Blog #10 Anyone

Anyone can cook! Er write, I mean. Apologies, I think I was channelling ratatouille there.

It’s true though, as I said before if you choose to express yourself through the written word you are a writer. There is no need to qualify it.

Here’s the thing though, writing is also a craft you need to practice and learn. Anyone can decide to get into writing but once you do, you have to appreciate it is a discipline you are starting to learn. It is fun and rewarding as you see your writing improve, study story structure, learn from the greats but it does take work.

Looking at it as such, I want to let you into one of my pet hates. Something that drives me up the wall.

People who think writing is easy.

Anyone can learn the nuances of writing but it does take effort, experimentation, and a conscious effort to improve on it.

The dangerous allure of writing is that we all know how to write and read. People then assume taking the ability to write an email and extend it to novel length is a simple process. Also with writing you don’t need actors, computer animation knowledge, to read up on directing films, learn how to use something like RPG maker and the like. Nope, you sit down and write. Piece of cake, right?

I think we all know someone who has announced they want to try and write a novel. Notice of the 10% who actually start it, I bet only 5% get past a few pages and then only about 1% of that finish. Out of that 1%, only a tiny fraction will try and do something with the finished work.

Why do so many people fail and chuck writing to one side? Because they learn the hard way writing is a craft. You need to work at it. It is not easy which shatters the illusion some people have of it. Media portrayals don’t help which seem to almost universally show writers as drunk, surely layabouts who get a surge of genius and write a book in an afternoon with the need for a single redraft.

If we see a film, we have an intrinsic appreciation for all the hard work that went into it. Same with a game. However, a great many people don’t see a book in the same way when it is every bit as difficult.

What I love about a novel is that it is the work of one person, it hasn’t been diluted or altered which is inevitable with collaboration (I have a whole blog ready on that topic). So yes, writers have the advantage of sitting down and getting on with it regardless of film studios, actors and directors but it remains a craft, a tough one, and one that deserves respect if we want to master it.

As we draw closer to 2017, I wish all you all the best in the next year improving your own craft, that’s what I will be working on!

By the skin of my teeth I have got North Sea Nightmare up online by 2016, woo. My first ever published work, a horror novella. I have also wrote my second full length novel which I will be posting early January once I edit it accordingly as well, The Man with the Green Tie, a noir thriller set in the Edinburgh banking scene.

I think I deserve a reward tonight, so time kick back in chill. Work has been tough, writing has also been a challenge, but 2016 is over, onto the next.

For those of you not too familiar with Edinburgh by the way, we throw one heck of a new year Hogmanay bash. People come from all around the world to see the fireworks from the castle, whole city becomes a party. I dare say I will have be having a few drinks at the bells as well.

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Lee Library #2 Miami Purity

Miami Purity by Vicki Hendricks is a great book. As I said though the point of this Lee Library series isn’t to go on and on about what I like but rather recommend books which can really help your writing or how you look at stories. Even if you don’t enjoy them as works of fiction you can at least take some lessons from them.

In the first edition of this series, Kill Your Friends considered how to handle black humour in stories and up that to the max to make it work.

This novel, which I really do recommend, is a good lesson on how the tropes of a genre can be inverted to your advantage to make a more compelling story.

The story, briefly and spoiler free, is about Sherri, a sex mad stripper and dancer. She wants a new lease on life in the form of a legitimate, 9-5 job and does this by working at a dry cleaners called (you guessed it) Miami Purity. She gets involved in some messed up situations that will make your head turn as the story marches on towards its increasingly grim climax.

This book in addition to the dark themes is totally dripping with sex…poor choice of words. Oozing sex! No, that’s just as bad. Look, there is a lot of sex in it. The first two novels in the Lee Library have that in common haha I promise they aren’t all like that.

So why on earth would this book help your writing?

Let me pose you another question, what is noir? A noir book for example.

I tend to think of grizzled detectives, corruption, downer endings, femme fatales. Setting is usually a fog choked city.

Miami Purity turns all that upside down. It is set in tropical Miami, sunshine and beaches, the main character is a sexually liberated, actually a pretty happy character. However when your read this, the core of noir, that dark struggle against impossible odds usually intertwined with crime is clearly there.

So although being aware of and even enjoying genre tropes is absolutely okay, it can also be fun to invert them.  The key to doing this though is making sure you understand what makes the tropes work so you can do it well. If you try to invert fantasy novels without having read any, it won’t be very good.

