Welcome to my Writers Blog

Feel free to read, comment, argue or complain. I would prefer complaints to be amusing rather than trivial.
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Monday, 19 December 2011

The End – You Wish

People say writing a book is a massive and impressive challenge. It is…all of us undertaking the adventure are more than aware of the size of the challenge and a bit like the rumoured pain of delivering babies (after all how would I know) we seem to forget all too quickly and find ourselves thinking it will be easier next time.
Worst of all headaches though, even greater than the headache that gets you into writing the book is the challenge of ending it.

Books start off as great ideas; a wild expansion of imagined stories, glittering characters and unstoppable drama. How do you manage to weave such complex webs and keep the story moving I hear asked many times? That bit's the easy bit, I say, the hard part is managing those threads and wild imaginings to a close. You may have gone into the enterprise knowing the ending already, others may see how it goes, hoping the end comes to them mid-flow. Either way you still have to tie up those loose ends, curb the instinct to blow everything up and fire the reader up enough that they will come back for the sequel once you’ve recovered from your mental exhaustion.

So as I’m undertaking the task of writing the end of my current project (Five Days is the working title…bet you can’t guess what that’s about) I thought I would define some suggestions that I’m running through on how to close the story down and perhaps some things to avoid.

1)      You know the end already – clever you. It’s good to know the end you are aiming for, it shows extraordinary discipline and planning that you can plan a book until the last line. Writing it must be so easy, a bit like joining the dots. Seriously, it is good to do that, but don’t be a slave to the version in your notepad. Writing is a creative business so maybe as you are writing other ideas will come to you. Your characters may suggest a better idea than yours. Don’t be scared of listening to them, even if it requires a re-write of the odd section to fit the new end. After all the book is about them, the least you could do is consult them to see how they would see their demise or glory.
2)      Stick to your character traits – so in the first 200 pages your character has been meek and mild, the world has trampled all over him and now he is stuck in a big hole waiting for the cliff hanger disaster to occur. Then turn the page and he grows ultrasonic biceps, climbs out of the hole then discovers a love for guns and goes shooting all the bad guys. Character development is good and we want our characters to grow with the story and some to decline with the story but don’t make a weak and feeble nobody into a superhero. The audience will be looking to how the meek and mild idiot will escape their dilemma. Turning him into the incredible hulk will not impress. This is a major challenge for me in my latest book as having made my main character an intelligent and thoughtful person placed in a situation where his life and few others are at risk, he will have to think his way out of the situation rather than bash everyone on the head and run for it. That means as the director of his life, I will need to think as he would, being innovative, original and believable, still retaining excitement and entertainment and get him of out of his debacle. A moment when I ask myself why I didn’t write children’s fairy tales instead.
3)      Loose Ends – I’ve talked before about loose ends and the most important thing in an ending is that there are no loose ends. That doesn’t mean that all stories have their moment of closure, it’s perfectly fine that some storylines continue passed the timeline of the story. The trick of the writer is to close all the different storylines without troubling the reader with a list of outcomes. This is one of those areas where it is good to ask for comment from other readers. Unless you are tediously organised and have a checklist for every characters outstanding issues then you will likely miss some. Other readers might say to you that they loved the end but wondered what happened to X or really didn’t understand the motive behind Y.
4)      Quality - A brilliant story needs a brilliant end. I refer to the previous flippant comment about blowing everyone up. Readers of A Very English Revolution might smile at that comment but this is a big problem. I write thrillers or crime and readers expect somewhat of a climatic ending. They want attention to be held until the last page and then blown away by a final revelation. We might love the characters we read immensely and we should care about what happens to them. We live on our nerves for most of the story on their behalf so giving them a happy and peaceful ending might seem a welcome relief to the trauma of the story, but would be rubbish. At the same time killing off all and sundry with a last minute literary bombshell might also seem too easy. I would suggest retaining those aspects of the previous chapters that got you this far. Challenge your characters with every last word of the story. Make sure the reader doesn’t think it was too easy for them. Think as a reader, think what the last thing they will be expecting to happen, then you’ll get the idea. Don’t be scared to do what has not been done before as long as it feels right for the story. Drama/ thriller stories have their rules of genre, but don’t be scared to break them for the sake of making a good end. You readers will reward your bravery if you get it right.
5)      Most of all with the end – think about the next book you write…think about what the lasting impression you want the reader to have of your writing and your characters. You want them to come back so make sure your ending has all the elements that would ensure they have no reason not to. If they have stuck with you this far, they already like things about you. At the end readers are pouting with big red lips waiting for you stick yours on theirs and make everlasting love. It’s your window of opportunity to make that kiss one that delivers the message, not one that sends them home unsatisfied, cursing your impotency

Good luck with it


Monday, 21 November 2011

A genre obsessed with dead things?

I’m trying to understand the nature of Crime/Thriller Writing and understand our obsession with dead things and dreaming more inventive ways to kill.
This literary dilemma comes as I struggle to consider how many people I choose to kill off as my second book comes to a climax.
My issue is that I’m a bit bored of killing folk or blowing them up. Whilst the drastic outcome kind of goes with the territory of the genre and that people expect a degree of it doesn’t help in trying to be original or inspired in writing. How many books do we pick of our shelves with the basic premise of someone dies, slightly weird but dedicated person suspects the whole story is not right, then pursues story often at personal challenge to own life, gets rescued by some obscure means before the  killer confesses all. We could argue the same goes for romance novels where someone fails to fall in love, falls for someone else, gets pissed off and ends up back where they started.
Yes there are always variations on a theme but the principles are the same, doesn’t matter how much you story you slot in the middle.
I can’t complain at other writers for following this model, just like me we know what sells, as this is what we read, and the market keeps coming back for more.
So why am I worried? I suppose I don’t want to write a story which follows a formula set by someone else, but I also don’t want it to disappoint a reader’s expectations of a genre. So my challenge is to challenge the genre perhaps. Yes people might suffer at the hand of my enthusiastic typing but can I at least make it mean something in the context of a good story. My first instinct to create excitement shouldn’t be to wave a sword over their head or point a gun at them (although both of those things do happen in this current book) but I should look to produce characters who create interest in their own right.
I can do all that, I can write the best story ever, but just like the thrillers I enjoy reading people will still end up dead and the dilemma will come back round again the next time I write a book. The only hope is that in my attempts to find a story to connect my dead events I haven’t the lost the whole point for which Thriller readers read thrillers and that is to be thrilled.

© S.G.Norris

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Happy Godless Day: The Sun Still Rises

I suppose I should get out more…and many will agree, but just a bit fed up of God Bothering today. Not sure whether it’s unique to today or everyday but seems to be coming out of the woodwork everywhere.

So I am pleading for a day without anyone feeling the need on Twitter or any other media to mention or praise or worship any Lord, God, spirit, deity of any flavour, type, colour or sex. Don’t care whether he/she is all seeing, got a beard or a problem with his girlfriend; I don’t need to know about it. 

I will call it Godless Day.

I don’t particularly want to have a go at people’s faith. It does tend to be a bit mean and selfish. Believe in what you want to, if it makes you happy. But try doing it without bothering me with it. Try having a day without publishing it to the world what a good religious type you are. Trust me, the sun will still rise in the morning whether you’ve banged the gong, bent on your knees and put your life savings in the preacher’s pocket. Why not have a day where you say, ‘today I will motivate myself. I can be a decent human being,’ not to get a stamp in the behaviour book for the next life, but just to be nice to the guy next door or the woman on the bus.

If we all did that for a day, maybe we will realise that we’re not that different after all. None of us are going to burn up in flames and we might be a bit happier.

