luck. More like hard work.” 
“Sure Beau. Hard work. Cheers!”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

12. Creating Believable and Well Rounded Characters (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 12 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series.

12. Creating Believable and Well Rounded Characters
Craig was tall and thin with short-cropped golden hair. His blue eyes shone like jewels when he smiled and he always had a kind word for the ladies.
Now, I’m sorry if this is the sort of stuff you like to read in your books, but it’s not what I like to read! Personally I’m thinking I don’t want to read any story that contains this Craig character! Now that’s not to say that your story can't contain someone who is just like Craig, but the secret is in how you introduce him and let him come alive in your book.

Character descriptions can be a good thing, but they can also hurt you. Generally readers only need enough description to get by; to distinguish one character from another. The rest will be things the reader makes up in their mind added to a dose of the character’s personality that comes across. So let’s try the description part again.
Craig entered the pub and made straight for the bar. He nodded to a couple of the regulars and took a seat on a stool between two women. “Rum and coke, please,” he said to the barman. He turned and smiled at the woman seated to his left. “Hi.” 
The woman smiled back at Craig and took a sip from her drink as she studied his face briefly. She couldn’t help notice the twinkle in his blue eyes. He looked like he could be the trouble she was looking for.
Now I’m not saying this is perfect writing here; I’ve compressed things down to make an example, but you get the idea. Do you need to mention the fact that Craig was tall and thin immediately? Or that he had short-cropped golden hair? These things may be necessary to the character of Craig but they can be introduced at a time that is appropriate in the story. This second example gives a much more rounded look and feel to Craig. He’s obviously a bit of a ladies’ man and he knows it too. And if that’s an important thing to get out, then get it out.

Creating believable and well rounded characters is something that is central to a good book. You need to create characters that readers can identify with and they each need to have unique personalities. What does this mean? Readers need to visualize your characters and know who is speaking and be able to follow along as you write. Just giving them a bland description won’t do it. Characters, like real people, need markers (or traits) to identify them. What is Craig’s marker? I’m sure it’s not his short-cropped golden hair or the fact that he’s tall and thin. It’s probably more that he’s trouble with women everywhere he goes. That’s what the reader needs to understand from the outset. That needs to be his marker. The physical description can be filled in as the story progresses. Most characters also have a unique phrasing as well. This means you need to understand how they speak and how they will react in conversations. I usually give major characters key words that they repeatedly use throughout the story. This also helps the reader with character identification.

So what makes up a personality? A lot of it is based on situational experience. This means they had a history that made them into the person they are. What are your characters’ histories? Where did they grow up? Who were their school friends? Did they live in a stable home? The list is endless, but to create a well rounded character you need to work all these things out. You need to be sure of exactly how they would each react in a situation. And it needs to be consistent. Don’t go changing the rules half-way through your book.

Real people have flaws too. So should your characters. Superman had his kryptonite. What do your characters have? And I state this point most seriously as knowing what flaws your characters have helps you put them in exciting plot situations and helps the reader become more engaged with the book. Let’s give an example. I have decided that Craig doesn’t swim and that is something that is established early on in the book. In fact it’s worse than that. He hates the water and won’t go in it if he can possibly help it. Once the reader understands this piece of knowledge you can use it to your advantage in many ways. If your Craig character is a good character then he may have to overcome his fear of water by helping a drowning woman. Or, if he’s a bad character maybe a potential girlfriend wants to go on a date with him and decides to take him to the lake. He will then do everything he can to not go in the water. Creating flaws in characters mean you already have great story points to write about!

So when you’re next sat down and thinking about the major characters for your novel, create that back-story about their lives, add a few personality traits, maybe some speech markers, and lastly their kryptonite. Creating believable and well rounded characters will help your books come to life by creating pictures in the reader’s mind.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Who is Lucy Weatherington?

Yes, that's the question of the day. Who is Lucy Weatherington?

Lucy Weatherington is the heroine of my latest novel I started writing today. Set in modern suburbia, this is a slight departure from a lot of the things I write. The currently unnamed novel (Update: New Blood (Melrose Part 1)) is aimed at older young adults (16+) and is an Urban Paranormal thriller. This book will most likely be the first in a series of three. And I say most likely because I'm not sure exactly how many books there will end up being at this point. The plot is still fresh and unexplored. I'll have to see where it goes.