I.E.

What makes sword and sorcery, Conan-style adventure stories fun is the hero taking on impossible odds and saving the day.

Trope- hero fights evil step by step until the whole area is better off and rejoicing.

I know that from reading countless fantasy books.

Inversion- the heroe’s actions have disastrous consequences that steadily make the area worse.

That would be a fun story!

So a lesson learned from Miami Purity.

I know they say don’t judge a book by a cover but I love this.

Miami Purity by Vicki Hendricks is a great book. As I said though the point of this Lee Library series isn’t to go on and on about what I like but rather recommend books which can really help your writing or how you look at stories. Even if you don’t enjoy them as works of fiction you can at least take some lessons from them.

In the first edition of this series, Kill Your Friends considered how to handle black humour in stories and up that to the max to make it work.

This novel, which I really do recommend, is a good lesson on how the tropes of a genre can be inverted to your advantage to make a more compelling story.

The story, briefly and spoiler free, is about Sherri, a sex mad stripper and dancer. She wants a new lease on life in the form of a legitimate, 9-5 job and does this by working at a dry cleaners called (you guessed it) Miami Purity. She gets involved in some messed up situations that will make your head turn as the story marches on towards its increasingly grim climax.

This book in addition to the dark themes is totally dripping with sex…poor choice of words. Oozing sex! No, that’s just as bad. Look, there is a lot of sex in it. The first two novels in the Lee Library have that in common haha I promise they aren’t all like that.

So why on earth would this book help your writing?

Let me pose you another question, what is noir? A noir book for example.

I tend to think of grizzled detectives, corruption, downer endings, femme fatales. Setting is usually a fog choked city.

Miami Purity turns all that upside down. It is set in tropical Miami, sunshine and beaches, the main character is a sexually liberated, actually a pretty happy character. However when your read this, the core of noir, that dark struggle against impossible odds usually intertwined with crime is clearly there.

So although being aware of and even enjoying genre tropes is absolutely okay, it can also be fun to invert them.  The key to doing this though is making sure you understand what makes the tropes work so you can do it well. If you try to invert fantasy novels without having read any, it won’t be very good.

I.E.

What makes sword and sorcery, Conan-style adventure stories fun is the hero taking on impossible odds and saving the day.

Trope- hero fights evil step by step until the whole area is better off and rejoicing.

I know that from reading countless fantasy books.

Inversion- the heroe’s actions have disastrous consequences that steadily make the area worse.

That would be a fun story!

So a lesson learned from Miami Purity.

(I know they say don’t judge a book by a cover but I love this!)

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Blog #9 YOU are a writer!

The holiday has come to end. I was fortunate enough to have Monday and Tuesday off but back to work today, it was a shock to my system.

I was feeling a bit blue Tuesday night as I was setting out my shirt and tie, I could almost feel the relaxed atmosphere of the time off evaporating. All good things must cone to an end. I suppose you could say my morale is a bit dented after four days of doing whatever i want.

I talk about morale a great deal as you have seen. To me morale is the motivation to get something done and a confident self belief in yourself. The reason I always talk about it is because when most people give up on a goal, it is an internal decision. If your morale is good, you can shrug off external pressures. If your morale is weak, you crumble. The external factors become convenient scapegoats as to why the dream died.

I sometimes see morale incorrectly treated as an on or off switch. You have it or you don’t, they say. Almost every motivational business book I read is like that, total nonsense. No offence to the genre of business motivational books, some are actually not bad, but most have a childish understanding of morale and mood (I cringe when I think about any manager who would actually employ these tactics).

Morale is like a tank of fuel. You burn through to trying to get anywhere. Sometimes when you have been through a tough time, you are running on empty. It isn’t that some people don’t have morale, they have just burned through it all.

There are certain phrases I tell myself and it might help you fill the tank. Chief among these-

You are a writer.

Don’t try and qualify that, lots of writers do and it keeps their tank empty. Don’t put off saying you are a writer until some self imposed hurdle has been passed because another one will pop up.

I’m not a writer because I haven’t wrote a full novel yet.
Then…
I’m not a writer yet because I haven’t made any money off my writing.
Then…
I’m not a writer because writing isn’t my main stream of income.
Then…
Okay I wrote a book, made some money, it is my main source of income BUT obscure literary society A doesn’t like my work! So I’m not a real writer.
Then…
Okay I wrote a book, made some money, it is my main source of income, obscure literary society A likes my work now BUT obscure literary society B doesn’t like my work! So I’m not a real writer.