I’m not under any illusions that people will take any notice, I am just ranting to myself. If anyone does happen to read this, I suppose you would suggest I got out of the wrong side of bed and should just get over it. 

People have all sorts of reactions to dismissing any kind of superstition. Some folk will politely disagree; some will suggest I’m doomed to an eternal hell. Maybe they are all right and I’m stupidly wrong. But I’m willing to put a lot of money on the table that says, just because we forget about praising manufactured spirits for a day, the sun will most definitely appear on the horizon tomorrow morning. How do I know this? Because it did today and the day before, and I’m confident that I’m not the only one who thought that superstitious worship was surplus to requirements.

So I plead for you to try it out. You can still be the same person; as happy and as miserable as you were before. It won’t change. Then perhaps you’ll no longer feel the need to clutter the world up with inane rubbish.

Mind you, if everyone did that, I would have nothing left to fill my books up with.

Have a wonderful Godless Day.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Events depicted in this blog are…

One of the challenges of writing political fiction in the modern world is that there are several incumbents alive and kicking, and whilst they may have the skin of a dozen rhinos they also might not be averse to seeking a bonus to their pension from you via the courts.
Hard to write them out of history when indeed they may be contributory to it. Current social and political history may in fact be the driver for your story. There are reams of books that are going to be regurgitating the hacking scandal, the banking collapse, Euro fall-out, Arab Spring. In fact I feel like I have given away my thoughts for about ten new books. Perhaps its far more fun in 2011 to write non-fiction because some of the shit going on at the moment couldn’t be made up.
Actually I can’t be arsed with non-fiction, not that I want to belittle the hundreds of journalists writing their memoirs right now, but I’m not going to do the homework. The problem with non-fiction is that it requires you to be informed and tell the truth. At least it’s one person version of the truth but I suppose it does require some basis in fact that’s beyond what’s on the news otherwise we could all write the book.
I’m much happier making stuff up, that only requires you to sound like you’re informed, which is a bit like being at work. Everyday I stand in front of customers presenting information which they could find themselves if they bothered to look. Just in case any of my customers are reading this…unlikely I know…but I am absolutely well informed and consequently you’re getting excellent value for money. That last comment was a joke designed to demonstrate my critical incite and wit.
Getting to the point, my question was about whether to reference some of our recent government members in recent years because largely they have contributed to events or perhaps better said, they have completely fucked up events and therefore created the mess that now clutters our lives. My character is defined by some of those occurrences so naturally I want to refer to the events that shaped him.
In my latest masterpiece of modern literature, I have decide to concede and reference these people, not because I want to use the book to ridicule their legacy but more because it would sound daft to say that we are living in the post-Joe-Bloggs era. Everyone knows that Joe Bloggs is a figment of the writer’s imagination. Using another name would either be farcical or you have to create a back story for your historic character so the reader understands the link. 20,000 words later you are back to the main point in the tale and nothing has happened.
It still made me feel bad, feeling like I was crossing the boundaries of fiction into the real world. My characters are always completely made up in order that they remain unique to my stories. By referencing a real person I believe I am artificially defining their personality. The references main generic rather than specific and perhaps it is useful to play with the readers own prejudice about the real people and consequently lead them up the garden path with it. For example, saying that a character was inspired by Thatcher leads the reader to assume they are a tough cookie who knows when their how to get things done. As the writer you have the power to undermine your character’s personality by suggesting that they aspire to be Thatcher but are really just a spineless wimp.
So the events depicted in this blog are complete fiction and any reference to characters alive or dead is purely coincidental. Make of it what you will.

© S.G.Norris

Monday, 7 November 2011

Ignorance comes in many forms

I really don't get it sometimes.
I love the author community. There are so many great people writing and inspiring us with their fabulous stories. Generally it's a sophisticated world, even if people have a different opinion, we can often respect their expression of it through writing. Mutual respect and a degree of self-respect is a common feature, which probably means that we are not the best sales people. We don't like to impose ourself in others peoples space. We like customers to come to us and like us for what we are. Of course we have to learnt to do more than that and get over our natural hesitancy and push the message out there. That way we sell more books.
But...it can go to far.
Someone just took the liberty of posting on my wall on one of the various author sites I use, insisting that I read their story. It wasn't a name I recognised so I checked it out. This might sound petty and probably is, but it really annoyed me. Firstly this person chose to contact and ask me to read something without any attempt at social niceties. She assumed, as she probably did with all the other people she pestered, that they we would want to read it. The second more petty point was that it was some Christian morality love-in for which I'm afraid I wouldn't use in the bathroom. I'm all for people writing and believing what they like but just as I wouldn't post my stuff on others wall without knowing their likes and dislikes I would prefer others didn't do it to me. Sorry I don't mean to dismiss religious writers but I think this person wasn't quite living up to the standards she wrote about.
So please writers, I know we are all putting out our message and trying to create an audience, but this kind of thing just pisses people off.
Perhaps I'm naive and she was just a good saleswoman. Maybe it's just me and now I've probably pissed a number of others off just the same.

Got that off my chest now - feel better for it.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


iWrite: WIN THIS BOOK!: A Very English Revolution by: S. G. Norris 2.99 on Kindle Product Description

I write are offering a free copy of A Very English Revolution if you leave a comment

Friday, 4 November 2011

Indie Writers – Deluded or Undiscovered

I often ask this question, not because I’m trying to be clever or cruel but because I’m to trying to understand what drives us to keep writing, when critical acclaim is all but impossible.
Thousands of us will be typing away on our keyboards directing our ideas and ranting at the world in our own special way, many of us numerous books down the line.
Maybe when we write we consider what people think of us. Perhaps we simply try to challenge ourselves but mostly when we’re done, we really hope someone will read it and like it. I’ve talked before understanding criticism so no point going over that but perhaps in this case we need to understand praise.
People are polite and most (unless they are acutely rude) will tell you they enjoyed your book whether they read it all or not. People don’t want to be harsh as a rule and many will try to be tactful in pointing out the odd flaw in order to validate their praise and still come out the nice guy. I know because I often do this when reading the work of someone I like but don’t wish to offend. Maybe it would do us good to hear what people really think with all the niceties of friendships removed. I recall one of my colleagues when drunk telling me my book was a load of old tosh at the same time as wishing me well with it. I did refrain from emptying the contents of my drink over his head but it did make the point to me that whilst I know some people genuinely did enjoy my work, not everyone will.
The point of all this is to say that most of us as Indie Authors don’t have access to real critics. Our only major critic is usually the formal publishing industry which has given us a wide berth which may be for many reasons and not all to do with quality. So we are left with our friends and contacts and perhaps the odd stranger who has found our work and chooses to review it on Amazon.
Where does this leave us? Are we obliged to help our Indie Author friends and tell them when things are so bad that maybe they should go back to writing school and not throw any more cash down the self-publishing toilet? Or do we just say to all Indie Authors, write what you will; the market will find its own level.
I guess it’s the old ‘does my bum look big in this?’ discussion and only you as the friend of an Indie Author will chose to answer yes or no. It may indeed come down to what you expect in return for your lack of sincerity.
Are we deluded? No I don’t think so, but if you really want to know whether your writing is any good, and you genuinely want to learn, then join a writing group where people will give genuine and constructive comments. You will never regret it. There are many of them, some free, some funded. It just so happens I can recommend a free one Writers Cave as I run it.
It’s a small internet group with members from all over the world who taught me that sometimes I write good things, sometimes not so good, but nowadays I write less of the latter. That makes so much difference to confidence when someone asks you whether you are a writer and you can answer, yes, and quite a good one actually.

