Four chapters do not a novel make

A month ago today I submitted the first four chapters of my novel to the university for assessment. For those of you who aren’t up to date, I’ve just begun my Masters of Creative Writing, and after years of procrastinating my brilliant (to me anyway) idea, I’m finally putting words to paper and actually writing the damn thing.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a tough few months. With deadlines and large wordcounts and a new job, not to mention the fact that writing a novel is HARD, other elements of my life pre-novel-writing have suffered – most notably my blog (as you’ve probably noticed) and any semblance of a social life.

I’m not one to complain. Let’s be honest, for an introverted book nerd such as myself, a life of quiet solitude is what one aspires to. Being able to write daily and having an actual reason to stay at home and get on with it is hardly a burden. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

But sometimes, just sometimes, the project seems far too big for my own little self to manage. I’ve often caught myself thinking what’s the point, when I’ll never be half as talented as the Dickens or Rowlings of the world. Sometimes the words on paper just won’t match the scene in my head, and I’m certain I’m destined for a life of solitary mediocrity.

Sometimes I just want to go out and do something other than sit at home and write a novel.

And then, just when I’m ready to pack it all in and run away with fairies, something happens.

This week, I collected my first four chapters, as marked by Vogel award winning author Rohan Wilson, and I smiled. I smiled, because even though the last few months have been hard, I knew, as I’ve known all along, that it would all be worth it.

Assignment One: 15,000 words

Result: High Distinction

HOORAH!

Whilst I realise I’ve still got a long, long way to go, not least of all being to write the rest of the story, it’s nice to know that I’m on the right track, that I’m doing something right, and that someone else thinks my writing is actually not bad. It’s a good feeling.

That said, while I’m happy with the results, even those chapters still need a lot of reworking and, more importantly, four chapters do not a novel make!  A long road awaits me, but I’m afraid the blog shall once again suffer as Semester Two begins and I focus on the next few chapters. I hope you’ll forgive me for that.

In exchange for your understanding, I’m going to offer you a sneak peek of some extracts of what I’ve written so far, AS LONG AS you promise to keep in mind that these are early days and there is much work still to be done. Deal?

Click on “The Novel” at the top of the page, or here to have read. The Prologue is up and ready for perusal.

As always, your feedback is invaluable, and I look forward to hearing what you think.

Happy weekend all.

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“The Dragon and the Moon” – Now on ebook!

Hi all,

I’m pleased to announce that my short story, The Dragon and the Moon, has been included in a collection of short stories compiled by That Fantasy Blog, which is now being sold on Amazon.

While this would certainly be news enough for this aspiring author, what’s even more wonderful is that all proceeds from the sales of this ebook will be going to children’s aid organisation, UNICEF, who work so very hard to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of such a great cause this Christmas.

While The Dragon and the Moon is more of a whimsical fantasy, the other stories featured are predominantly horror/thriller based, so hopefully there will be something to appeal to your reading tastes.

Download your ebook straight to your Kindle (or any device where you can download the free Kindle app) by searching for my name, Katy Hulme, or the book’s title, Scream for Charity. Alternatively, visit the amazon page here:

http://www.amazon.com/Scream-for-Charity-ebook/dp/B006PFCEBC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324670970&sr=8-1

Before I go, I must share with you something else that made me smile this week.

When writing The Dragon and the Moon, I found myself working with an alarmingly imminent deadline. When I was done editing, it was 1am and I needed to send it off but feared doing so without a fresh set of eyes giving it a once over and a thumbs up.

Cue Twitter.

Another magnificent blogger, the lovely Joakim, offered to read it over for me and all was right in the world.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The next morning I awoke to a Tweet from Joakim, who, after reading my story was inspired to sketch what can only qualify as my very first piece of fan art (although he assures me his 4 year old holds claim to the title after he read the story to him).

I think it’s extraordinary and all I can say, is thank you Joakim!

Merry Christmas all and happy reading!

~storytelling nomad~

The Dragon and the Moon by Joakim Arbro

A Year in Review

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In the past week it has turned eerily quiet on the blogosphere. With Christmas, New Years and Holidays around the figurative corner I’m guessing you’re all enjoying a bit of good cheer, spending time with family, friends and loved ones, and taking a well-deserved break.

I’m not far behind you.

But before I wrap things up for 2011, I feel an end-of-year blog round up is warranted; 2011 was, after all, my maiden voyage as a blogger.

Storytelling Nomad began on the 20th May. I had seen a couple of friends on Facebook with blogs and thought ‘hey, I can do that. I have something to say’, and so with little more knowledge of blogging than that, my online journey began.