You see how insane that is? How endless the qualifiers become?
Would you say a person in training isn’t a real athlete until they win an Olympic gold medal? Yet that is what writers do to themselves. It is good to have high goals and be a bit competitive but don’t crush your spirits before you even get a chance to start. There is enough in the world trying to do that to you already, you don’t need to also do it to yourself.

If you enjoy writing, put pen to paper (or more likely fingers to keyboard) and choose to express yourself through the written word. YOU ARE A WRITER.
Don’t put a bunch of notches on that, you are a writer and should be damn proud of that.

For myself as you know it tends to be more of a quiet reserved pride but my blog is called the LJ the writer, so I am not shy if asked. Maybe you are like me, maybe you boldly introduce yourself as a writer, both are fine, whatever suits you.

You really have to look in the mirror and know it is true.

You are a writer

Lee Library #1 Kill Your Friends

 

Welcome to the first edition of the Lee Library where I talk about books that have inspired me to write. It will crop up between my usual daily blogs and is a chance for me to hopefully point you towards a book you may have been unaware of.

These won’t be books I think are just okay, no point doing that, these are the best of the best in my opinion.

In the first instalment, I have to mention the amazing book Kill Your Friends. There is some nationalistic pride that John Niven is a fellow Scot but he is a great writer regardless of this, one of my favourites. Another of his books may creep into the Lee Library at a later date.

What drew me back to this book was shocking black humour. This book is dark, very dark and not for the faint of heart. If you are easily offended, you won’t click with this book. If you need closure and a sense of karma in the universe, this book isn’t for you. Evil quite consistently prevails here- and I do mean evil. Our main character, Steven Stelfox, isn’t only a ruthless businessman (something I could respect), he is a murderous lunatic. There is no point trying to debate his good points, he simply doesn’t have any. Although there may be some sins you would be willing to forgive if you don’t mind that kind of thing, he will always up the ante to the point that will shock you.

The story is set in the pop industry in the 90’s UK, which saw bands like the Spice Girls on the rise and making millions. I like this change in the usual setting for a ruthless, career ladder climbing villain. Normally you would expect to see this in finance, banking, law, politics- but the pop scene? In my reading experience most stories set here are more about an innocent who is corrupted trying to make it as a singer/actor.

Although the plot is interesting, it is the pitch black humour that will keep you turning the pages. Stelfox is a combination of the worst things you can imagine- he despises everywhere that isn’t London, he considers the British public loathsome and happily peddles to their basic instincts. He has zero interest in personal relationships, seeing everyone as either a rival or (in the case of women) something to get in bed, then boot out when he is done.

Stelfox is likewise contemptuous of the industry he works in, considering most celebrities empty headed morons who want to sound deep but are actually totally shallow. I won’t lie, I couldn’t help but agree with that a bit.

The author doesn’t shy away from any of this or any controversy. He doesn’t hint that Stelfox thinks these things, he brutally shows us. Writing from the first person was a good choice here as it lets us really get into the diseased mind of the main character.

This is an important point if you want to go down this path with your stories- don’t be afraid to really go into the worst people capable are of if that is what your story is about. I find some people are nervous about tackling some issues because they think some people will link them with the character, especially if it is written in the first person. In a novel I wrote, The Man With The Green Tie, the main character is a bit of a cheating scumbag and like Kill Your Friends, this was written in the first person. He gleefully cheats on his wife without a second thought. I find that abhorrent but I didn’t hesitate to put it in the story. These aren’t my views but if you are a good storyteller, you can show someone believable who does these things.

What to take from this book is how to see this sort of humour done well. If you do want to tap into it and make your writing dark but also a bit funny, this book is like a how to guide. There is a plot but as I said it is totally in the background, you read on to see what the hell Stelfox is going to do next.

This certainly isn’t for everyone but I really enjoyed it as you can tell from my dog eared copy below.

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Blog #8 How to form a plan

Christmas time is over, we are all fed, a bit hungover I daresay and ready to get back to the grind. For me that is banking 9-5, writing 5-10! I feel energised and keen to get back to it although the break did me a world of good, no doubts there.

One of the things I have been doing today, since I have the day off, is looking over the plan for my life.