So, over the next month or so I'll let you know how the story is coming along. It's going to be an interesting journey for me as I write something new and challenging. Later this month I will also start reviewing the first draft of my upcoming third novel in the Xannu series. Then, in between all this I will finish up my ebook on 'Writing for Success.' It's definitely going to be a busy May!

So, back to the original question. Just who is Lucy Weatherington? (Clue: Lucy Weatherington is a character from another of my books.. Who?) Please leave comments below.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

11. Plot Pace (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 11 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series.

11. Plot Pace
How should a story ebb and flow? How quickly should the stakes be raised and how quickly should they fall again? These are all questions for the debut author to consider. I have read several samples of stories from potential new writers over the years and they generally fall into two categories: those stories that are descriptive passages, pages at a time; and those that rise to fever pitch and never come down long enough to allow the reader to catch a breath.

Clearly there needs to be some kind of compromise. Most blockbuster hits start with some real conflict, an event of some description that grabs the reader, and after a little while the story settles down a little to allow the reader to catch breath and find out what’s going on. Plot place is a major key in writing a successful novel. The writer needs to keep the reader interested in what they are writing enough to keep them wanting to turn pages, but not too engrossed that they race along without taking breath. Imagine the roller-coaster. During the brief journey there are periods of anticipation, thrills and straight up screaming! I’m not suggesting that your book should evoke those emotions, but the principles are the same. Anticipation is a huge page turner. Readers want to know if something is going to happen or not. They will read several pages as the anticipation builds. But then the writer must deliver. Anticipation must be followed with action of some kind so that the reader has a chance to release some of their built up feelings. Then you can start building again.

So how many times do you do this? The answer is as many times as is necessary. A good book has several undercurrents flowing through it that build at different speeds. These will all hit at different times in the book and then hopefully combine for one big hit somewhere just before the end.

Let’s go back to the typical book openings that new readers write one more time. Many authors start books with descriptive passages that give back-story and a gentle introduction. To a certain extent we covered this topic in the article about not starting a story at the beginning, but it’s worth mentioning again. Generally, starting a book with long descriptive passages won’t get the reader hooked and anticipating something. Generally there’s no conflict introduced and all the reader can do is hope that the story gets going at some point. The plot pace here is too slow.

Onto the other type of beginning, the fever pitch start that goes on forever. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with a fever pitch start. It’s the length that’s important. It needs to be long enough to grab the reader’s attention but not so long as they can’t take a breath. Why is this you may ask? The simple answer is that it can’t be sustained forever and the reader will ultimately be disappointed that the remainder of the book was not as exciting as the beginning. Like all things in life, we need some down-time, even in a book. That’s not to say there needs to be boring passages, just pieces that help the reader bridge things or put things together. The reader needs to be able to process the book as they’re reading and slower passages help do this. The brain naturally reads exciting passages of books a little faster than others. We are anxious to see what happens and we process the passage at the fastest speed possible. Some of the little details get lost. If the whole book is written at this pace, then many of the important points will be missed by the reader. So, slow down from time to time.

Finally, another question that people ask is how many exciting passages should there be in a book? Of course this is also something else that is difficult to answer as one person’s definition of exciting varies from another’s. The reality is that there needs to be enough exciting passages to keep the reader hooked, introduced with enough anticipation to keep them turning pages. Of course, all this will be set up with character and situation conflict, another topic we have already covered in this series. Ultimately plot pace is something that you will have to experiment with to find what works best for you. And also realize that what works for one person may not work for another. Different people have different expectations. I have already had very different comments from readers of my books, and that is a fact of life. As an author you have to understand you can’t please everyone with what you write. All you can hope to do is create a book that pleases the majority of readers. But if you do strive to get the pace of the plot correct, you won’t get comments that people got bored by your book. It may just be that it’s not their kind of story. But that’s the topic for another article!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Author's Reflection

I've had a fair few reviews of my YA Fantasy book, Xannu - The Prophecy, now and I thought I'd post a few reflections on the comments I've received.

Firstly I've been very pleased overall by the positive response. It seems that after all, I wrote a pretty good book back in 2002. Not bad for a first novel.