© S.G.Norris

Friday, 28 October 2011

Social Networks and your fellow Authors

Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of talking to a lot of fellow authors in the virtual world of social networks. It’s scary to know the number of people in the same game as you are. We all have access to a computer, years of exposure to reading and life. We all feel capable and empowered to say what we see.
The only problem is that the demand isn’t necessarily growing but the supply is. The economics tell us that we are in the wrong market to achieve anything.
The last few weeks have shown me that actually that view is wrong, and we should think differently.
Previously I felt as if I was competing with fellow authors, and with some on a playing field that wasn’t level. Through various social media campaigns I’ve actually exchanged details with numerous authors in various genres and what I’ve learnt is that we all need each other.
Twitter has been at the heart of this and in about 2 weeks I’ve found nearly 400 contacts in the writing business, and all are happy to share and help each other. There are also numerous sites promoting Independent Authors for free or little money.
What I’ve learnt from all this is that collectively we can achieve more than individually. We are all looking for the same thing.
So why not work together, collaborate for events, joint marketing projects, look for economies of scales. Every one of us knows how much marketing costs but not if we work together.
The indie book sites are the start of it, but there are other things as well. I know some writer colleagues who have done some online interactive sessions on chat sites. Take it a step further and we could have Independent book festivals. A bit like a farmers market we could have a once a month book market where all local authors come out of the woodwork to sell their wares.
I will have a further think about some ideas but the key thing is that we don’t have to compete to succeed but perhaps work together instead.

© S.G.Norris

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Writers: Welcome to your Critics

Writing is very personal, often it is therapeutic, other times it’s all about fantasy. Whatever is behind the work it belongs to the writer. As a writer you have a choice and it is very much a choice, to share that with others.
Some might say that the only point in writing is to share it with others. I’m not so sure about that, it is quite a brave thing, especially in the early days, to share your innermost thoughts. I can imagine there are lots of writers out there who have never let anyone see their work.
So what are we all scared off? The critic it seems. There is probably a million blogs out there on the misery of critics. I’m here to put a word in for criticism although perhaps not the critics themselves. What my point is that writers need critics, harsh or otherwise.
Rule number one of sharing writing with others is knowing that not everyone will like your work. For every opinion you express there are millions of others who will have the opposite. Some might admire your work whilst not enjoying the content, but I would suggest that most people who dispute the content will find fault with the writing. So what does all this mean? Do we ignore critics?
You can’t ignore your critics. You may want to understand their motives and discard them selectively but to pretend they don’t exist will mean the end of a writing career. By testing the reaction to our work we can understand if our intentions are understood. I am often surprised and excited by the reaction to what I write not because I’m looking for confirmation of what I intended but because they often find something there I’d never intended. That’s frightening and joyful at the same time but it shows how interpretation is impossible to anticipate. That’s why writers should be wary of playing to an audience.
My advice is write what you want to write but learn from what people say. Don’t be defensive even when faced with harsh comments. Once you’ve written for a while you’ll begin to have a sense of what’s good and not good in your writing but digesting the reactions of others will help you improve that understanding of your output. Smile sweetly at your critic. Thank them for the time it took them to read your book and maybe your positive reaction might disabuse their negativity the next time.

© S.G.Norris

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Curse of the Ratings Agency

Now I’m not an expert and I guess many of us aren’t but we are all probably beginning to form an opinion about this new being on the horizon: the credit rating agency. These faceless organisations who seem able to dictate an incredible amount of news and shape opinion about banks and countries.

I know they are not new and there have been many a similar organisation offering the same damning opinions on individuals who have had trouble with banks over the years. I was never comfortable with the concept as judgement was passed on people with no real knowledge of their personal circumstances. Simply a blunt ‘computers says no’ response, pushing the desperate victim into the jaws of sharks.

None us will have much sympathy for the debate round the board room table of a bank for a trash rating as it’s unlikely anyone individually would lose much sleep. Maybe they would be forced to turn over in the beds as to whether they could still afford the third house by the sea. The thing that disturbs me most is that they seem to be able to form an opinion stream that results in pretty damning economic consequences. There ability to mark a plague cross on any organisation or country can begin a chain reaction that costs people livelihoods. The facts that the debate are the same in voting chambers and media offices makes no difference, as at least they have a remote accountability for what they produce. These agencies have no accountability and the cynic in me suggests they have a clear motive for profit.

It could work one of two ways. I can imagine a battle among the agencies to be the first to shout ‘Plague’ for any of the organisations rumoured to be in trouble. There has to be a race because there’s nothing for coming second in this media scrum. They want to be first in the news because now everyone will know who they are. The agency whose second to shout will not be in with a sniff of attention. Assuming that attention is what these agencies seek, the media clamber over a new announcement must create a pressure to shout at the absolute earliest opportunity, and maybe ultimately before absolutely necessary therefore ruining a reputation with no justification. This has now turned into a rumour of rumour which leads to more uncertainty in a market place which is already dithering.

The second tactic, and the really cynically option is that these agencies are complying with short selling. They are deliberately driving down the reputation of an organisation for someone to profit on the reduced share price. This may absolutely not be the case, and is purely a point of view from the layman, but with the various dark rooms in which the financial market operates, it’s hard to see that somewhere from all of this doom and gloom there isn’t someone laughing his arse off.

It’s an inevitable conclusion, because it would be absolutely straightforward to start a rumour of success and stability. Start talking up the market, start reassuring financiers that the world will not end tomorrow. If a few trillion is wiped off a stock exchange the sun will still rise. People will still need to eat and do all the things that make the world go round. They may do it off less money and struggle a while, but it will still happen. Why? Because it has to. The world keeps turning and the wheel is relentless.

The game of politics and economics is just that, it’s a game played round the roulette wheel. The money doesn’t go anywhere. It’s like energy it recycles itself. In the end financiers can’t stop that roulette wheel turning because if they did, society would descend into oblivion and the comfortable life they created would die with it. That’s why if they wanted to and when the financiers believe they’ve made enough profit from doom, they can respin the wheel of fortune.

© S.G.Norris

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Deluded Fools or Guilty of Murder

A news article tripped across the wires this morning concerning Aids sufferers who had died because they stopped taking their life-saving drugs on the advice of their pastor or whatever title they choose to give themself. God’s Will would save them instead. There are always two-sides to a news story and there was likely more to know in this but the premise seems clear enough.
There are so many angles to take when reacting to this, each requiring a person of sound mind to shake their head from side to side in utter disgust.
Issue could be taken with the individuals themselves who chose to believe in the preacher but then you might also learn that it was the same preacher or one of similar heritage who suggested that the use of protection in pursuing sexual relationships was the devils work. Strange that the threat of the devils work was never quite enough for them to suspend the promiscuous activity but the use of protection was. Perhaps they felt it was a double jeopardy and that one sin was easier to explain than two. Whatever people chose to believe is in their hands inevitably, one mans medicine man is another’s poisoner.
I turn to the pastor for my vitriol as we expect them to carry more intelligence and awareness of the world about them, such that they would have some responsibility for the impact of their words of stupidity. My first instinct is to look for money changing hands as the motive for such shady operation. The con merchant often knows no depths in the pursuit of profit. This I would understand more if these individuals were offering a vision of hope that would keep the punters returning for another day, but something that would kill off the money trail like this makes me wonder whether they are as deluded as those that queue to listen to them. I say this only because I can’t see where the profit lies in killing your customers. It is hoped that some of the others following in the queue consider turning around and looking elsewhere for solace but I suspect the pastor in question will have an answer to the obvious questions. Something along the lines of God’s punishment and if you hand over a little more money, we will make sure that God’s sees fit to overlook your previous misdemeanour.
Do I believe the pastor to be evil? Given that evil corresponds to a religious negative then it’s perhaps not the right word. Perhaps the better way to examine their motive is to question whether the pastor is either guilty of murder or manslaughter. The legal debate would fall on whether he deliberately intended his victims to die or whether it was simply an indirect result of his words. Sadly it is unlikely these portrayers of death will see a court for their actions but I wish they would. Only then might we begin to see that such preaching of ignorance is as much a crime as inciting religious hatred or conspiracy to murder.