Whatever your career or interest is, have a plan. If you don’t have a plan it is so easy to get caught up in day to day nonsense that you lose sight of it.

To take writing for an example , do you want some extra income on the side? Does it not matter if you make money, is it really about artistic expression? Or do you want it to be your primary source of income? Whatever it is, come up with a plan because each of those goals will require unique steps to accomplish it.

Break it into parts:

  • What is it you want to achieve in your life?

I.E. for writing to be the main source of my income and to have a high standard of living.

There are some important points there, I want writing to be my day job, not something on the side. I also don’t want to nosedive into poverty, I want to be successful enough to maintain a high standard of living. I’m honest with myself, it is important to me, so my plans need to reflect that.

  • What will you do this year to move more towards your life goal?

I.E. Get a book published on amazon.

So looking at the year, it is important to have a pretty major but realistic goal. Be a millionaire and an established writer is perhaps a bit too much, too soon, that is more of a life goal. A milestone, a big one, but make it realistic. Publishing a book on amazon would tick that box.

  • What can you do this month to move more towards that year goal?

Less intense than a year goal but still considerable. Something like write 25% of the book this month.

  • What can you do this week to move more towards that month goal?

This should be more immediate, something you will be rolling up your sleeves to do shortly. For example, this week set aside a full weekend for writing this week.

  • What can you do TODAY to get more towards that week goal?

Every day sit and write what you will do today to move more towards the week goal. This should be fresh and one of the first things you do in the day. It keeps you focused and makes it all seem so much more real, not some dim and distant goal.

Each to their own, I am just telling you what works for me. My biggest problem is that I waste time. Not intestinally but if I put things off, I keep putting them off, before I know it, five months have passed and I haven’t typed a single world. Not good.

Ridgely sticking to a plan and never altering it is also a path for disaster. That is something I see a great deal of. People who are pursuing some envisioned plan so furiously that they miss out on current opportunities, refuse to accept it may not be a good fit- and worse of all, achieve it and realise they don’t want it.

Stay flexible, have a plan but don’t hesitate to change it if it isn’t working. It is not failure to draw up a new strategy. I would say it is by far a greater failure to carry on down a path you have long since lost genuine interest in. It can be scary to do so but you will be happier. I studied law at university and went on to work in the legal and compliance team at a bank. Some of my friends went on to practice law. If you want to be an advocate here (step above solicitor, you can represent people in the high court) that is an even longer undertaking. I could see people launching into it who even admitted they didn’t want to do it but it was “too late” and they had to continue on. What a waste of talent and ability. Far better to change their plans and try and do something they were far more interested in (happy ending, I did know someone who was ready to head down that path and went into training horses which was their main interest- they are still making good money but are far happier).

I hope you had a great Christmas, take care and best of luck in your writing!

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Blog #6 Politics in your story

Mishandling political issues in your books can be a fatal mistake and kill your story stone dead. This is the first of several blogs I will do on the topic going into and throughout 2017.

I’ve seen it done well, poorly, in stories that should have avoided it and I’ve wished there was more in some stories that barely flirted with it.

In this hypothetical example, I decide to write a story about a private detective in Scotland being caught up in a IRA plot. Politics is going to be a big part of this story, how would I go about doing it?

  • Get your facts right

You know what is worse than someone clumsily ramming political messages down your throat in a partisan novel? Someone clumsily ramming political messages down your throat in a partisan novel who doesn’t even have their facts right.

The IRA and whether the North of Ireland should be in the UK or Republic of Ireland is a charged issue, if I am putting them in a story, I better get this right. I would read up, watch any documentaries I could get my hands on, ensure that when I am referring to this, I get it right.

If I half ass it and write about how the IRA has existed for a few years and has the goal of overthrowing the current Irish government, anyone even vaguely familiar with the situation will know what nonsense that is.

Also, basing my entire understanding on one wikipedia article will give it a very general, amateur feel. It won’t be overtly wrong but it will be a pale imitation of the real issue. Really learn the nuances of a political struggle if you are going to put it in your story. If you can’t be bothered doing that or you feel it is getting in the way of your writing, maybe don’t include it. So, in this story rather than the IRA, I could make the villains a group of Irish criminals planning to kidnap and ransom a leading Irish politician visiting the country.

I don’t see this as a chore, it can be fun to learn about a political situation you previously knew nothing about.