7 months, 119 posts, 1 blog revamp, 194 followers, 1,583 comments, 16,218 hits, 3 published articles, 1 guest post, 1 short story featured in an ebook (more about this soon) and many new friends later, here we are.

I don’t think I can truly articulate how valuable this blog has been to my creative practice. Apart from being a great place to share my thoughts and be involved in this wonderful online writing community, it has most significantly boosted the confidence I have in my own writing, which has in turned encouraged me to work harder at improving my craft.

Each and every one of your comments, feedback, ‘likes’, shares and subscriptions have played a part in this. A very, very large part. For that I thank you.

The highlights of my year included:

  • Joining my very first writers’ group.
  • Receiving my first piece of fan art (thanks Joakim)!
  • Participating in and winning my very first NaNoWriMo.
  • Having my story “The Dragon and the Moon” featured in a collection of short stories released over Christmas to raise money for Unicef (Again, more about this in another post).
  • Working at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.
  • Coming third in my state raising money for Multiple Sclerosis through the MS Readathon/Novel Challenge.
  • Having my Heroes and Heroines article published in LipMag and All that is Wrong with the World.
  • Seeing my article So, where are you from published in Biscuit Magazine.
  • Being invited by author Angela Wallace to guest post on her blog.
  • Graduating from my Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing, surrounded by beautiful friends and family.

It was a year of firsts.

As for 2012, I have just been accepted into the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University of Tasmania, where I hope to further improve my writing and complete a large work of polished fiction under the teaching prowess of Vogel award winning author Rohan Wilson. I cannot wait!

In the meantime, I will be spending the next week not only making merry and eating far too much holiday food, but packing my suitcase.

You see, a nomad wouldn’t be a nomad without a noteworthy trip to end the year with. On Dec 30th I leave Sydney for a month in Europe, where I will have the pleasure of visiting my little brother in Hamburg, Germany who I haven’t seen since he left Australia over a year ago. Other items on the itinerary include a weekend in Krakow, Poland, checking out the town and visiting Auschwitz, which I can only imagine will be a life-changing and emotional journey into the horrors of WWII. Then, a week in London, England where a particular highlight will be meeting up with my childhood best friend, who I haven’t seen since leaving England over 16 years ago.  A quick trip to Edinburgh, Scotland will see me catching up with a school friend from Italy who I haven’t seen in many years and a new Scottish friend I met at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year. The trip finishes in in the beautiful Northern town of Ferrara, Italy where I will visit my host families from past student exchanges before departing from Milan at the end of January. All this I get to share with one of my best friends, Hayley.

My upcoming European vacation

I’m going to need a holiday to recover from my holiday I’m sure.

With all these adventures planned, I predict an absence of posts in January, however, I will be active on Twitter, @katyhulme, when internet access is available.

With all that said, I leave you with my ‘Year in Review’ and again thank you kindly for your support and encouragement in 2011. I look forward to sharing my writing journey with you again in 2012.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Stay tuned for more about “The Dragon and the Moon” and the Ebook for charity.

~storytelling nomad~

****

A Year in Review

In 2011…

I eliminated negative influences/people. Forgive me for quoting Oprah Winfrey, but she wasn’t wrong when she said “Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher”.

I reduced my (already pathetically low) intake of alcohol to zero. For no other reason than it feels amazing.

I stopped making excuses for not writing.

I lost my inhibitions.

I enhanced my editing skills through my Professional Book Editing, Proofreading & Publishing course. My inner nerd knows no bounds.

I started a novel.

I created my blog, Storytelling Nomad.

I loved and lost.

I was embarrassed by sharing my work and thoughts with the world.

I was frustrated by universally incorrect grammar, spelling and punctuation.

I felt crazy when I read messages of hate from those opposed to equality for all.

I regret not entering the Blogosphere sooner.

I needed more time for reading. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I missed my friends and family that live across oceans and in faraway lands.

I went to places far and near, including Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival, Sydney for Supanova Pop Culture Expo, and Gunnedah where I shot my first gun. Watch out!

I relaxed when on November 27th, I knew I was going to finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words.

I would use a magic wand to bring Hogwarts to life.

I felt gratitude when you all ‘liked’ my entry in the Facebook Short Story competition. I’m coming 10th by the way, still time to vote!

Time flew when I met James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) at Supanova.

I want to repeat this year. It had its ups and downs but for the most part it was extraordinary.

I should have done more exercise. I am terribly unmotivated.

I don’t know why I never joined a writers group before.

