Welcome to my Writers Blog

Feel free to read, comment, argue or complain. I would prefer complaints to be amusing rather than trivial.
Ideally you would like to read more, buy my book, ask for help, maybe commission me to write (I can dream). Email me at norristeve@gmail.com - I would love to hear from you. Otherwise just click the social network tabs, so more people get to enjoy.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sitting on the Fence

I wonder whether I’ve sat on the fence too long. I have tried to write books with reasoned arguments, with characters displaying passionate arguments for their point of view then fighting it out to the death to see who’s right. Yes it wouldn’t take long for the reader to work out where the author’s sympathies lay even though every character gets a chance to offer a reasoned defence.

That’s all well and good, I guess the book is called A Hierarchy of Reason and what’s that title worth if it is not exploring reasoned arguments for the things we do. My question is more specific than that. I look at some of the bloggers and political activists that litter the news and wonder whether I’m actually being soft. Like supporting your football team. Are you a shirt wearing, no-holds barred, fan who is convinced beyond doubt that your team is the absolute best and every other team is not worthy to be who they are. Or, as I’ve always been, liked my team but rather enjoyed watching certain others, retaining any denegration purely for current rivals. For instance I always hated Arsenal when I thought they could get the Title off Man Utd, but now I know they are unlikely to in the near future, I can appreciate watching them.

So it has become clear that I’m not a heart of my sleeve type of person. I like exploring viewpoints but won’t nail my colours to the mast. So what am I scared off? To return to the football analogy it’s because I was scared of getting a bloody nose, especially living on the wrong side of the Pennines these days for my football origins. I also think I’ve been scared of upsetting people. That goes to right to the depths of it. In writing terms it would suggest maximising your audience, something for everyone kind of thing, but am I failing myself by doing this.

The great writers were known for their ability to write with passion about a subject. They had a sense of their own righteousness and flogged it to the rest of the world whether they wanted to hear it or not. By reasoning your theoretical enemies perhaps you give them more credit than they deserve. If you think something is wrong, it’s wrong! You can listen to mitigation but you don’t have to be an independent judge. You’re a writer, the only opinion in your story that counts is your own. Of course this is high risk. A proportion of your audience will not appreciate it, but maybe you will be more respected in the literary world for your passion and defiance in your writing. The worst example for me of this was a strong catholic enjoying A Very English Revolution, my first book. The truth is, it was meant to be uncomfortable reading for a Catholic, not to be enjoyed but endured (maybe there was a little Christian kindness/politeness being offered in her response). By allowing my Catholic bad guy a forum for his individuality and separating him from his brethren I had let the enemy of the hook.
So it really is time to get off the fence.
Passion requires a clarity of viewpoint… but then isn’t it good to listen and learn. Make your mind up….

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Writing and the Real World

The question begs from my recent blogging absence, am I a writer or someone who plays at it whilst doing a proper job? A proper job in this case meaning something that whilst having its moments of interest, largely features in the means-to-an-end category. I do it because I have to.
So what does that do to writing? In the last few months, pretty much killed it stone-dead. I have written a few words but hardly anything of consequence. It saddens me a little, but probably not as much as you might think. Yes I have these big macho targets that I will write this and I will write that and in a year’s time, I can give up work and sell a million copies…. And yes I am still dreaming.
Writers, like every other dreamer, do live in the real world, at least for the moments when they are not exploring their odd fantasies on the page. Full time writers, except those living in the sales stratosphere or sitting on some other privileged pot of money still have a job of work to do. Everyone has to pimp and negotiate their way round the next pay cheque, much of it at the bidding of publisher with massive sales target expectations.
We all need to earn money to eat, including publishing sales directors. How much largely depends on how expensive your tastes are or how many dependents with expensive tastes you’ve created along the way.
It’s probable I have expensive tastes and possibly there are others around me drawing on that fund in some way. Therefore I have to earn money to cover that cost. The fact of life! The most effective way to do that is the day job and consequently the balance of writing time is lowered in proportion to it. Sad though might seem that way, it really isn’t. This isn’t a plea for sympathy but an acceptance of the choices you make. I could be the full time writer and make a business of flogging my wares round every shop in the country eeking out a living from random sales. No more day job, I could be the frugal artist. But I choose not to be because this is my getting away with it balance. Writing therefore is my indulgence, my passion but not my job. I do it when I can and I hopefully enjoy that indulgence and get to walkaway whenever it gets too hard or other things are more fun.
So yes I would like to write more and to achieve things in the literary world, but only when the time is right.
For the moment I will enjoy my job, smile at the hassle as it batters me with each day, and then indulge in the continuation of expensive tastes. I can finish the book tomorrow.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Hierarchy of Reason - Launch Party

I will be launching A Hierarchy of Reason at a new PopUp Events store in Brick Lane area of London.