  • Be careful with broad strokes

When considering the most extreme fringe of a movement, it can be tempting to paint everyone who is a part of it with the same brush. No disrespect intended, the guy is a million times more successful than me, but when Stephen King tried to wade into political commentary he usually does this.

Some authors paint entire segments of the population as deranged lunatics simply because they disagree on some political issues. It can come across as arrogant, condescending and worst of all- stupid. You come across as a partisan hack screeching about things they barely seem to grasp.

Jeffrey Archer was a Conservative Member of Parliament but in his novels, there can be scumbags on both sides, Labour are still shown as having admirable people in the organisation. He doesn’t say they are all awful people. His books are more compelling for that.

 

To continue with my example, it wouldn’t be fair to say that everyone who is an Irish nationalist wants to blow up pubs and murder politicians in the UK.

  • At the same time, villains can be villains

It is important to understand the struggle you have made part of your story and likewise to appreciate you can’t tar everyone with the same feather- but at the same time, don’t shy away from showing a terrorist group as exactly that.

For all I wouldn’t portray every Irish nationalist in my story as a manic, I wouldn’t hesitate to portray the IRA cell trying to commit the attack as ruthless. If you want, you can flesh them out, if that adds to your narrative but likewise I wouldn’t be afraid to show that a terrorist organisation can often to be full or ruthless, deranged people.

There would be a villain, the cell commander who doesn’t care how many people have to die to further his goals. I won’t try and act like he is sympathetic or rationalise it, what he is doing is evil and I am not afraid to say it.

In this example, don’t say every Irish nationalist is a secret terrorist but don’t act like the terrorists who are butchering innocents are all really great people.

  • Don’t be too specific

I think the best use of politics in stories are accurate but not overly specific. Maybe you want to critique populism or the establishment’s demonization of populism, whatever suits you. This is far better than trying to specifically target the policies of politician A at this exact moment in time.

My example story would be critical of how nationalism can turn to violence and this has long been an issue with Irish paramilitary groups but I wouldn’t be as specific as saying “the 2016 policies of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams may be inadvertently encouraging extremist groups to take actions!”

It dates so quickly and only a year or two will be incredibly anachronistic.



As always, take this with a pinch of salt. I don’t want to lecture, I am making a few observations that might help your story.

I am someone very interested in politics (with the bank in the paper every other day, it would be hard not to), so I do treat including politics in your story as a serious matter.

On a lighter note…my Christmas tree came in third in the office contest. I’m rather pleased with that!

Blog #5 Voice

There is no shortage of books, blogs and more talking about the idea of voice. The idea is pretty simple when you get to the core of it, like all good ideas.

If you were to read a random chapter of a Terry Pratchett book, chances are you could identify he was the author. He has a voice in his novels, a way of telling a story that is uniquely his. If I tore a random page out of The Light Fantastic, you would get that wry, almost mocking, omniscient narrator tone and click. Ditto with Jeffrey Archer, Lovecraft and others.

If it was a writer without voice, if you took their name off the book, you wouldn’t have the vaguest idea who was behind it. Given the sheer volume of books out there, I would say voice is more important than ever.

Not just novels, scripts, plays, films, games, voice is what really separates it from the crowd. If people like your voice, then they will want more of your work.

Practice, practice, practice. That is the key here. The more you write, the more you will develop this. There are no short cuts when it comes to voice but I can guarantee you, the more you write, the sooner it develops, so hit that keyboard.

Something I had a problem with initially was sanitising my voice, being too concerned that it didn’t seem like writing and sucking the character out to make it more clipped and formal. What an awful mistake! Don’t crush your writing to fit a mould, write how you want to and really embrace your own style of doing it.

Part of that requires bravery. Using your own voice is pouring a lot of heart and soul into a story. So if it flounders it can be all the more painful. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I would rather read a spectacular failure than a soulless, by the numbers tale.  But you won’t fail, keep working on that voice.

It can be difficult to describe your own voice in writing and it can sneak up on you but it is there, all you need to do is write and it will find a way into it, even when you try to keep it out. I’m sure even the dullest, driest banking reports I have ever written had some voice in it.

To sum up this whole blog in one sentence- be bold, don’t hesitate, let your voice be heard!

On a lighter note…nothing makes it feel more like Christmas than a Muppet Christmas Carol!

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Blog #4 Finish it!