Secondly, it's interesting how different people take to different characters. Many people like Terry and Joe, which isn't a surprise to me, but others have taken to Maria and Selene. I have my favorites of course, but I wrote the book for my pleasure and not for any particular reader. Therefore it's always interesting to hear people's comments about parts of the book.

It's also been interesting to hear how some people have taken certain parts of the stories, what they think is good and what is not so good. And I say interesting because when one person loves a particular thing and another hates the same thing, you know it's a matter of personal taste. Hmmm.

So, the question comes up, what can you do to please everybody or leave everyone with the same thoughts? You can't!

Finally, as the author, I know something that all my readers do not know. I know that the first book is just that, the first book. The first book deliberately leads the reader down a path that is then blown apart in book two and then completely demolished in book three. Of course, reviewers can't possibly know that until they have read all the books... And there are going to be five of them. What a journey it will end up being!

All in all, I have very positive reflections on the book. After all, I'm not going to complain about any of the reviews I have received so far - they've all been great. But I am interested in seeing how readers themselves reflect on the whole series - once they finally read it.

The Southern Lands epic fantasy series is going to be one heck of a ride!

Get the first book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords for only $0.99!

For fans of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Narnia Chronicles, the first installment in a thrilling epic fantasy series…

Would you wake up in a hot sweat if you lived your night’s dreams as a soldier battling un-earthly creatures, witnessing powerful magic and fighting to save your own life on a daily basis?

English schoolboy Terry West does. Frequently. After digging up some rune coins near a roman road, he has been living in another world inhabited by warlocks, seductresses, priests and prophecy. There Terry is a soldier, Teern Truthbringer, who has been tasked with finding the Xannu - 'he who will lead the people into deliverance.'

If only it wasn’t real; but it is. Very real. When it all began it was even enjoyable, but now Terry’s life is getting very complicated. Somehow he involved his best friend Joe and although it had seemed a good idea at the time, the consequences had been dire. Then there is Susan, the leggy sister of klutzy school-friend Brian. Why does she keep sending him messages?

Terry is struggling to balance the two lives he leads and every day he is losing his grip on reality just a little bit more. He’s been forced to kill enemies; his companion, the magical woman Maria, is scaring him half to death with her abilities; and his parents are on his back about his school work.

How will he balance the two lives he leads, solve two sets of problems, and understand the lessons he receives from both? Only time will tell. But time is something Terry doesn't have too much of, as everything is unfolding in ways he could never have imagined!

Book 1 of 'The Southern Lands' saga
“Listen to the teachings of a wise man. You may not understand all he says but you will surely have nourishment for the future. Be positive and plan for success. Failure to plan is to plan for failure. Worry not at what came before but only prepare yourselves for that which is ahead.” (Pika’Al 10:1-5, The Scriptures of Al’Zaneed)

10. Conflict and Its Importance (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 10 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series.

10. Conflict and Its Importance
What is a great book without conflict? Just a book of course! Great books ooze with conflict. Almost every page has something going on that makes you want to turn the next page. Can you name me a great book that doesn’t have any conflict? I can’t. And yet so many debut authors don’t pay enough attention to this subject. There are so many other things they are trying to get right that they forget one of the major ingredients of the story.

I remember reading Cujo by Stephen King – an amazing novel chock full of conflict. A lot of people have see the movie, but not read the book, and the book is so different. The dog Cujo is a good dog at heart, he doesn’t want to do bad things. Then there’s… Oh wait, I’m spoiling the plot. Just read the book.

So what do we mean by conflict? The dictionary describes conflict as: A fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle; strife. Controversy; quarrel: conflicts between parties. Discord of action, feeling, or effect; antagonism or opposition, as of interests or principles: a conflict of ideas. That’s a whole lot of stuff! The nature of conflict in your novel will depend on the subject matter. Is there a love interest? If so, then the conflict will be that the two people never seem to get together. Everything conspires against them. This conflict will make your readers want to keep turning the pages in the hope that they eventually get together. Or maybe your book is about something that your hero needs to do but isn’t strong enough or have the means to do. How will he struggle through this weakness to eventually overcome it? Perhaps your hero has witnessed something and doesn’t know what to do about it. How will he cope with the information he now has? Conflict. Sprinkle it liberally throughout your book.