I felt most alive when I was creating new worlds, new characters and new stories to share with the world.

The best gift I received was an email from my favourite author Robin Hobb, with invaluable writing advice.

Physically, the biggest difference since last December is slightly shorter hair.

Psychologically, the biggest difference since last December is the focus on my writing.

Emotionally, the biggest difference since last December is my contentment and pride in all I have achieved this year.

Environmentally, the biggest difference since last December is I exchanged the sandy shores of Newcastle for idyllic Tasmania.

Socially, the biggest difference since last December is I have a whole new group of online writer friends.

My biggest ‘win’ was NaNoWriMo. Or maybe it was having an article published. No, wait. Having my short story published. No, wait! Receiving the email from Robin Hobb. Or, being accepted into my Masters course. And, graduating from my Writing course. And, and, and…!

I want more books. Gimme gimme!

The best thing I did for someone else was read as many books as I could in a month to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis.

The best thing someone did for me was sketch me a picture based on my short story.

The best thing I did for myself was believe in myself.

The one thing I learned this year is I am the master of my own destiny. I will only receive of life what I put into it.

I am most grateful for my friends and family and their unwavering support.

I look forward to 2012 being different by writing more stories and becoming a better writer.

Questions taken from Lynn Scheurel at http://secretsofhersuccess.com/articles/your-year-in-review-questions/

Post NaNo Reflection

My spasmodic writing spells and stats

Although it is only a week since NaNoWriMo ended, it feels like an eternity ago that I typed “THE END” to my 50,000 word novel.

My first attempt at anything of the sort, I feel rather proud that I completed the challenge. After starting a day late, spending the majority of the month below ‘the line’, and being conscious of the fact that most of what I was writing was, well, rubbish, I nonetheless pulled through and stuck it out til the end. I even finished a day early. Who would’ve thought?

So, the month began with me, no plot, and a blank page. I wanted to write a fantasy novel, epic in nature, with the typical premise of chosen one, kingdom in peril, battle of evil. I had a pretty interesting character and some good world building going on, but 35,000 words in I realised something.

I was bored.

Now, I may not be a bestselling author or an acclaimed literary critic, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if the writer is bored, that’s not a good sign. If I can’t find it interesting, then how the hell is anybody else supposed to?

At this point I was still falling way behind the daily word limit goal and my motivation was wavering. I knew I had to do something drastic to get on track in order to reach my 50,000 word goal or I would find myself curled in a ball of despair come November 30th, never daring to try write a novel again.

What did I do? I started writing another story.

It came to me one moment, and the next I had all these ideas, a plot and before I knew it I’d written 7,000 words. I had been struggling to churn out the daily 1,667 words until that point, and here I was, 7,000 words in a day!

I abandoned the original story and continued with the new one until I fondly greeted that 50,000th word. Granted, I ended up with one unfinished story and one 15,000 word short story rather than one 50,000 word novella, but I like to think the point was that I finished.

This is what 50,000 words looks like...

I signed up for NaNo with one expectation: To write 50,000 words in a month. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be disciplined enough to write regularly over a longer period of time, and to break down my fear that it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time round.  I told myself that if one good idea, paragraph, character or sentence came out of it, then I would be happy. As it turns out, in that I was successful.

There are also a few things I learned over the month of November:

  1. I like to write in chunks. I’d rather write big chunks over a shorter period of time, than little snippets over a longer period of time. Over the entire month I actually only wrote 18 out of the 30 days.
  2. The NaNo forums are truly wonderful. I didn’t think in this little part of the world called Tasmania, that anyone would be participating in my area. As it turns out, there was a group of Northern Tasmanians keen to get their write on, and we ended up meeting each Friday to vent our NaNo stresses and challenge each other in word wars.
  3. I like graphs. Seeing that little blue line inch a little further every day was unbelievably motivating.
  4. I am incapable of writing a *good* novel in a month. NaNoWriMo may produce some stellar stuff for some, but for me it was 90% word mush. There were a few good lines in there, paragraphs even, but mostly it was just stream of consciousness writing. Even though I quite love the short story that came out of it, I feel it would be less work to start over again than to go back and edit it into something worthwhile.
  5. I would do it again. What a sense of achievement it was to reach that finish line, to receive my winners certificate and to be completely immersed for 30 days in a large creative project. Although it may not have produced any particularly wonderful writing for me, it was still an amazing opportunity to push myself to write every day with the support of all those other wrimos out there.