To pass on another tip that might save you some wasted time and effort- finish! One little word but so very important. If I had got my head round this sooner, I would be in a better position now.
You need to finish your story, come hell or high water.
My computer is littered with dozens of half completed stories. As harsh as it may sound, those represent wasted time for me and a great deal of it at that. It is only in the last year or two I have got my head round seeing something through until the end.

Dabbling a bit can be fun and you may argue it is good practice but what is even better is finishing a story, that is far better experience for you.
You get a better sense of structure when you complete your story. You see your character development at work rather than what simply what you had planned. You may say you want the grizzled mercenary to be revealed as having a heart of gold but if you don’t finish, you can’t track their story arc, you will assume you could have conveyed that but you didn’t actually do it.

I also think it is good for morale to see a list of completed tales rather than a parade of half started ones. I think for a writer morale is your most delicate resource, you need to do what you can to keep it intact. Finishing your stories will help that.

There are so many advantages to finishing your story.
Stick with your story and finish it.

When trying to write a story I tend to find there are five emotional stages (for me at least).

Stage 1: Excitement and enthusiasm for the new project, you are fired up, bursting with ideas and can’t wait to start.
Stage 2: Eagerness as you get down to brass tacks and start to  properly write it, you feel like a proper writer and couldn’t step away from the keyboard even if you wanted to.
Stage 3: Fatigue, you start entertaining ideas of other, supposedly better stories. You get sick of your story and the characters you are working on. WARNING this is the most dangerous stage for not finishing your story. It is at this point most of us, myself included on plenty of occasions, throw in the towel to either half finish another story or give up altogether.
Stage 4: Self-doubt, as you near the end it is not uncommon to feel what you are writing is trash. Don’t view this as your magnum opus, this is your story. It is better than you think and is good practice. Just finish it. The only way this will be a waste of time is if you don’t finish. David Gemmell wrote a detective novel, his first, that was awful by his own admission- he never even got it published. But by finishing, he realised the detective story arc wasn’t for him and turned to fantasy. He became one of the most successful writers in the genre (if you haven’t, go read Legend).

Was his first, awful detective book a waste of time?

No.

If he hadn’t finished it he may have half started a dozen more detective stories. So even if you think it is trash, finish it anyway. I bet it won’t be and will be far better than you expect.

Stage 5: Overwhelming relief and a sense of accomplishment when you push through the self-doubt and finish. You did it, yay! Break out the bubbly.

I’ll say it one more time- FINISH!
It’s the most valuable lesson I have learned.

On a lighter note, this is the most insane wine description I have ever seen. It was at an Edinburgh restaurant Chez Jules I went to for lunch. Like most of Edinburgh, if you go down any street, you will find a great restaurant.

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Blog #3 Making the time to write

It isn’t always easy to make the time to write.

For example, it has been a tough day for me today, I’ve been put through the wringer as per usual.  All I really want to do is eat a pizza, crawl into bed with a good book, watch some of my favourite Youtube channels as well and fall asleep. I could honestly be out cold by out 8PM tonight.

I draw strength from writing though. Although sometimes the idea of sitting down at the keyboard is exhausting, once I start I feel good for it. I’ve tweaked a bit more of North Sea Nightmare tonight, writing this blog post and then I can lie in bed and relax.

The one bit of advice I would give is to make sure you write every day. If you are feeling good or bad, up or down, make the time to do it every day. A lot of my projects have taken so long to complete because I only wrote when I felt in the mood. Treat writing as your job, you don’t just work when you feel like it, you have to do it every day. Ditto for writing. I want writing to be my career so I am treating it as such.

Be realistic though, no point saying you are going to write for five hours a day without fail.

It will all be worth it, I know it.

On a lighter note, Christmas tree up! Looks pretty good I think. although the tree is still a bit wobbly haha.

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Blog #2 Kindle & My Cover

As I said in the first entry, the point of this blog is to pass on some advice that might help others. If you see me make a catastrophic mistake, you can avoid it. Likewise, if I do something that works, I can pass it on. That means I selfishly get to read more good books if you get them published as well!

It’s a great outlet for me to have this blog. You see I don’t really talk about my writing, it is something I tend to keep to myself. Not out of fear of mentioning it or anything like that at all, rather I feel it isn’t always the easiest conversation to lead into. The reason for that is I suppose I am known as a banker and it is a job I see a lot of value in and do take pride in (I will do a blog entry on that at one point). It would seem so out the blue if I turned around and said I really enjoy writing and am trying to make it my career. My friends, who work in other industries, do get to play my dungeons and dragons campaigns to this day so they get a taste of my writing now and then but that is really the extent of it.