                                                     28 Cheshire Street, E2, London
                                                          18 August 2012 14:00 

If you are in London that day please join us

Store and other event Details http://popupevents.co.uk/signature-events/ 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Book Store Opportunity for UK Authors

I'm working with a friend anna@popupevents.co.uk  to put 15 independent British Authors in a new popup store in Brick Lane area of London. Anna is setting up the store for up and coming designers. 
The shop is on Cheshire Street, just off Brick Lane, opening on the 15th of August (although the launch party is likely to happen a week later, simply too many things to organise at once).
There will be a mix of design products, including fashion, accessories, jewellery, prints, photography, home ware and interior design. In terms of books I would like to create a shelf dedicated to new British writers and have between 3 and 5 titles there each month. The shop will stay open for 3 months so there will be an opportunity for max 15 writers to get involved.
 In order to create interest Anna is giving authors a special deal (only for writers though), £87 per calendar month (£20 per week) per title. She's not VAT registered yet so won’t add VAT on top of this. Please note there is a charge 10% commission from sales to cover the cost of card terminals and transactions. You are welcome to bring in as many copies as you’d like as I have a large basement for extra stock.
This is a great opportunity at not a lot of money to put your books in a store and get exposure to a captive market.
If you are interested and want to get involved please contact myself norristeve@gmail.com or anna@popupevents.co.uk 


Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Hierarchy of Reason – A Hierarchy of Learning

As the second novel makes it to print the question arises whether this is better or worse than the first.
It’s easy to believe that the first novel, A Very English Reason, packed with storylines, packed with agendas and long thought through characters cannot be repeated. All my ideas packed into one story.
The thing you learn about writing though, is that whilst themes can be common and reused, good characters and stories create their own histories. It is therefore the case the more you write, the more stories you have to tell. One book leads to another and the need to over cram story lines dissipates. You know you can write, all you need to do is write better.
A Hierarchy of Reason is the result of knowing the process of writing a book and getting to the end will happen as long as you keep writing. This gives me the confidence to think more about what I want to achieve and how the characters live, because the book will take care of itself.
Writing like any process works better with practice. Will the next book always be a better book? I don’t always think that is the case but I think every book will have something you learnt from the last one and should mean that you apply it to producing a better product.
Looking forward to seeing A Hierarchy of Reason in the hands of readers and hearing whether they think what I do, that whilst A Very English Revolution is a good read. This one is better.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Sequels – Do I have to read the first one?

This is a challenge for any author particularly for a new one penning their first set of stories. Think about it, you’ve done well, banged out a reasonably successful first tale. Got some credit, a fan base that will hopefully pick up your sequel but you need to grow. The second book in an ideal world will sell more than the first book. More people know who you are, you have some reviews and credibility in the market and an author with two books is not a one hit wonder.
But your book is a sequel or the second in a series or like me you want to portray it as a new story using the same characters. This makes your target readership somewhat split. You will have seen it many times with authors of substantial series. One part of them wants to play to the fan base, hinting back to in-jokes or mentioning a key element of a previous story in order to remind the reader of what fun they had in the last one, perhaps demonstrating how far a character had developed since the first story. The other part for the author, especially true of new authors, you want new readers to pick this book up and when they ask, do I have to read the first one?, you can quite categorically need to say…NO.
Think of it like a football match or rugby or any other repetitive game. The same players start the game but you don’t have to have been at the previous game to enjoy the match. You can watch it and enjoy the ninety minutes without knowing that the No 7 got sent off three weeks ago, or that the striker is top scorer this season. It helps to understand the characters and the back story, but the real essential is that you start with a fresh story and that story plays out within the time period of the game, hopefully leaving a little something that will bring the punter back through the turnstiles next time.
There are some clear contradictions in managing your fans move to the new game. Assuming people enjoyed your first outing, let’s look at the pleasing the repeat fans first
·         Characters – So we already know that Rachel is 35 and used to be in a folk band and had a boyfriend who betrayed her and she nearly died at the end. So the repeat fan might want you to jog their memory a little but will quickly realise that they know stuff and will start skimming through repeat detail. We would like our readers not to be skimming.
·         Continuing story lines – so at the end of the previous book we left a cliff hanger, we blew up the Town Hall and we need to know who survived. So yes we need to mention the old story line and connect the two books up, but we must avoid at all costs retelling the old story. The old reader has read it already and again will start skimming.
·         In jokes and character development – We want our repeat customers to feel loved, feel like they are part of the character journey. These are the things that long term successful series writers do brilliantly. Their fans want to read the whole series because the players become the story more than the game they are playing. They want the soap-opera and to feel like they were there from the beginning, so that means giving them something to chew on. If Joe and Sarah got it together in book one, we want to know how it went, we want to refer back to their first night of passion and the strains they went through.
How does this conflict with the new fan.
·         Characters – The new fan doesn’t know on page 1 that Rachel is 35 and used to be in folk band and had a boyfriend who betrayed her and nearly died at the end. As some of this information may be key to your character portrayal you will need to find a way to inform your new reader without boring the old one. The key to this is remembering how dull back story can be to read. So golden rule here is tell as little as you can get away with doing. For example in this case we can easily slip in an age note and hint at the music credibility, but summarise the boyfriend story with a brief note on her bad history with men. Job done.
·         Continuing story line – Very tricky to manage. This is the real element of, Do I have to have read the first one? We would like even our new readers to know there is an on-going story and to a certain extent it might be an opportunity to hint at what a great story it was and perhaps the reader should go back and read it, but not at the expense of the book they have in their hand. My suggestion is to bring it back in stages. Write the old story into the new with snippets of detail. So with the Town Hall blowing up, we don’t really need to know why but we could mention that Sarah is anxious about loud noises or that Lucy got out of prison early given she was banged to rights at the end of the last one. Back story again is boring, so only tell what you have to make the story work in the now.
·         In-jokes and character development – This will probably go over the head of a new reader because they won’t be able to distinguish between something that was in the first story or just a friendly bit of detail you are adding in. That’s a good thing, but you don’t want too much going over the head of a new reader. They want to quickly feel part of your new world not feel like they are missing out on something. My advice on this is that your first instinct is to not do it. The fact that Joe and Sarah had a fun first night together is kind of good in the moment of the first story, or that Rachel hasn’t got over Alex’s death. Like sometimes with a joke…you had to be there. There are occasions, with a bit of skill, we can reference old occurrences/characters but be careful of the back story rule. Mostly put yourself in the shoes of the new reader and think Do they really need to know this? If the answer is no, then perhaps its best left in book one.