© S.G.Norris 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Indie Writers Zone: Indie Insider - Steve Norris

Indie Writers Zone: Indie Insider - Steve Norris: How long does it take you to create a book from start to finish on average? If you totalled the amount of time spent writing end to end t...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

New Story from Writers Cave - Headlights

A bright searing white scorches my eyelids. I can’t look away, caught in the beam. An orange glow burns inside, a central fire fuelling the glow.
‘He’s awake.’
I hear the voice, but it doesn’t register. I open my eyes and the light is gone, but still the orange flame burns as I try to focus on the faces staring.
‘How you feeling today, John?’ One asks.
They say my name but it means nothing. They could be calling me Jim or even Jill. It still wouldn’t make sense.
‘Do you remember who I am?’
‘Yes Doctor…,’ I reply weakly. I do remember some Indian name but it doesn’t come
Another face appears. The same as yesterday.
‘Do you remember me yet?’
Her face forms the question as hope gleams in her eyes. The orange glow still distorts my view making it difficult to pick out features. Long blonde hair surrounds a pale face. Full red lips form a weak smile that I’m happy to kiss. She’s pretty…I like her.
‘Sorry,’ I say and the hope disappears. I know she’s Ellie, my wife, but I no more know her than myself.
I close my eyes to rest and the light returns. I wonder if the dream will come with it. It forms a whole whilst the orange fires dances. It begins to change, now with yellow and green. All the colours have their turn until a black forms. It’s night. I feel the cold and shiver. I’m walking fast, not sure why. Breathing heavily, I can hear my heartbeat. Lights appear in the distance, approaching quickly. It starts as a pulsing glow that draws me in until it grows with the noise of an engine until it’s all I see and then…I’m on the floor. I feel nothing, just hear a voice.
‘Is he dead?’
And then another.
‘Think so. Serve’s him right.’ The muttered twang in the voice distinct as the last time.
He speaks again. ‘Is he awake?’
New words this time and it takes a moment to register.
I open my eyes to see for the first time something I recognise.
‘Do you remember me? I hear you lost your memory.’ That same twang mocking my thoughts.
‘David.’ The name forms on my lips as I hear an alarm sound in the room. I can no longer hear the sound of my breathing.
© S.G.Norris

New Story from Writers Cave - Days at the Museum

History rained from the walls, time portioned into compartments, horror and gore beside the drudgery of day to day life. Annie had seen it all. Her days from nine to five framed by the annals of time.
‘Wow, what a wonderful job?’ or ‘must be quite boring,’ opinions divided on the nature of her work. They had no idea. The museum was so much more than the history decked throughout, days never felt like work.
Annie took her morning rounds as usual, stepping first into the Roman room. Claude Henry, she noted this from the name tag clipped to his lapel, stared intently at the coin collection before taking his regular seat in the corner. He would spend at least an hour. Why, she had no idea. Maybe haven from the heat of the corporate bonfire outside.
Into the Egyptian chamber, the colour of life no better expressed than by the meeting of Charles and Diana. She didn’t know their real names only that they met here at ten on Wednesdays. Him, with his classic British integrity dressed in clothes which belonged in one of the displays, her in a summer dress with a pattern that curtain manufacturers would do well to copy. Five minutes would pass before they’d speak and feign surprise at meeting. She considered suggesting they get a room, but couldn’t imagine Charles and Di would quite have it in them.
Medieval Britain, the room of drama, Kings and Queens, subterfuge and legend had quite a different role in the 21st century. She called it the spy room. For an occupation adorned in secrecy and subtle unseen worlds she could never quite work out why public school Timothy always came here. He’d met Russians, Americans, and numerous other nationalities, old, young, delicately attractive females, elderly matrons who were cast offs from 1950’s hospitals. If she understood his operation, a queue of others must be outside. But then Timothy probably thought he was important, saving the world from untold dangers, or perhaps Walter Mitty dreaming of glory. Annie was clear where her vote would be.
Every room cast another story, where the path of reality took a twist. Unlikely that any of these occurrences would achieve a record in the archives of the Museum, but still life danced its peculiar waltz through the ancient walls.

© S.G.Norris

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A guide to managing complex storylines – Part 2 – Swimlanes

My previous blog concentrated on tips for building suspense in stories and how to leave hooks that the reader can grab hold of.

This week I am looking at planning and managing timelines, character storylines and how to ensure each thread is not lost in the mass of words that a book becomes.

So the concept I use is swimlanes. Anyone familiar with a project management textbook may know this already. It’s not quite a project plan, which can be a painfully detailed document to manage, but does borrow some principles.

Please don’t run off now that I have mentioned the words project and management, I’m not going to get all theoretical and start boring everyone with powerpoints and clip art. Writing is a creative activity but sometimes we need to borrow a bit of structure to stop ourselves descending into a confused mire.

The metaphor of swimlanes is to look at the timeline of the story as a swimming pool with lanes mapped along the pool. You can then plot storylines or characters within each lane at each point of the story. By using a swimlane for each element of the story you can visualise your characters at each stage and see where the overlaps are or gaps.

Before this gets too heavy here’s an example.

If I use the example of A Very English Revolution, the time line for the book was four weeks. I used Microsoft excel, the best piece of PC software ever, You can use a piece of paper on the wall, whatever works for you. I use excel because I can transport on my laptop with the text and and as opposed to MS word you never run out of page. Even the Lord of the Rings is not going to challenge the excel page limits.

I drew a column for each day of the 4 week period and then defined a row/lane for key characters in the story, Rachel, Joe, Lucy, Sarah. I then summarised the key story point in each day for them. Lucy on Saturday would meet Joe in the park at 2;00 p.m. I write that in the cell for Joe and Lucy for that day. I can then see for each of my other characters where they are at the same time. And it goes on.

Cell by cell you can plot out the storyline

There are probably numerous other ways to do this and I believe there are software packages that can be purchased for the purpose of. But I believe this is as good as anything. The key point is to take the time to think about how your story will pan out. I’m not saying you need to know every angle when you start but you can keep it up to date as you write. Use a different colour to show things you’ve done or yet to do. Things you have to come back to.

Every author probably has a how to structure a story methodology. It’s each to their own. I like this one as I can see where my characters are and can easily cross-reference key elements of the story to tick off.

© S.G.Norris

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A guide to managing complex storylines – Part 1 – Suspense, Hooks and Wet Fish

Modern story writing requires the author to blend together a number of threads slowly revealing the connections to the reader. Most stories require an element of suspense. It’s what brings the reader back for more as the author dangles the next carrot in front of the curious reader.

There are many genres in the literary world and they all have different tools to ensure the next page is turned, but the most common one is suspense.

It’s worth spending time on how suspense works and how it also can be done badly.