Anyway what advice can I pass on today that might save you some time?

So setting up the kindle self-publishing account was pretty straight forward.

  • The first part is your personal details. I think it is safe to say we all know our name and where we live.
  • It also asks for your IBAN and BIC. That’s your International Bank Account Number and your Bank Identifier Code (all roads lead back to banking haha I can’t escape it). You can get that off your bank statement or online banking, it isn’t your normal account detail. Your IBAN is about 20 numbers or over, your BIC about 8.

WARNING I was surprised by the number of dodgy sites saying they could tell you your IBAN if you provided various account details. No, no, no. I know, internet safety 101, you all probably know this, but don’t do that. You are essentially giving them all the information they would need to make payments out your account. Stay safe please J

  • You then have to decide how you will be paid when millions of people undoubtedly decide to download your book (if I get one, I will be pleased haha). EFT is best from the looks of it, an electronic fund transfer. All that means is whenever anyone downloads your book, you get it right away, paid electronically. Check is a bit slow and only once you hit a certain amount and as for the wire option, be careful your bank doesn’t charge you for that. Seems there is a clear winner there.
  • Tax information is likewise straightforward. Follow the guide, take your time and keep it all above the board.

That was all a bit dry, back to the fun bits I think.

Here is the cover for my first novella, North Sea Nightmare (to clarify, by first novella, I mean the first one I want to get published, I have written dozens of novellas and even two novels but not really done anything with them).

cover

I paid to have the cover done, they done a damn good job I think and even gave me a few options but this is the one I like best. It is important to know what your strengths are and drawing isn’t one of mine- my little avatar with the green ink was me trying with all my ability. More than happy to get the experts in for that one and only fair they are compensated for doing it.

The story itself is about an oil crew in the North Sea who awaken an ancient creature that proceeds to massacre the rig inhabitants. Our cast of characters need to work together to escape in one piece. The focus is on a pair of estranged siblings who as coincidence would have it were both on the rig at the same time for very different reasons. They had fallen out over the 2014 referendum, something all too common I am afraid, seems like a lot of friendships and relationships were torn apart during that.

The blurb is:


Rig-16 in the middle of the North Sea has just started drilling.

For the men and women aboard, this may be their last day alive.

Dillan thought he was having a rough day when he found out his estranged sister, aide to a government minister, was visiting the rig he works on.

However, that was nothing compared to how bad things are about to get.

In the ancient depths, a prehistoric creature was slumbering.

They woke it.

Now they will be lucky to see tomorrow.


I have written the whole story but I am going over, tweaking and editing. It will be up before December ends, hopefully before Christmas, but 100% before December ends.

Deciding on the North Sea as a setting wasn’t an accident or an off the cuff choice. The North Sea for those not too familiar with Scotland is where all the countries oil comes from. It is always used as a political football during debates between parties as well.

One thing is for sure though, when the North Sea dips, the whole country takes a bit of a hit. Aberdeen is pretty much built on oil with all the big oil companies having offices there. Then you get the associated companies like law firms who specialise in the oil industry, insurance companies who handle the rig workers, the engineers who design new rigs components etc.

I live in Edinburgh which is mostly banking, finance, law and government employees since the parliament is here. However even we feel a tremor when the oil dips.

So the North Sea is somewhere that is pretty important and instantly recognisable to most the people here. I haven’t just assumed familiarity though, for readers who aren’t from Scotland, it is set up pretty quickly how vital this area is for the country.

Above all else though it was great fun to write, at some parts looking at interpersonal relationships strained by recent political issues then switching to horror and action. The temptation of course is to tweak it for the next ten years and never dare release it. It is important to overcame the tendency towards utter perfection. Yes, make sure it is good so you are not wasting your readers valuable time but if you allow yourself to, it is so easy to spend your life editing without ever making a move to get your stories out there.

I spent my morning today walking around the Edinburgh Christmas market, had a glass of mulled wine which was very nice but now I am back home, settled, got a nice quiet flat to myself, time to crack on with the story. Changing one or two parts or beefing up descriptions when they seem a bit lacklustre, cutting out parts that seem a bit excessive, will do that for a good few hours today.

All the best, take care and have a well-deserved mellow Sunday.

LJ