Congrats to everyone out there who participated in NaNo this year. Even if you didn’t reach the big five oh, I think you’re all winners. If the month of November saw you writing something, then you’re ahead of those who have not yet found the courage to write anything.

I leave you with the wise words of Chris Cleave, who was kind enough to give us Wrimos a mid-month pep talk:

It doesn’t matter what genre you write in. All literature is transformative. To make people laugh; to tell a light-hearted romantic story; to let intelligent readers forget their troubles for an hour in the absence of the politicians and the money men who make our lives hell – these are some of the hardest feats to accomplish as a writer, and some of the most serious political acts you can perform. You don’t have to be a Serious Writer to be a serious writer. I once read a beautiful paragraph about teenage vampires – teenage vampires, for goodness’ sake – that moved me more than all of Hemingway. You don’t need to be trying to change the world in order to change someone’s world. What you need is to be seriously committed to your work.

A fellow local Wrimo and I decided to print our 'manuscripts' in celebration of completing the challenge. A tangible memento.

~storytelling nomad~

NaNoWriMo Newbie Jitters

In less than two weeks time begins 30 days of literary abandon. A month where writers come together in mass insanity to churn out 50,000 words before midnight, November 30th.

Insanity I tell you.

And yet, I feel obligated to inform you that I have decided to participate in said bedlam and join the others at the loony bin. This year I’m going to pop my NaNoWriMo cherry and attempt the (seemingly) impossible.

For those of you unfamiliar with this annual phenomenon, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and every November writers are challenged to writing 50,000 words before the end of the month.

What do you win? You win a 50,000 word first draft is what! Along with what I’m guessing would be a new found love for time spent not writing, an envy of eight-handed aliens (think how much quicker you could type!), and of course the pride and absolute joy at having achieved the unachievable.

Being my first NaNo I have to admit to some nerves. Never have I ever written anything so monstously long in my life. Do I even know 50,000 words? What if I get writers’ block after day two? Will my fingers fall off if I type so much? God forbid, what if I FAIL?

All valid concerns, in my opinion. But none of them compare to the biggest issue of all; What if my story is rubbish and I realise that I’m not, in fact, a writer at all?

Cue teary break down. Pass the tissues will you?

I’ve been reading a lot about how people prepare for the challenge. Plotters and Pantsters, chapter outlines, character profiles, synopses, writing prompts, calendars, word counters, daily goals. The list goes on and yet what is resoundingly clear is that, like with any type of writing, no one way will work for everyone. You’ve got to find what works for you.

So, what am I going into this challenge with? How have I prepared for the ultimate writer’s test? Well, my plot goes something like this:

Chosen one.

Imminent evil.

Kingdom in peril.

It doesn’t look like much, huh? That’s because it isn’t. Whilst I’ve got a few ideas lulling around my bizarre little brain, I’m going to take the ‘pantster’ approach, eg, write by the seat of my pants. I suppose you could say this is an experiment of sorts, seeing as those of you who have been here a while will know that I like to plot. I NEED to plot. But I’m not going to.

Mostly, it’s out of fear that I might realise it’s rubbish before I even get to November 1st and give up before I give myself a chance. But it’s also because the idea of NaNoWriMo is not to write the next best-seller or to start December with a polished piece of high literature ready too submit to publishers and competitions around the world. It’s to overcome inertia, to not over think it, to just WRITE and have something to work with once the month is over. The website explains that:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

To build without tearing down. What a great strategy, who would’ve thought?

I’m going to have a decent go at ‘winning’, but if I finish November with just one page, one paragraph, one sentence even, of perfected prose, the root of an idea that will lead to a better one, or even 50,000 words showing how not to write a novel, then I will have gained something.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Any other newbies out there giving it a crack? Want to hold hands and weep at the insanity of it all together? Please tell me I’m not alone here!

For anyone wanting advice on how to get through November with some semblance of sanity, head over to Terrible Minds where Chuck Wendig gives some writing advice to help you stay on target during NaNoWriMo.

Happy writing!

~storytelling nomad~

Assholes, masterminds, and funny people in cyberspace

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 28

Last book you read

Well, I’m not going to mention the She-God of writing again, because that would just make me sound like a crazy stalker person…which I’m not, by the way.  If you want to check out the *actual* last book I read you can go to Day 24 of the book challenge, where I talked about my favourite scene in a book (watch out for the spoiler!).

Meanwhile, I’d like to mention the last book I read from today.  Fair?  I thought so.