I remember a saying I heard as a young kid: Smile and be happy, for things could get worse. So I did smile and was happy, and things did get worse! This is what makes a great book. Things need to get worse instead of better sometimes. Get the reader hooked, draw them in. Make them want your hero to be successful, but keep that success just out of reach right up until the end of the book. Most conflicts in life aren’t simple either. They come about because of morals or beliefs or something else that is put in a person’s way. And your conflicts in your book must be layered like this as well. As the book progresses so the conflict needs to get more and more layered. Creating a plot with complex conflicts is a huge key to creating a successful novel. Boy meets girl; boy gets girl; boy and girl live happily ever after, just doesn’t happen in a great story does it? And yet so many debut novels are a little like this.

So how do we create conflict? And how much should there be? Let’s tackle the second one first. In most cases it’s true that you cannot create too much conflict. More is usually better. As for the first, how to create conflict, then you really need to get inside your characters heads. You need to know what makes them tick. Maybe they’re afraid of the dark or don’t like to go outside. Whatever it is, signal it up front, at the beginning of the novel. Then create a scenario where they need to overcome that fear. Now you have conflict! The only way the hero can save the girl is to travel at night into the dark haunted forest. The reader will instantly feel for the hero and want to keep reading. Part of you knows that something will happen, but you have to keep reading, just to find out. And maybe the hero gets through the forest successfully, and the reader breathes a sigh of relief, only for him to get attacked by the boat launch at dawn!

Plan your conflicts in advance. Don’t leave them until you are halfway through writing your novel. There’s nothing worse than having to go back and add some forced conflict to make the story better. Like I said, you know your characters; make sure they have plenty of challenges as the book progresses. If you need to, draw on things that have happened in your own life. Nothing ever happens as we plan it, does it? So use some of those life experiences. Sometimes people get sick or even die. If the plot can take it, add it. Just remember whatever you do, if you want to write a great book, make sure it’s full of conflicts.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Xannu - The Prophecy hits the press again...

Two new mentions of Xannu - The Prophecy this morning - one in a blog review and the other on an Indie Blog.

Never tried Fantasy before? Here's your chance. As Akshay says, this is a great book for people looking to try their first fantasy read...

The review can be found here - Akshay Bakshi: Xannu - The Prophecy review
Juggling two parallel worlds, storylines and switching between them smoothly isn’t an easy task but Paul Dorset does this throughout the book and even makes it feel natural. The life of Terry West is one all of us have dreamed of, whisking away to a different world, having adventures but still returning in time for your mother’s wonderfully cooked food. Dorset employs a tiered approach to introducing his characters and new ones keep coming in till the very end. This method works very well for the most part and is even necessary to unfold the story properly and keep the identity of the Xannu a mystery but the people who come late into the story feel slightly underdeveloped. The villain, Mayhem, supposed to be the enemy if the Almighty one, doesn’t seem strong enough to be so. He’s good (bad ?) enough to be an antagonist but he can’t seem to pull off being the nemesis of all that is good. On the other hand, the character of Maria Pengollen is written damn well. The protagonist Terry West is very human, acting like any 12 year old would but its Maria who took me for the real ride. Though she is supposed to be a mother of perception, supposed to help and heal people, she is also new. Dorset’s words reveal her inexperience and determination equally well. 
One of the highlights of the story, is the friendship between Joe And Terry. Their friendly banter, personal troubles, school life are nearly perfect. The language Dorset uses is exactly how preteens talk, and is a huge help to the narrative. However, the problem is that some of this language and feel carries over to the other world as well where it feels weird because the setting of The Southern Lands is in medieval times. The prophecies mentioned at the beginning of every chapter and provided at the end of the book splendid, I wouldn’t mind reading a book of verses written by Mr. Dorset. 
After going through weeks of epic fantasy, Xannu was exactly what I needed, an easygoing but imaginative tale. It took me back to fantasy at it’s simplest level and is a great read who people thinking of starting the genre and seasoned readers looking for a refreshing story.  7/10
The Indie Blog mention is on Spalding's Racket

Go check these out and then head over to Amazon or Smashwords to pick the book up for $0.99!!

For fans of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Narnia Chronicles, the first installment in a thrilling epic fantasy series…

Would you wake up in a hot sweat if you lived your night’s dreams as a soldier battling un-earthly creatures, witnessing powerful magic and fighting to save your own life on a daily basis?