  1. Don’t tell all in the first chapter – Sounds simple but useful to remember that when building your character and storyline, be careful what assumptions the reader is making. I write crime and thrillers, both can be different in structure but have many things in common. One thing is that readers are already beginning to form opinions about characters on the first page. Your challenge is not to close off those opinions, you want to prick their imagination, but make sure you have a sense of what they might be thinking so that you can control it and re-use it further down the line. A good example in crime and thriller writing is to introduce your reader to the bad guy early on so that the reveal at the end has more credibility, but be aware of what you tell in that introduction. You might want to cloud it in other contradictory clues or just leave the reader one distinctive characteristic in mind e.g. a recognisable tattoo, a distinct voice, a look in the eye, something you can bring back into the reveal at a later stage. But be subtle, the reader must not be allowed to guess so you must confuse as much as you hint.
  2. Hint’s and clue’s – In the interest of playing a game with the reader, you might want to get them guessing. Whodunnits in the crime genre are classic for this and of course the rule is that it should never be the one you think it is. Agatha Christie was the author who is most famous for deploying the technique but whilst the principle remains the same, readers are far more familiar with the genre and therefore you have to be cleverer at surprising them. Some crime writers turn this on its head by telling you the perpetrator at the beginning but create the suspense by not revealing it to the characters and leading them into situations where the reader has prior knowledge of the danger they are in. A movie that is the best example of this is Apollo 13, where everyone knows the end. But somehow the screenwriters were clever enough to make the journey just as exciting
  3. Red Herrings – Blind Alleys are useful tools for crime and works in other genres as well. The reader is often working ahead of the story trying to anticipate where the ending is leading, partly to reassure themselves that it’s all going to be ok in the end, but also because they think they’re cleverer than the author. That’s when the red-herring turn’s into a slap in the face with a wet fish. Build a story line that gives them enough clues as to where you are going, keep dropping hints, and then shock them with the revelation that they got it all wrong.
  4. The end is never the end – A bit like the red-herring, we can lead the reader to think the story is resolved, that the happy ending is reached. That’s when you reveal another layer to the story, totally unexpected, often a twist and drag the reader back round the whole story again. This is a tricky storyline technique to get right as hitting the reader with a yet unrevealed piece of information might annoy them. The real skill is letting the reader believe they should have known this all along and that the author gave them enough clues. That wins the author respect and a return visit.
  5. Don’t overplay it – A further rule of red herrings, clues and false endings is not to overplay it, especially if you’re writing a series of stories. Readers of genres/series like the rules of the game, because they like the suspense. But they’re also good at spotting the tricks authors use, and as soon as you become predictable the suspense flies out the window. So don’t be formulaic. Know how to use the rules but vary how you deploy them. For Example:- Patricia Cornwell places her character in personal danger in every case she writes, and given it’s a series, when ever she walks into the killers trap, the reader has a reasonably 99% sure guess that she will walk out of it again. As a reader that bores me, and the reason I no longer read her books. This is a major problem for series writers. I’m not saying don’t ever send your character into personal danger, but at least anticipate that the reader might be thinking, ‘I’ve seen this before and I know she get’s out,’ and therefore do something different. Treat the reader with respect if you want them to keep coming back to your stories.
  6. Don’t forget your clues – Having created hooks for your reader make sure those hooks are resolved otherwise your story will look messy and incomplete. For example if you tell the reader your bad guy has an interesting tattoo that would trigger interest in him, when you get to reveal the story behind the character don’t forget to explain the tattoo. The reader will want to know and will be annoyed by the omission.

Next week I will talk more about planning these storylines to be sure you don’t make mistakes with clues and don’t forget the key points that keep the element of suspense.

© S.G.Norris

Friday, 30 September 2011

E- Book Promotion Days

Those of us in the independent sector of publishing will no doubt know that marketing a new book is akin to burning pound or dollar notes. You do all the promotion, you blog like mad, network like a social prostitute and throw money on great ideas, and all you get as a reward is one measly sale on Amazon.

But the other great thing you notice is that one measly sale makes a significant difference on your chart rating, promoting your book thousands of places up the scale. Many of us will know with the monolithic world of Amazon, that being at the top of your various genre charts is vital to the Mr and Mrs Bloggs of the world seeing your book and considering a purchase. But whilst you are dwindling in the realms of number 100 or even 1000 in the genre not even the most avid book searching geek is going to delve that far to find you.

This week I have attempted a bit of a promotion and it seemed to work in pushing my kindle book ( A Very English Revolution) to the front page of the Political Thriller chart, and that’s with only minimal additional sales (less than 10 I think). Maybe there is a chance that Bloggs will get his wallet out now.

This morning I thought of a great way for all of us to do something similar to help each other.

My idea is to promote our e-books as a collective. I have chosen e-books rather than paper copies because most of us sell e-books a much lower cost so it makes the exercise more viable than paper, although if it’s successful maybe we can consider paper as well.

Here’s the idea.

We create a list of interested authors who all possess a kindle. I can keep a register of interested parties or publish it somewhere, whatever we choose. Each author agrees a promotion day and the others share this on their blogs and social networks. When that day comes around each of us buy and download the book on the same day, therefore boosting that days sales ranking. If there are enough of us doing it then there is a chance of success.

Success breeds success, so if it works for one person then others will follow and each of us will have more of a chance to make front page heaven.  Of course this does require trust in our fellow authors to do the deed, but what can I say? It’s an idea, if it works then we all win. You never know we might be downloading a great book we might otherwise totally bypass.

Interested to know what people think. Please share it around writer sites, as the more people are interested the more we can make this work. People can find me out in the virtual world but otherwise a mail at norristeve@gmail.com will engineer a direct response.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Building a Character for a Story - One of Steve's five minute guides to writing

The number one essential for a good story is strong characters. The best story in the world will not be read if you don’t believe in the characters whose head you are living. We also know that characters can be good, bad or both at the same time.
So what makes that character stand out and lift off the page so that the reader wants to know more? This is what readers and writers consistently yearn for. So challenge yourself to think hard about every character you write.

I’m not suggesting I have the answer to this, by the way, although clearly by putting virtual pen to paper in this blog, I’m perhaps suggesting I have some knowledge. Perhaps experience is a better word, knowledge assumes you know everything. With writing I learnt there are no rights or wrongs just rules to be broken. I know it doesn’t make sense but as a writer you can do what you like, it’s your work. It’s more a question of whether you want people to read it or you want to challenge the genre.

Back to characters. Everyone is different and see different things in people. Often people see things in my characters that I hadn’t a clue was there. I created them, yet they take on a personality of their own. I also found that when writing, characters can take on the story themselves. Whatever plan I had for them, often changes as they develop through the story.
This is maybe because life never quite works as planned, people go off at tangents, react in an unexpected way. So as your character goes through the story, let them have deviations. They are more real for it. As the writer and editor of your story of course you have to limit this for the sake of writing prudence but if you don’t allow your characters some kind of free reign on the page they will stay one dimensional.
Where to start?

Story before character or character before story?

Doesn’t matter, either can work. Inspiration for writing comes from many sources. Sometimes you see something in a person that inspires an idea. Other times you have a great story and you need someone to tell it.

Never Copy

This is so important for a fiction writer. If you see someone and think, ‘wow they’d make a great character for a book’. That’s fine, great idea. I do myself but immediately I take the central premise of what that person is about and then change everything else, sex, age, habits, name. Why? Because the character you know will always constrain if you don’t give you them a new lease of life. Plus what will that person think when they read the story? For me this is a rule I won’t break. People you meet and know are great ideas for characters but the only characters in your stories should be ones you created in your head.
There maybe different rules for working with historic characters, but as I’ve never tried that genre I might leave others to witter about that.

Writing in first person

Many writers love writing in the first person. And I do occasionally as it really allows you to develop a point of view. But you will have to think about how you portray your character to the reader and how much of yourself sneaks in. Readers often believe the person writing to be themselves when reading stories in the first person. Sometimes it’s fun to play with that idea. Take your character to another extreme and see what readers suddenly make of the head they’re in.