Today, in a moment of sheer insanity and after several months of giving the WNIP (Work Not In Progress) the cold shoulder, I spent roughly half an hour writing up a plot summary with, believe it or not, actual plots (note: plural!). Hoorah! I’ve mentioned before that I had an idea for a novel but was struggling to begin without knowing where the story was heading and what the protagonist’s purpose was.  Some suggested to just start writing anyway, others insisted that some idea of the plot was necessary, others just told me to stop procrastinating and get on with it (hello again unfriendly but straightforward voice in my head!).

Try as I may, I could not face writing it without the plot to guide me and so, in frustration and disappointment at being unsuccessful in my plot making endeavors, I paralysed myself into a novel hating lull.  I didn’t want to think about it, look at it or talk about it with anyone.  Something just wasn’t working, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

Today, like a sign from the heavens, I received a well needed shove to get the motors going again (thank you She-God!).  I opened up Scrivener and started to write.  Half an hour and approximately 1000 words later I had an idea that I was excited about, with plot twists, drama and conflict! All the things I had been struggling to establish with my original idea, finally coming to life!

So what changed, you ask?  What changed, my friends, was the story.  Like, the whole thing.  About the only thing I kept was my character’s name.  I still love the original idea, but have come to the conclusion that it’s just not ready to be written yet.

So, back to the purpose of this post, that being the last book I read, or in this case, the last book I picked up.  In my plot writing frenzy, I started getting curious about how the big boys of epic fantasy built their worlds and created their creatures.  Who to look to in such a moment of need?  The master of fantasy himself, of course:  J R R Tolkien.

During my teenage years when I was obsessed with the LOTRs, my parents bought me Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by David Day; a comprehensive guide to everything you’d ever want to know about Middle Earth, the Undying Lands, the creatures, the characters, the geography, the history.  This book is pretty spectacular.

Now, it has to be said that when I began flicking through the pages today, I started to panic.  That little voice in my head started having a go with his usual taunts; “Don’t be an idiot Katy.  You could never create anything as comprehensive as the world of Tolkien.  Look at all the research!  It’s far beyond your inferior intellect.”

That little voice is a real asshole sometimes.  As has happened many a time before, my confidence in my abilities started waning and I could almost see that small spark of creativity threatening to die a slow death in the depths of my brain.  Bummer, right?

Well, it would have been if I hadn’t come across what I can only guess was intended to be a funny look on how to write fantasy fiction.  It read:

Researching mythologies, legends, and history on your own is a complete waste of time — real authors don’t worry about that kind of thing. It’s fantasy; they just make stuff up off the tops of their heads!

Now, I realise research can be more than important when writing.  I for one can’t write without a fast internet connection for all the Googling I do while I’m ‘in the mode’.  And yet despite this, it sort of reminded me that my greatest tool is my imagination.  If I want to, I really can just ‘make it up off the top of my head’.  For some time I have been crippling myself with the idea that I simply don’t know enough to start, or continue, especially with world building.  But really I don’t need to ‘know’ anything.  I just need to create it.

Ideally, of course, I would like to have my world reflect a reality readers can relate to.  Power structures, heirarchy, economy and commerce are all things that make a world run, for better or worse.  They may not need to be identified, but the reader needs to know they’re there.

But I digress.  The point of the story is that today was a good day.  Tolkien both helped and scared me out of inertia and some funny person on the internet reminded me not to take it all so seriously, because my mind is quite capable of filling in the gaps.

As for the asshole in my head?  He’s still there, but he’s unlikely to resurface again today.

Katy 1 – Asshole 0

~storytelling nomad~

Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 18

Oh please don’t judge me, but this one is a bit of a doozy.

I’m more than aware that it’s poorly written, there are ‘to’s where there should be ‘too’s, appalling grammar and some suspicious word choices *cough chargrin cough*.  For those of you who haven’t already seen it, there’s even an entire website dedicated to this book and every possible error known to the English language, which can of course be found in this novel.  Check out the website Reasoning with Vampires, it’s really quite enlightening.

And yet, somehow I just loved reading it, and the three sequels.  And not just one time.  I read them over and over and…

Okay, don’t make me go on.  I’m not even going to name the book, because I know you have already guessed it (you guys are so clever!).  Also there happens to be a large picture of the cover just a few lines below this one.  Yeah that probably helped too.

Team Edward!

~storytelling nomad~

The dangers of ebook world domination

Although it seems to have maintained a persistent online presence in recent months, today I felt as if the stars aligned to bring to head the ebook/self publishing debate.  Everywhere I looked, it was bam! bam! bam! with pro ebooks, boo ebooks, pro publishers, boo publishers.  My brain had to switch to autopilot just to get through the day without having a nervous breakdown from opposing information overload.