In summary, the common element for both fan bases is, back story is dull, but then you can’t deny the previous story exists. So whenever you come across a need to reference the old story, keep asking yourself the question, Do I need to have read the first book? and this will hopefully encourage you to deal with it in the best way.

© S.G.Norris

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A Year On

This time last year I was celebrating seeing my first book in print. It was an amazing and scary moment. A time for realising a dream but scared that it will fall in a mass of disappointment.
It’s fair to say that being an independent author is not going to make you rich. But we know that already, but it is worth exploring what I did get out of it.
Well definitely a sense of pride that you have something of value and record out in the market place. That a stranger picks up your piece of art and takes a gamble on it.
That’s the exciting part on a simple one to one relationship with the reader.
The more disappointing angle is that for 99% of the book buying people either will never see your work or will trundle on by on the basis that you’re unproven and untried. Attracting attention is costly and time consuming and often with minimal reward. Certainly easy to be disheartened and to think it’s not worth the hassle. No matter how much faith you have in your work it’s impossible to convey that sometimes even with a bubbling enthusiasm and a ferocious sales patter.
I find it particularly uncomfortable attempting to force people to buy especially as you know if you were on the opposite side of the table, you would be pulling a face as well. People are curious about new authors, want to believe they are the next undiscovered treasure but loath to risk a purchase for fear of mediocrity. But then your creeping cynicism is undermined when someone listens, likes and buys. It doesn’t happen every day but it does happen if you keep at it.
There is little point denying it is tough so may as well just get one with accepting it. Selling books is hard work and especially paper copies when the e-book market is flooded with giveaways. At £1 a go risk is minimal at £8.99 it’s something akin to cutting off an arm.
Once you accept your position in the pecking order, it’s easier then to get on with enjoying the process rather than pressuring yourself into being a super sales man. So talk to people, talk to fellow authors. Other authors are not the enemy as they are struggling just as much as you. Share ideas, copy success and think radically. One thing I found was bigging up a fellow author results in them feeling obliged to big you up. Like a you scratch my back sort of arrangement.
A year on, I get to start the process with second book now in edit. I feel so much wiser now, confident but realistic, knowledgeable and most of all with a ready-made audience to exploit.
It’s exciting to get your first book out and I have to say realising you have done the second is even more astonishing. I feel at the next level. The pressure though still lives like a devil in the head. You have to do better than the first time. And if you are serious about the process then you are probably right. You have to do better otherwise you will fast see your career as going the way of an x-factor winner, here today, gone tomorrow.