How to build a character?

In my book, A Very English Revolution, the characters came before the story. One of the central characters Rachel however was hatched from another character. The political part of the story started was based on the idea of an experienced middle aged business woman (Anna) who was fed up of the world of politics and decides to take it on herself. That gave me a good start but I quickly came up with a Cinderella character to her. A faithful assistant who made everything Anna do come to life. That was Rachel. As I thought about Rachel, younger, faithful to her boss, determined but not ambitious, she became more interesting. I then gave her a backstory, even gave her an alter-ego as a folk singer, then a book and now a sequel that centre’s largely on her personality.

Do characters need a passion?

The character Rachel, above, I gave passion. With one or two others, she was the inspiring, determined type of character needed to build a thriller. But a further character Sarah, who also features throughout the story, in a supporting role, has little passion. She is frustrated with life and home, but finds her way into the story when faced with a family trauma. Her cynicism with life and truth is what provides the question that the book fights to answer. For all her apparent weakness throughout the story, especially against forthright characters like Rachel, she probably ends the stronger.

Characters need to be fed

I don’t mean a virtual steak and chips, I mean they need to be challenged. They need to be put against the wall and every bit of anger, passion, dread, fear squeezed out of them. If you don’t challenge your character, feed them great lines and make them do things, where is your story? If you wimp out of writing the difficult lines for your character, glossing over the juicy bits, your reader will not be challenged either and therefore will skip to page 300 to find out what the end is, and miss the dulls stuff out.

The extra dimension

Every character needs another dimension. There is usually one that serves the story. E.G. For a female character to fall in love for a love story, she has to be willing to fall in love and you build a story that places in her that spot. Then you might add some personal baggage that creates a problem or challenge. Great, that all serves the story, but find something else. Smoking habit, nervous habit, a shopping habit, an element that perhaps conflicts with the other aspects of the character. This is what will give them life.

Dodge the Cliché

Tricky to do but one we have to do. Most things have already been done, so don’t go searching for a character in other books to see if it already exists. It’s a check against infinity so pointless. In crime for example there are so many heavy drinking policemen with marital difficulties. Seeking a variation of that norm may not be worth it as people almost expect it. A policeman with a normal life might be quite boring, but seek something that makes them different without going too weird. That’s why it’s important that characters are created in your own head and own voice. That will give them a unique flavour anyway. And if it sounds familiar to you then it probably does to the reader. You then have a choice to go with the cliché (e.g. the policeman example above) with a variation or trash the dimension that provides the cliché and start again.

Lots to ponder over in the notes above. I would love to learn how others take on the idea of a character and maybe even more techniques for dodging the cliché. Pretty sure there are far better character builders than me.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Marketing, Luck or Good Judgement

I’ve been pushing my book down various avenues in the last few months and overall been quite disappointed with the results. Everything in life is a learning curve and it does take a while to see what gets results and what doesn’t.
Here are some of the things that have brought success and what hasn’t.
1)      Book Signings – This was tricky at first but now worked out the secret to getting this right. First thing I’ve learnt is that book stores like to do signings whether you’re known or not. This is because it gives the store something to focus on for a day and generate interest. So don’t be shy about going down to any store and asking. I would be surprised if they turn you away. Also on the day make sure you have something to give people to provide information. A leaflet or even some sweets or chocolates. Anything to generate interest and get people talking. People are often shy of approaching an author therefore finding a way of getting the conversation going is essential to sealing the deal.
2)      Facebook Advertising – This is an interesting but ultimately tricky task. I tried a few different ways. The key to it is identifying target groups, like people who like reading. Well firstly that’s all well and good if people indicate on their facebook page that they like reading. Some do but probably there are many readers out there who don’t. Having said that you don’t pay for how often your ad appears but how often people click on it. I found more success out of targeting local markets rather likes/dislikes. The other trick is that people might click on your page but it doesn’t mean they will click on to buy. Whatever you direct them to, make sure how to buy and what you are selling is clear, otherwise they will disappear before you know it.
3)      Google Adwords – A bit like facebook advertising but even more of a minefield of targeting the right market place. I tried to get my kindle marketing going with this because I dropped the price to £2 to generate more interest but haven’t yet found the combination that really works. Genre specific headings or book writing in general can result on many clicks, but still not people buying. I know others have had much more success in the e-book market and I need to spend more time on this and how they did it.
4)      Print Media – This is the golden calf of advertising but difficult to achieve. After a few challenges with my local newspaper, which had little to do with me, they have finally got round to printing a story on me. I’m hoping for some success from this, but really want to get more regional papers to take an interest. I have tried sending books directly to them but so far I’ve been ignored. I will keep trying.
5)      Blogging and social media- This is very time consuming and intensive. It’s very difficult to keep the momentum on this one but I think I’ve some more ways to do it but it doesn’t mean that everyone chooses to read what you have to say.
Interested to know others success/failure stories with marketing. It’s a very big and scary world out there but do believe who people know who you are and they like you, then they will buy your book.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Closed Shop

Recently I stepped above my permitted level in the literary world and requested to join the CWA. The Crime Writers Association is an association for people who write about crime. I figured it would be useful to share thoughts with my fellow genre writers. A £50 membership fee was requested for which I was prepared to pay to place myself in the world of fellow crime writers, given that I had now a properly published a novel with crime written into the genre.

I made a polite enquiry for which a polite rejection was quickly received. They had checked up on me and decided in their wisdom, that as I had contributed to the cost of my own publishing, I was not worthy of membership. I thought about swearing at this point. To be honest I thought about swearing a lot. What a bunch of elitist…fill in the blanks.

Are they really that scared of small publishers or even self publishers who can’t make their way in the mainstream market because God forbid, it’s more competition. There are millions of new writers in the market place, to be fair some are better than others, but the level of competition for a decent story to tell is impossible without a previous history within the closed shop of the literary clique.

Now I clearly might be burning my bridges with said CWA for the future, but what the fuck, they have already declared their colours. New talent is the way of the world, it’s what makes things fresh and challenges each of us to do better at what we do. If these closed shops insist on existing, they will die out like the dinosaurs they are. Books may decrease in value, the reward for writing may be less and less as production increases, but surely more books in the world is a good thing. More people reading and expressing their thoughts in literature. The music industry is learning from it, time for the writing industry to do the same.

Revenge will be mine, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Offensive Writing

Many of us when choosing to write will have an axe to grind, whether something that brews in the moment or is a long held belief. I wondered when writing my novel and throughout my other work who I would choose to offend and whether it was right that I offended them. Who therefore is a legitimate target?
This may seem like a simple discussion but I don’t think it is. For a start if you seek to maximise your audience you better be careful you don’t upset your reader. On the other hand we are encouraged to brave and fearless and write what we like, write about what vexes us. Oh the freedom. Say what you want to. Easy to say, less easy to do and be prepared that your honesty may not be rewarded. For as many people who might agree with you, there are many that will turn away from it.
Personally I think there is a middle ground where you can still be brave but avoid all out attacks on individuals. I have tried to do this by challenging myself to sit on the other side of the fence for a moment. Easy to express an opinion about somebody or something. Have a rant…story over.
What about writing from the opposite point of view? Put yourself in the shoes of those who trouble you and see why they do the things they do. Balance your argument against theirs. You can still be the winner but at least you challenged yourself and maybe you challenged the person on the other side. Your argument will be so much stronger with the reader because you explored the controversy and came to a conclusion that was fair.
So where do my bad guys fall? Well I definitely put them on the opposite side of the fence, but sometimes you can put them on your side. They may share your argument but they seek to exploit the argument for their own gains. Politicians and rich exploitative business men are easy targets for this as we struggle to understand apparent greed. Naturally that is another argument to explore.
The outcome of this ramble is that as a writer, perhaps it’s more fun for you and your readers to jump over the other side and see what the view looks like. It can be quite therapeutic and lead to a powerful story.
© S.G.Norris