I wrote an article last year on the traditional vs new forms of publishing debate, but back then most of the talk seemed to centre around whether or not traditional books would survive this new age of online publishing.  Apparently we’re over that now, with many, myself included, agreeing that ebooks are here to stay but also that books are not likely to become obsolete any time soon.  There are too many of us bibliophiles out there to allow such a travesty to take place.

The debate no longer doubts the obsolescence of books, but the bypassing of and questionable necessity of the publisher.  Not only that, but there seems to be some concern over exactly how beneficial this new age of self publishing is to the reader.  Let’s not forget about him, he’s pretty important.

So what seems to be the problem, officer?

Well, first of all I bring to your attention this article published on the online Guardian newspaper today; Now anyone can ‘write’ a book. First, find some words…

I suspect the reaction to the title of this article went something like this:

  • YES! I have words! Now I can finally get published! (99% of readers)

or

  • Great….now my carefully written, scrupulously edited, well developed ebook will be lost in the masses of crap published by any Tom, Dick or Harry. (1% of readers)

Herein lies the crux of the problem.  Where although it might be argued that publishers have in the past held an unseemly amount of authority over what does and doesn’t get published, publishing what a few well-paid people deem to be a ‘bestseller’, and claiming a contentious amount of what some would claim to be the author’s earnings, they have nonetheless provided a benchmark for the quality of writing being released on the bookshelves.  Although many excellent writers suffer from this system (the downside), whether it be from seeing their publisher’s pockets grow heavier than their own, or from not even being able to break into the publishing scene, it has nonetheless been of benefit to the readers (the upside), who could purchase a published book with the assurance that it had been proofread, edited, proofread again, and above all, selected by a group of ‘professionals’ as being worthy of their hard-earned cash.

Now, I’ve never been one to overlook both sides of the argument, and I realise the publishing gods have not always done us proud.  I, for one, can count on more fingers than I actually own, the number of books that a big respectable publisher has deemed deserving not only of publication, but of at least $25 out of my wallet, only to find that I had paid said amount for a bound collection of paper better employed as kindling for the fire.  Undoubtedly, it’s at times like these that aspiring writers such as myself scream at the heavens “Why! Why do you torment me publishing Gods?! My writing is a kajillion times better than this piece of crap!” Followed by a few angry stamps of the foot and an angry punch to the air.

Cue the invention of ebooks and online book sellers such as Amazon, who, like the aforementioned article claims, allow for anyone with words to publish a book, within a matter of minutes.  MINUTES?!  Yes, minutes.

With my recent purchase of the Scrivener word processor, I soon discovered it had a function which gave me the opportunity to publish something I had written, in a number of ebook formats.  Me? Publish an ebook? Pfft! I scoffed at my machine.  But the curious girl that I am, I Googled ‘Scrivener tutorials’ and watched a brief video on how I could transform a story into an ebook.  Within 20 minutes (Shock! Gasp!) I had a short story on iBooks and was reading it on my iPhone.

Now, for those of us who like to think our writing is worthy of publication, this is fantastic news.  We bypass all the middlemen, do all the marketing ourselves (which, let’s face it, we probably would’ve had to do anyway), set our own price for our baby and watch the profits roll in.  If this is you, writers, then read the following excellent article/interview with bestselling author Michael Levin, and jump with joy at this publishing revolution, because now you have not only the resources, but the power to become a published author.

Are Publishers Stupid? Interview with Bestselling Author Michael Levin-Part 1 What do YOU think? Are publishers stupid? Send this link to writers you know and come back tomorrow for Part 2 of Michael Levin’s interview! … Read More

via Bo’s Cafe Life

Readers, cower with mercy, since it is ye who shall suffer.

If you’ve read the article, you might have already read some of the comments, or should I say concerns, below the text.  Correspondingly, the earlier Guardian article touched on the same unease, pointing out the following statistics:

…Nearly 2.8 million non-traditional books, including ebooks, were published in the United States in 2010, while just more than 316,000 traditional books came out.  That compares with 1.33 million ebooks and 302,000 printed books in 2009.

With such an extraordinary number of ebooks being released at an increasingly rapid rate, how exactly are the poor readers supposed to navigate this tsunami of books to get to the good stuff?

Although I’m sure that a great deal of new publications are from writers who probably deserved to be published a long time ago by the publishing gods (here I have to mention Angela Wallace, whose ebook Phoenix Feather I read recently and is an example of how exactly the ebook revolution can benefit magnificent writers with remarkable stories. Check it out here), I’m just as sure that a great deal of these new publications are absolute rubbish, or worse, plagiarised.  Without the middlemen, where lies the quality control?