English schoolboy Terry West does. Frequently. After digging up some rune coins near a roman road, he has been living in another world inhabited by warlocks, seductresses, priests and prophecy. There Terry is a soldier, Teern Truthbringer, who has been tasked with finding the Xannu - 'he who will lead the people into deliverance.'

If only it wasn’t real; but it is. Very real. When it all began it was even enjoyable, but now Terry’s life is getting very complicated. Somehow he involved his best friend Joe and although it had seemed a good idea at the time, the consequences had been dire. Then there is Susan, the leggy sister of klutzy school-friend Brian. Why does she keep sending him messages?

Terry is struggling to balance the two lives he leads and every day he is losing his grip on reality just a little bit more. He’s been forced to kill enemies; his companion, the magical woman Maria, is scaring him half to death with her abilities; and his parents are on his back about his school work.

How will he balance the two lives he leads, solve two sets of problems, and understand the lessons he receives from both? Only time will tell. But time is something Terry doesn't have too much of, as everything is unfolding in ways he could never have imagined!

Book 1 of 'The Southern Lands' saga
“Listen to the teachings of a wise man. You may not understand all he says but you will surely have nourishment for the future. Be positive and plan for success. Failure to plan is to plan for failure. Worry not at what came before but only prepare yourselves for that which is ahead.” (Pika’Al 10:1-5, The Scriptures of Al’Zaneed)

9. Writing Your First Novel: Words & Routine (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 9 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series.

9. Writing Your First Novel: Words & Routine
Writing a novel is all about getting into a routine and churning out the words on a daily basis. So what is the correct number of words that you need to write each day? This is an answer that I can’t give you. Everyone has their own speed and method. Some writer’s churn our 3,000 words a day, while others stick to 1,000. You’re going to have to experiment and see what works for you.

The important thing though is to set yourself a target. Without a target you’re not going to be successful. This is one thing I will guarantee! If you write a novel like you approach a summer garden project and just get a bit done now and again, you’ll always find an excuse not to get the novel written. You’ll start off well enough but as soon as something comes up, the dedication will stop and suddenly your novel will be languishing on the computer, waiting for you to open it up again.

Writing a novel requires a dedicated routine. Do you work at your best in the mornings, afternoons or evenings? I am at my most creative in the mornings and so that’s when I try and write. I have written at other times of the day (even all day long), but that’s not my norm. So when I am writing a novel I make sure I get up early, and get started before 6am. That way I can write when I am at my best. You need to set yourself up for success.

And what about the number of words? Do you know how many words you write an hour? Try it. Write a simple story. Make it up as you go, but try and write for an hour without stopping for a break. Then count the number of words you’ve written. Then do it again the next day. And the next. After you’ve done this for four or five days, count up your words and see what you average. I average about 1,300 words an hour when I’m in normal mode and I can churn out 1,600 words an hour if I’m feeling very creative and everything is just flowing.

When I’m writing a novel I always set myself a target for each day. It’s normally somewhere around the 3,000 word mark – or about two to two and a half hours. I usually split that into two segments, and take a short break in between. Sometimes I will write more, but that’s about my norm.

The other thing I try and do is to split my chapters at about the length of my writing sessions. That way I know that each day I’m writing a chapter (or two if they’re 1,500 to 1,800 words in length). My targets are very defined and I don't allow myself to stop writing until I achieve what I’ve promised. There’s nothing worse than having to start the next day halfway through a chapter because I was too lazy to finish it the day before. Therefore this works as a good motivator for me.

Returning to other things we’ve discussed before about story points, etc., you should have an idea of how your novel is going to be split up and written. Let’s say you have your 200 story points and you’re writing a novel of 80,000 words at 2,000 words a day, that’s forty days of writing. Each day you’re going to get through about five story points. Therefore it probably makes sense to split your novel into about forty chapters and each story point is going to be expanded to about 400 words. Seems fairly straightforward, eh? Not at all. As you begin to write, so the book will start to find its voice and new ideas will come and new story points will be created. Maybe whole new sub-plots will be developed. Maybe whole new chapters. That doesn’t matter. The point is that your plan is to write 2,000 words every day and those 2,000 words should try to map to a complete chapter. There may be days when you finish a chapter at 1,500 words, or another day when a chapter overruns to 3,000. That’s okay too. The important thing is to do what you promised yourself you would do and get the chapter completed. The finished book may turn out at 78,000 words or maybe 82,000 words and it may have 39 chapters or 42 chapters, but either way you know it’s what it should be.