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Lies, misconceptions and writers

Can a writer lie to the reader? This was a question rattling round in my brain the last few days. Not sure why it crossed my mind but it intrigued me anyway. Clearly most stories attempt to deceive the reader into believing one thing then springing a surprise on them. But most of the time, at least that I can remember, this is only a sleight of hand. The reader is left with the feeling that they should have known this all along, if they had read the clues correctly. Indeed a writer has to leave clues both to deceive and hint that something is not right and the readers challenge is to guess which one is right or wrong.
A writer clearly can lie to his characters in the story but the reader often is complicit in this lie. This is because they know the characters reason for the lie and accept that as part of the story. It is also true that the reader isn’t necessarily aware of the character’s lie until the end of the story but again that is accepted by the reader, as they know some characters by their nature will be lying in the story.
No my question is not about lying to other characters but lying to the reader directly. This might be a rubbish example but it’s one that comes to mind. The writer tells you the reader that the year is 1968 and the day is Tuesday. Or perhaps they are 70 years old but tell you that they are only 50. Through the course of the story the truth may be revealed for whatever reason either through a direct revelation or just in the space of time.  I wonder whether this would annoy me. Going back to the first point, a writer would often build a view of a character or place that may mislead you but would never actually state an incorrect lie. Another example maybe a murderer who the author writes in the first person clearly states didn’t commit the crime, but is later revealed to be a murderer. That of course maybe a clumsy mistake but if the writer deliberately did it, he would have to be very clever about justifying it. Claiming the character believed it of himself might get you so far but as a reader you may not forgive it. The famous Dallas lie of Bobby Ewing appearing from the shower after being dead for a series was roundly trounced by the audience even though everyone mourned his original omission.
Throughout this debate I am trying to think of an example where the writer could or has got away with it. Remember misconception is one thing, but an outright lie is another. Anyone know a story where a writer successfully carried this off?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The world changes again

As gunfire rings round the squares of Tripoli, you can also hear the chink of glasses in Downing Street and few wiped brows. This was a close one.

Whether there was more secret support of the Libyan rebels which has gone unnoticed by the media or not, it doesn't matter anymore, within the next few days they will have their man and it will have all been worth it. Running wars is probably never a good thing and probably necessary on occasion to get rid of people like Gaddafi and maybe this was the right time politically and all that.

I think back slapping might be worth holding back on. Gaddafi like Saddam was the devil we knew, but do we know what a new devil will look like. I'm not sure we do, western style democracy in North Africa may still be kept far from the door whilst a new leader insists on getting public order in place with the rifle and brutality.

Good luck to the Libyan people, they deserve a better world, I might be an old cynic but I'm not yet convinced they will get one

Working with the Truth

One of the challenges of being an author is working with real events.

Unless you are writing a blog or journalistic piece it is hard to find the balance between truth and fiction.

The riots, phone hacking, Norwegian mad man, twitterati are all prime material for writing. Writers have a real opportunity to challenge and use the themes presented by these events but cant just rehash old stories. Otherwise it's either not original, uninteresting or in the worst case, you end up misusing peoples names and find yourself in court. A tricky challenge, and politics is worse because many of the names are of the household variety

A good example of this is Robert Harris in The Ghost. How to write a book so clearly based on Tony Blair but not mention his name. This is the skill of an author who wants to reflect world events, as we can't pretend they don't exist but rework any ideas into a history that exists only within your book.

I am looking at writing my next book in the world of coalition and post labour government, but how to do that without mentioning the name Cameron or the current incumbents. Perhaps it is simply to change the names but replay some of the events. That feels a little weak. I am minded back to the West wing which wrote for 8 years in a fictional White House. It simply created it's own world without ever feeling that it wasn't a real one, bar knowing that it was just a TV program.

I pick a time period to go back where I can mention true facts and then bring them forward to the books timeline with an artificial history. Once you've gone down the road of fiction you can't then mention the real events. E.G. it would be wrong to mention phone hacking whilst talking of a government that isn't David Cameron. Because it so clearly is interlinked in media history changing one part of it would distort what happened and leave the author vulnerable to accusations. Better to just pretend it didn't exist but use the themes to recreate an alternative scenario with a fictional newspaper and government.

In fact I would avoid mention of any real name in recent history unless it is an accepted fact (e.g. Gordon Brown was prime-minster) or can't be avoided in a story line (you are writing a story around the last days of Labour). There are times when you might want to do it, but always think twice.

Another interesting challenge would be to write a story about a survivor of the Norway shootings. In this case you could mention the event and create a fictional survivor as so little is known about the survivors on a personal level at least in the day to day media world. It would be a great story to make up but one where you have to remain sympathetic to the relatives and true survivors of that terrible day. It would be dangerous to exploit their memory for your indulgence, but at the same time, they say so much about modern life and writers want to reflect that.

I think the author in the world of fiction can do what he likes, but to avoid being accused of copying real life or exploiting very raw tragedy, the best way is to re-imagine events in a completely fictional world.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Time Move's on

Time has been flying by so quickly. I've no idea what happened to June.

Over the last few weeks, I've set up a brand new Writing Site, check out www.writerscave.co.uk
This is great on a personal level for my own writing improvement but also for publishing my name and my writing, plus getting the odd plug out for AVER.

Written a number of short stories and flung them into a number of short story competitions. Whilst I can see the undeniable improvement in my own writing skills, it has returned my any glorious wins. I was hoping for a few credits in the bank to confirm my more confident status but will have to rely on my self for that one it seems for now.

Looking for more opportunities to plug the book out there. Facebook advertising has resulted in a few new connections but little in the way of sales. Suggestions welcome, a place where people would connect to a book online.

Keep plugging away - the right move will come

Monday, 30 May 2011

Back on Line

Been a couple of months since I managed to get this blog turning over.

Well how I filled this vacuum of time?

1) Spent most of it re-editing A Very English Revolution - the old was full of mistakes and I'm especially pleased to know that in the next couple of days it will be out there in perfect form with a little(well lot of) help from friends.

2) Re-energised the art of short story writing with some new ideas. Really pleased with the result and entered some competitions. Not expecting to win as such but happy to be getting some good stuff out there.

Checkout www.sgnorris.co.uk for some examples, Black and White Town, The Phone Number.

3) Learning how difficult publishing and marketing can be. This was always going to be a learning curve but didnt realise how steep. Lots learnt though and I am armed and ready for the next attempt.

So over the new weeks should be a lot more on here.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Book Signing - The Inside Story

The book signing - the first opportunity to engage with the public.

Well this was a learning experience, which was one of the reasons for choosing York, so I could see how it works before I start on Leeds, my target market for the AVER.

So how did it go?

Stood in the corner of the doorway was an excellent place to greet the arriving public as they walked through the entrance. It was also a prime position to see them walk on by, avoiding your glances at all costs. Now I remembered why I never wanted to do a sales job. Should I harass, should I stay quiet, or should I stand like a smiling geek until someone feels sorry for me?

Finally some friends arrived to rescue me and my wife and make us feel loved. In the end, the store informed that 5 books was good, and I suspect I sold more books than anyone else in WHSmiths that afternoon.

A good experience but what are the learnings.