Again, from the Guardian article:

It’s only when one peruses the cornucopia of literary productions available on the Kindle store that one detects the first scent of rodent. One of the most prolific self-publishers on the site is Manuel Ortiz Braschi. When I last checked he had edited, authored or co-authored no fewer than 3,255 ebooks. Mr Braschi is clearly a man of Herculean energy and wide learning, who ranges effortlessly from How to Become a Lethal Weapon in Two Weeks (£1.40) to Herbs 101: How to Plant, Grow & Cook with Natural Herbs (£0.70) while taking in Potty Training! The Ultimate Potty Training Guide!(£0.69).

Having inspected Mr Braschi’s The Miracle of Vinegar: 65 Tried and Tested Uses For Health and Home! (which, at £0.69, works out at about 30p per screenful of text), I can testify that he is no Delia Smith. But at least he appears to write – or at any rate compile – his own stuff. In that respect, he represents the quality end of the Kindle self-publishing business.

I’m sorry, what? The man has authored/co-authored 3,255 ebooks?! I’m doubtful at the quality, but as the article states, at least the writing appears to be his own.

Ultimately, how are the readers expected to have confidence in anything that sits in the midst of such questionable standards?  I feel that I am considerably immersed in the world of readers, writers and books, and yet still I struggle to determine what in the ebook world is worth reading.  Word of mouth is clearly a well-founded prerequisite to marketing your ebook, but I wonder, just as the works of great writers are lost amongst the less-worthy publications, won’t such be the case also for self promotion of the same.  With everybody shouting the loudest, how can we possibly determine the Rowlings from the Manuel Ortiz Braschis and his 3,255 books?

Sooner or later somebody is going to realise that no matter how high those ebook figures rise, no matter how many outstanding writers self publish their bestsellers, if the readers can’t navigate the market, if they don’t actually make a purchase, or rather, spend their money where it is least merited, then readers, publishers, writers alike…everybody loses.

What are your thoughts on the ebook/self publishing debate?  Please, add to my brain hemorrhage and discuss.

~storytelling nomad~

A public announcement from your spellchecker

I have a spelling chequer,
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye cannot sea.

When eye strike a quay, right a word,
I weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar wright
It shows me strait aweigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
I nose bee fore two late
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely, rarely grate.

I’ve run this poem threw it
I’m shore your pleased two no,
Its letter perfect in it’s weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

-anon

I discovered this while going through my latest editing course readings today, and I thought it was worth sharing.  It really is so important to NOT rely solely on your spellchecker.  He’s a sneaky bastard with a cruel agenda to make you look like a thickheaded illiterate on crack.  Why risk leaving your intellectual capacity in the hands of something that doesn’t even have EYES?  I can assure you your brain is far more intelligent than his (despite his claims otherwise).  So for goodness sakes people, use and abuse that spell checking scoundrel where you must, but proofread, proofread, proofread!

~storytelling nomad~

Scrivener – The Writer’s Tool

So in a further attempt to move the novel along, or more accurately, get it started, I purchased the well reviewed Scrivener program today.  I had heard many good things and after watching a few video tutorials on the Scrivener website and seeing some of the nifty things I could do with it, I was sold.  I was also pleasantly surprised at the $AUD38.04 education price tag … which for any program, not to mention one so highly regarded, is pretty amazing.

Check out the video below to see all the basic fun things Scrivener does.  Obviously I’ve had only a little time to play with it yet, but I especially like the split screen editing tool, being able to have your research all in one program i.e. not having to click on multiple browsers/windows to access all your information, and the ability to create ebooks (check out that video tutorial here), which seems very cool to me.

As a writer’s organisational tool, this program seems invaluable.  I was only today reading an interesting blog discussing the different organisational and methodical approaches writers use when they are drafting their stories, whether it be freestyle or intense plotting.  Either way, I figure it would be more a help than a hindrance with an 80,000+ word novel to have a program that helps organise, streamline and keep everything neatly together.

Most importantly, however, is that so far it’s all been very simple to pick up and use.  There’s nothing worse than a program that offers to clean the car, do the washing and write your story for you, only to discover that the damn thing is so hard to operate that any person with an ordinary sized brain never gets to utilise any of those functions.  Scrivener doesn’t seem at all pretentious in that way, which is good news to my cerebrum.

~storytelling nomad~

Hello! I’m a word snob.