Details of the new book to follow in the coming weeks.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The End - Finally

I can't quite believe it. One year in the writing of this story and I was finally able today to type the words THE END. It shouldn't have taken a year to write but if you work for a living then writing has to play second fiddle to life's priorities. But still a year is ok.
It's a remarkable feeling to finally grasp the end of the story. To know that the story has a beginning, middle and an end. That the idea you started out with, might have wobbled along the way, gone round a few odd corners and climbed a few unnecessary mountains, but it holds together.
Whilst weeks of editing and rewriting are ahead, the story and the characters remain sound, and because of that it will become a book, one way or another.
And what a story this will be.
Five Days of apocalyptic drama on the streets of England. The country held to ransom, characters forced to question who they really are as not only do they hold the answer to what's happening, if they don't face their fears then the consequences for the country are beyond comprehension. Those who read the first outing in A Very English Revolution will recognise some of the characters. That was just the beginning as Five Days pushes their passion, friendships and obsessions into an unprecedented nightmare.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Kindle Book Promotion - Authors involved

The following great authors are all working with me on promoting their e-books

Sarah Luddington and her book Lancelot and the Wolf
Jeannie Faulkner Barber - Scent of Double Deception
Steve Norris A Very English Revolution $2.40
Stacy Eaton My Blood Runs Blue $3.08
C.A. Lofton African-American Guide to Prosperity
George Stringfellow Renegades $3.33
Catherine Green Love Hurts $2.40
Matt.T.Schott $1.48
New Schedule is as follows. I have pushed out the days to give more prep time for some
Matt & Catherine 7th January
George & Steve 13th January
Jeannie & Sarah 17th January.
Stacy - 22nd January
C.A. Lofton 1 February to combine with Black History Month.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A Very English Revolution - Kindle Promotion

I wrote some time ago of the plan for marketing kindle books and how it’s possible by concentrating sales on a specific day you can rapidly push your work up the Amazon charts making it more visible to the general book buying public.

Via Authors.com I have conspired together with some fellow authors to run this promotion. On a fixed day each of us will buy a selected book and see the effect that has for the writer. This can be done for kindle books because they can be sold at a very cheap price. Even at low prices, increased sales can affect the market.

TODAY 13th January is my turn and I will be marketing A Very English Revolution at £1.50 or $2.40 on the enclosed link. If by any chance you haven’t got a kindle copy so far and would find this book interesting I would be grateful if you could offer some support for one day only and buy the book.

A magnificent Crime Thriller…A tale of Modern Britain…a thriller like no other

Why not take a chance on something new and different.
Independent Authors with good books to sell struggle to get their quality work to the market. Taking risks on e-books which are often priced well below their value is a brilliant way to help new work and you never know. You might find your new favourite author.

This is a great tool for Independent Authors, why not set up your group to do the same thing.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Five Days and More

New year, new beginnings, that’s what we all will be probably pondering over today.

I am looking back over the first year as a published writer and working my way up an enormous learning curve about this publishing business and how to get the best from your own writing.

Firstly I thank all those who stuck with me through the year. Mirador for putting my book on the shelves, my first buyers who took a chance on A Very English Revolution, my very great friends who helped me sort out the problems in the first edition and got the second edition feeling great, and my great friends at Writers Cave ( http://www.writerscave.co.uk/ ) who taught me so much, I couldn’t possibly convey it here. Also the other writing sites that helped me on my way Write and Share ( http://www.writeandshare.co.uk) Authors.com (http://www.authors.com/) with great people to learn from. Writing is a challenging business, writing well even more but the hardest part is having the confidence to get other people to take on your work. For that you need great friends working with and supporting you. I also am very grateful for my family and particularly my wife who tolerates me tapping away on the keyboard so much, or spending another Saturday afternoon walking round shopping centres whilst I sign books at the local store.

So for 2012, what can you look forward to.

Firstly the sequel to A Very English Revolution should be out. Almost finished the first write and ready to begin the painstaking editing process, which I now know from painful experience how to go about. Five Days will be a sequel in respect of the story but the pace and style will be two or three gears up on AVER. This is how the story has to work. Hopefully when I first test it out on readers they will grasp the pace and not put it down. But we’ll see.

Short story competitions abound and I have a competitive bone in me that keeps saying I have to write something of absolute quality and win one of these things. Perhaps I need some formal recognition that gives me the writer’s rubber stamp. I’m beginning to understand the formula for great writing, not that it guarantees a win but I want to bring that formula together with a story that fits me.

I will also have the day-to-day challenge of Writer's Cave which gives me an everyday reminder to write something and keep the quality bar hanging high, and just when you think you’ve reached it, the bar will move slightly higher.

So all the best for 2012 and I look forward to many more readers of my work.