Finally, I want to touch on the topic of how often do you need to write? Is it every day, including weekends? Is it just Monday to Friday? Or is it okay to only write Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays? This is something you’re going to have to answer for yourself. My only comment is that the more ad hoc your writing time is, the less likely you will stick to it. If you force yourself to write every day, including weekends, you will be successful. It’s very easy after a day off to be late the following day, or just not get to it. Discipline is your friend. Discipline is my friend too. I set out to write about 800 words in each of these articles and I write until I have done so, making sure I cover the points I wanted. Lo and behold, my 800 words are written and it’s time to start the next article. How about you? How’s your routine?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

8. Dialog versus Narrative - Show versus Tell (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 8 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series (NEW: Buy the book HERE).

8. Dialog versus Narrative - Show versus Tell
It’s very tempting when you’re writing your novel to spend a lot of time describing exactly what is going to happen or what the reason is for something. Sometimes for pages and pages! I’m sure you’ve read those sorts of novels before. Did you know this is called ‘telling’ in the writing business? Let me give you a brief example:
Tom was worried about turning up unannounced at Steve’s house, especially at this time of the afternoon. He knew it was getting late and Steve was never too happy to receive visitors once the sun went down. And what with the events of the previous day, he was probably going to be in even more of a foul mood. Tom hated it when Steve got like that. There was just no talking to him. Still, he was going to have to go and see him. He owed him that much at least. 
Tom picked up a copy of the daily paper just in case Steve hadn’t seen it and stuffed it into his pocket. This would at least give him something to talk about when he got there. He collected his keys from the side table, pulled the door shut behind him and walked up the street towards Steve’s house.
There’s nothing wrong with this example per se, it gets the point across and tells the reader exactly what Tom is going to do and why he is going to do it. The only problem is that sometimes it can get a little boring constantly reading sections of a book that just tell what is going on, or going to happen. Readers like to live in the present and be shown exactly what is happening. So, instead of the previous passage, how about writing something like the following:
As the sun began to set later that evening, Tom knocked on the door of Steve’s house and waited for it to be opened. “Hi, Steve,” he said as the barest crack in the door opened up. “I know you don’t like visitors at this time of day, but there are a couple of things I wanted to talk to you about.” 
Steve poked his head out of the door and took a brief look up and down the street. “I guess you’d better come in then.” He took a step back and pulled open the door to allow Tom to pass by and then immediately slammed it shut behind him. “Why the crap are you here?” 
Tom stopped and turned around and watched as Steve’s expression changed again and Steve sank back against the door, almost collapsing to the floor. “You alright?” Tom asked. “I really didn’t want to disturb you but I didn’t know if you’d seen the paper or not?” 
“Well you’re here now. You might as well say what you came to say.” 
Tom pulled the newspaper from his pocket and handed it over to Steve. “Just thought you might want to see this.” 
“Right.” Steve took the newspaper and opened it up. “Holy crap! All over the front page.” Steve balled up his free hand and punched the door behind him.
This version of the passage gives the reader a good idea of exactly how Steve is feeling and why Tom is worried about going over to his house. But because it’s set in the present time and not a theoretical passage, it’s much easier to read.

Readers of books generally don’t need to be told what is going to happen or why things are the way they are. Usually they can get it from the setting and the content of the scene. Generally readers actually prefer to work things out for themselves! So, when you are writing and want to write about the reasons why something is the way it is, try and think of another way to put it. Trying to wrap the section around some dialog that moves the plot forward, shows the reader what people are thinking and generally gets the point across. You will be thanked for it.

In conclusion, it’s not a bad thing to have passages of tell from time to time. Telling can transition a story and move it from A to B very quickly at times when you don’t want to get bogged down with things. But using telling to signal something to the reader that they could otherwise work out for themselves is not a good technique.

Remember the old adage that ‘actions speak louder than words’? Well this is what it’s about! Showing the reader what is happening and letting them become involved is a much more powerful technique than just telling them what is happening and why it is happening. So, give it a try. Dialog versus narrative, show versus tell. Write a passage and give the reader the chance to work things out for themselves!