Ok, so I admit, I’m a word snob.  I don’t know how it happened really, but happened it did.  Perhaps it was the years of learning foreign languages, discovering that the slightest error in spelling or structure could completely change the intended meaning of a sentence.  Perhaps it was my mum (hi mum!) encouraging me as a little girl to read as many books as possible to improve my vocabulary, resulting in my paying particular attention to all the “big” words I didn’t recognise.  It’s just as possible that my early days winning spelling bees in English class gave me an irrational sense of authority over my other illiterate 5 year old class mates.  Whatever the reason, here I am today, a word snob.

But what is a word snob? I hear you ask.  Well, I’m pretty much that really annoying person that can’t help but point out when it should be their not they’re, or your not you’re.  I’m the one sing-songing “i before e, except after c!” and explaining the difference between than and then, too and to.  On the occasion that I read over my own work and notice one of these errors I find I am disgusted with myself.  How could you Katy?  Go sit in the naughty corner and think about your actions.  There really is no stopping my word snob ways.

Some people have told me to get a life, that “what does it matter as long as you get my meaning?” Well sir, I beg to differ! Our ancestors spent the time and energy transforming speech to text and I like to show some respect by at least getting it right.  I find nothing more irritating when I’m reading than seeing a to where there should be a too.  Yes, I get the meaning and know what it should be, but just by being there it has distracted me from the story.  It has me wondering, “how much were they paying this editor? Surely in all the proofreads and edits somebody should have picked this up?!” And then I reproach myself for making such an assumption and move on to; “well maybe it was a kazilion times worse before and the author doesn’t really know her to‘s from her too‘s and in actual fact the editor has done a brilliant job making it as good as it is.”  Whatever the case may be, when I’m thinking about this sort of stuff it means I’m not paying attention to actually reading and getting lost in my book…and that makes Katy a sad girl.

So, to avoid being the absolute nazi word snob that I have, on occasion, been known to be around my friends, I have found a means to vent my frustration amongst like-minded people.  I’m currently studying a Diploma of Book Editing, Proofreading and Publishing, and I swear to God it’s like the Where’s Wally for word snobs such as myself.  I get to use my trusty red pen, hunt down and assassinate those oversights and misprints like the trigger happy cowgirl that I am.  And then I get congratulated and given a mark for how many I take out. Pow Pow!

In my most recent tutorial, however, I came across a discussion that turned into a bit of a dilemma for me.  The rules were vague and I didn’t know what was right or wrong. Wordsmith ancestors! How could you let me down like this!? The matter in question was the use of further vs farther*, with the discussion question:

It has become common usage in Australia (and around the world) to use ‘further’ in place of ‘farther’.  Do you think you should correct this usage in proofreading jobs for all texts?  What do you think is appropriate?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I understand that the change and evolution of language is inevitable and often necessary, but am also a great advocate for preserving language for the benefit of future generations.  Just because a word is perhaps easier voiced, written or remembered than its original (the current trend in acronyms comes to mind: lol, omg) I don’t believe it should supersede it, as the origins of words can be lost this way and with them pieces of the history of language.  In researching the origins of further and farther, I found that they are simply variants of the same word, later distinguished as having slightly different meanings, so if either were to ultimately replace the other, it would probably make little difference to the history or future of language.  And yet, I am still inclined to differentiate between the two while a vague rule still exists.  Is this irrational behaviour, I ask myself?  Surely if the two are becoming more widely interchangeable then it wouldn’t really matter.  But then again, isn’t that just laziness?

We have so many words for each of the colours in the rainbow; the colour blue can be aqua, midnight, turquoise, baby blue, kingfisher blue…each offering a variation of the same colour.  Surely it’s the same for all words in language, with each slight variation offering a deeper understanding of the intended meaning within the text.  I mean, we could just stick with blue after all, but how boring would that be?  When I see words such as quite and quiet used interchangeably, despite their difference in meaning being greater than further/farther, I would not ignore the misspelling simply because it is common and their differences misunderstood or ignored.  Surely if there is some confusion over the use of a word, the more practice people are given, the more they will understand the differences within their appropriate contexts.  One thing I’m almost certain of is that negligence is not the answer to ignorance.

So when is it okay for language to evolve? For OMG to replace Oh my God? For further to vanquish farther? How long do we hold on to the doeth’s, the thou art’s of our ancestors? When does it become necessary to let the younger generations make language their own? And how important is it to preserve what we already have?

*farther is used for physical distance (How much farther?) and further for metaphorical, or figurative distance (I need to look further into this).

~storytelling nomad~