Thursday, 26 September 2013

Why the unknown is a writer's friend


Get ready guys because the sun is coming...probably.

Life is uncertainty. And I'm pretty certain about that. It's true for writing as well, of course.

Characters walk a tightrope that's fixed to idea at one end and completion at the other. Far below in those chasmy* depths lurk cliche, overworked allegory, formula and a host of other pitfalls.

Plots that start out as something of a romance-turned-sour can end up as terror or slapstick.

And hey, let's not forget what I call the Superwriting trilemma: Is it a bird (short story)? Is it a plane (novella)? No, it's Superwriting (novel)!

So, when you plan to write fiction, the only thing to be certain of is that very little is certain at the beginning. Later, as things progress, other uncertainties fill the spaces left behind.

Who do you show your work to?
When do you show them your work?
When (oh when) is the piece of writing good enough to merit 'The End'? (Which, incidentally, we never, ever write on a manuscript, only in a writing diary.)

See what I mean? Everywhere you turn there's a stack of unknowns, piled high on your plate like unclaimed waffles.

And that's a good thing.

Here's why:

1. There's a prevailing attitude that anything can be learned by rote and then a winning formula can be repeated. Now, I have a keen interest in NLP and the effectiveness of modelling (the kind that doesn't require pouting and swimwear), but while we can model behaviours and techniques, that's no guarantee of a similar outcome. You may well improve the odds of a positive outcome, but that could be another result entirely.

2. Because life is inherently uncertain, embracing that philosophy not only gives you hope, it empowers you to try things others may have done, and even, perish the thought, things they tried and failed at.

3. As nothing is guaranteed except death and taxes (even for corporates, until a tax avoidance scheme is identified), you can try anything.

A case in point. My good friend Sue ran a successful Amazon giveaway and follow-up campaign. She gave away a fair few books and sold oodles afterwards. I, on the other hand, gave away 300 freebies and sold less than a dozen afterwards. Now, there may be many reasons why there was a difference:
- Genre / niche
- Tweet messages (twessages?)
- The style of writing
- The standard of writing
- Mercury being retrograde (if I have to explain it, it won't be as funny)
- The timing of the campaign and the time of day
- Price (last, but never least)

So what do you do when things don't work out for you the way you planned?
Simple. You do something else.

If there's a message here (and I think we're all hoping), it's that you write, you do whatever you feel is appropriate with your writing, and then you write something else.

Actually, I fibbed right at the beginning. There is another certainty beyond uncertainty and it's this: If you stop writing, you stop being a writer. Hand in your badge on the way out.

*chasmy is my new word of the week - neat, huh?

Thursday, 19 September 2013

What is a blog for? Over to you.

If blogs were logs and my computer were a garage.
As some of you know, I recently experimented with a giveaway for my fantasy novel, Covenant. Around the same time, I decided I needed to review the way I use social media and evaluate what I give to it and what I get back in return.

Blogging has always been my favourite social media activity. I love the interaction between bloggers, and the generosity of those master bloggers out there who shares tips or who offer guest spots. 



http://masqueradecrew.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/b-is-for-brainstorming-atozchallenge.html 

I recently got some valuable blog feedback from Glen Long (via Jon Morrow) over at http://guestblogging.com/ and it got me thinking (some more). 

He asked what the purpose of my blog was. 

I made a list and it seems that the purpose is manifold:
- Promote my fiction?
- Sell my services as a writer / editor?
- Showcase my work?
- Engage with and entertain readers?
- Engage with and support other creatives?
- Make some money?

He suggested I make my headlines clearer and more dynamic. So, for example, based on the content, where I titled a recent post The beer essentials, he suggested I go with How to Use Action to Reveal Your Character's True Essence instead.

Glen also suggested I consider hosting a blog on my own domain

Now, this is the bit where you come in.

It's a two-part quiz.

1. How do you see this blog and why do you visit (and by the way, thanks for coming)?

2. What is your blog for and does it fulfil your intent?

3. And for a bonus point, what's your experience of hosting your blog on your own domain - benefits and drawbacks, please?

As long as you're not selling pharmaceuticals, extensions (you know the kind), money-rich schemes, writing content farms, weaponry, porn or political / religious ideologies, you're welcome to include your blog link in with your answer and state - in one short sentence - what your blog is for.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The beer essentials


One of the main ways I reveal character on the page is by letting my protagonists and antagonists do something. It can be a simple thing, a difficult thing, or a private thing. Sometimes it's the way they eat a sandwich and sometimes it's the way they stop a psychopath hitman who has a penchant for other people's watches. One time it was the way a character took a wizz.
Heineken® has a new campaign takes that idea to extremes. They take men from all over the world and put them in unexpected and challenging travel situations, with minimal provisions and directions. when I say 'put', I mean 'dropped'. Imagine Challenege Anneka meets Appointment with Fear.
The wily folk at Heineken® seek to answer the question: Are legends made or born. And, secondarily, what beer do they drink? (I'd give you a hint, but you can work it out for yourself.)
‘Dropped’ is their series of episodic adventures. Just like the movies: an ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation. ‘Voyage’ is the fifth instalment, available on various platforms: broadcast, digital and mobile. There's also a Heineken® Dropped YouTube channel, where you can follow progress (or not!), add your own entries and potentially get the chance to have your own legendary travel adventure.  



What's clever here (and cleverly links back to my original point) is that each ‘Dropped’ adventure is personalised around the character of the protagonist - apparently it's also unscripted.
So what can writers learn from this?
- Engage readers beyond the boundaries of your book by offering extra media content.
- Factor in a multimedia campaign and consider setting up your own Youtube channel, especially if you write a series.
- Give your characters challenges that are specific to who they are and where they find themselves.
- And whatever you do, watch out for clowns.