1) People like to browse books, before they buy, so an opportunity to browse the book without having a desperate author breathe down your neck may have helped with interest.
2) Go for places where books are sold, sounds simple but the entrance to a store which sells many things other than books, means lots of people can easily ignore you, its not what they came for.
3) Don't park your signing table in front of Vampire books and kiddie books, it was a bit confusing at first why all the kids were trying to stare at us, when they were looking at the 3 for 2 offer on Vampires
4) in addition to point one, have some book information for people to see what the book is about. Also would greatly help if the store announced your presence over the tannoy, to give the public some idea of what you are here for and whether they might be interested.

Next time I see a poor author in a store trying to do a signing with a no-mans land empty space around his desk, I shall step inside and engage in conversation. Might even just buy a book in support of my fellow struggling author

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Book Signing

The first book signing is booked for 19th March 2011.

It will be in WHSmiths in York who were the first to take advantage of my availability. The manager chap could have turned me down as he had no obligation to allow a story not specifically about York to be promoted in his store, but given he didn't have writers knocking his door down, I think he saw a good opportunity for his store. Not because he believes I will bring the masses to the store but it still makes him look good.

Produced some posters today which I will drop in to the store tomorrow.

Also emailed the Yorkshire Post in an attempt to gain some publicity. This is the time when I will find out if the world outside my friends and family are interested in AVER, or whether it will remain in obscurity.

The worries over the typing errors in the book still remain, but decided to be upfront and honest about it. No point in pretending they don't exist, but I will promote the story and hope that people buy into that, knowing the production wasn't the same as a mass market paperback.

Looking forward to the opportunity to publicise the book now and really gauge the interest of the book buying public

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The First Week

The exciting news of the week has been all about people rolling up to buy the book on Amazon, and those that didn't know about it before congratulating me on the book and wishing me luck.

I am always grateful for the purchases and the wishes.

I pick the book up daily and try to imagine the endless of hours of work it took to put it together, and wonder how I kept up the effort to keep it all going. Hard to imagine now as I contemplate the same again in the next one. The truth of it is, because I'd never written a book before, I never knew what it would take to finish it. Now I know....

So I have picked it up and spot read pages, especially on the tube, shamelessly trying to show it off.

Nightmare is, I have found typing errors, small ones, but errors all the same, and I dare say any body who will get hold of it will comment on that. I have to take that on the chin, my book, my responsibility. Another round of proof-reading clearly would have tidied those bits and pieces up, but these are the problems with independent publishing without access to large support organisations to do this work. So my hope is that despite these glitches readers will enjoy the story enough that they will just ignore it. I never promised perfect literature, just a good story.

Everyone who has read this book has loved it and loved the characters, that is what I will take pride in more than anything else, and thats why I will keep on promoting it positively.

Getting on to Waterstone's this week with a view to arranging book signings and the next round of promotion.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Its real now

25 Books landed on my doorstep this morning.

Undescribable to actually see the book in paper form. It seems very real now.

Amazon have posted it so can be bought and ordered by anyone who wants it. Time to go out and tell people about it. So far friends and family have picked it up, the real challenge is taking to strangers and hoping that feel the same about it.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Campaign Launch

Now the book had appeared in ebook form, this means it is out there.

Sales are starting to happen :)

So time to start providing the information to support and let people know what's happening.

Launched the new website www.sgnorris.co.uk and faceebook page.

More details to add but time is at a premium at the moment as is a decent internet conneection

More to follow as the mist clears

Sunday, 13 February 2011

All Systems Go - 14 March Approaches

Agreed the final launch date with the Publishers, 14 March 2011. Champagne on Ice.

All fees and terms agreed. Approved the final content.

Very excited that the book will be in my hand very soon.

Now to get the website and the marketing together and the legwork.

I went to Waterstones near home and discussed a book signing. Great news they will allow me to do it but I have to stock the books as its print on demand. Still it will be my opportunity to sell it and generate interest.

Very excited

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Draft Cover

Received the Final Draft of the Cover today. Looking really good night.

Just a bit of touching up to do and we are ready to go to print

Cover Draft

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Proof Reading Done - Time to let it go

The final version has been completed. Nervous as hell about it.
One or 2 things to check but I think the changes I have made in this last traunch will do it. Should have the book in my hand in 2-3 weeks. The good thing is that in the re-reading there were things that maybe could have been done differently but mostly the story has enough movement to forgive the odd blemish. Any typos will be the worst to stomach.

The 2nd draft of the cover I discussed over the phone with the publisher and we are now in agreement. Too aggressive and masculine cover so far. I want this book to attract as many women readers as men. Also the added byline likened me to the new John Grisham, and I'm not comfortable with that comparison. I appreciate them trying to think big but I'm sorry, best will in the world, it ain't me, it aint close to the story and I need to have some credibility in this process. So we are working on a better comparison as we agree something to compare too will help sales.

Should have the final package for review next week. I will post on here.

Now the marketing campaign begins.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Got a Publisher for my book - What Happens Next

Weeks and Weeks of letters and submissions, tarting up CV's, wondering how many different ways to say that you are worthy of their interest. And eventually someone says yes. Great

Cue dancing in the street, hey resign from work, new life house in the country, sat pondering the my next masterpiece from my ivory tower.


Now the hard bit starts and this blog is the realisation of what the hard bit entails. My publisher advised me to start a blog as a way to engage with my customers, as thats one of those key relationships needed for the publishing business, someone needs to buy it. In that way a publisher will only print a book they think they sell, they are few that make it through the door because of their litery prowess or have a shiny cover. They want a package they can sell. That includes the author. The author is part of the package and has to put him/herself out there with a big For Sale sign. It maybe a fairly undignified process but that is something to face up to.

So I will run this blog along side a more public one to start that process up to a launch date. So who was it gave me the deal and what does it mean.

Mirador Publisher are a partnership publisher. The deal with them is all about working together to maximise the potential of the book. They want authors who not only have a fresh and interesting story, but like the independant music business are looking for innovate ways to get their work into the market place. It is a small company which gives them the flexibility to adapt to different campaigns. They ask for a contribution to the publishing costs and they ask for you to get your book edited and perfected yourself, this is to ensure you have ownership of the book and are bought into the objective which is shifting units. They will the publish to order and prepare a marketing plan, plus do all the basic admin required to get it listed. They also will produce a cover.

Mirador are extremely selective about the kind of authors they want, essentially this is not just about the book, but whether you understand the relationship with the publisher. If you do pitch to them, then I advise you to make a big play of this.
Mainstream publishers may operate differently but as getting a new author through that kind of door is almost impossible without endorsement, then this is the way of the world.

Tasks on Day 1

1) Book Proofs - Your book is given back to you in the printed format. Now time to check for all those errors that you missed. Your responsibility as it is your book. Get this wrong and forever fear that typo appearing on the shelf of the bookshop. No pressure then.

2) Draft cover - Covers as everyone knows is one of the key things to get right. It gets you attention but is it the right attention. The first draft is not what I expected, so have to feedback my own views on what I want.

3) Marketing - Start to build a profile, website, internet presence. If people are going to buy this book they need to know its coming. So prepare some words about yourself, the book, why you wrote it, what is about, why buy it, why is the best thing on the shelves. Who do you know in the media who might pick it up to review. How do you find those contacts. What can you do that the publisher can't do. Fortunately my book which is centured around Leeds means that I can target local media who may pick this up as interest to their public.

4) Do a blog - done that :)

5) Annoy everyone and anyone you know about your launch date. This is your moment and no time to be shy.

As the days go on, I will update on here how things go.

Comments and questions welcome