Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On a More Serious Note...

I'm glad to inform you I have just been signed to the dynamic and forward-thinking Mulcahy Associates literary agency of London. I now have some serious editing to do on the latest novel, Hunter, before I become an instant billionaire and purchase the internet.

I have also opened a Facebook page, which can be spat upon HERE.

I now consider myself to be a serious author and shall therefore shun you all for the foreseeable future.

The Right Honourable ML Stewart
(World famous author and owner of France)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Sometimes Wonder...

...am I being too irreverent regarding this whole writing lark? Should I be divulging pearls of wisdom instead of taking the piss? Should this blog resemble the other 7.9 million out there, guiding you through the muddy minefield that is self-publishing and pounding away on a keyboard eight hours a day? Should I change my bio photograph to something a little more professional? Perhaps don a set of half-moon spectacles and look studious in front of bookshelves filled with Hilary Mantel novels and a carefully placed copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Or the side lit, menacing-in-a-dark-room look. You know the one, where a table lamp is placed to one side, effectively making the author look like a scary thriller writer (not to be confused with a writer of scary thrillers). 

Would my time be better spent rubbing spacebars with the literati who frequent the multitude of writers' forums, discussing the 'craft' and bragging about my latest book reaching the number one slot in Amazon's Japanese Origami for the Partially Disabled chart? After all, fifty forum friends equals fifty glowing reviews. And to quote the late, great Sebastian Horsley: "I like reviewing books because it makes me want to read them." The same man who famously mailed his own excrement to a critic. I could use said forums to showcase my literary genius:

Bookworm 1972 says: 

Wish this snow would bugger off.

CharlieP says:

Day off work tho. LOL

ML Stewart says:

Twas with a heavy heart I did peer through the misted windowpane this morn. The landscape beyond, whilst I slept, had been fashioned like dunes of sand; bleached white by a century of sun. A paradoxical notion when one realised the garden was, in fact, blanketed in benumbing snow. 

Bookworm 1972 says:

Fuck off!

Perhaps seriousness breeds seriousness. Maybe people would take me seriously if I wasn't so flippant, and used longer, more complicated words...like sycophant and incorrigible.

A serious-looking and therefore successful author.

I imagine the world of self-published authors to be a little like a food drop mission to a starving continent. A military transport airplane cruises high above the barren, dusty plains. Piloted by a publisher, the co-pilot a literary agent. Far below, a million hungry faces stare heavenwards in desperate hope. The cargo hold opens. A parachute unfurls and begins its graceful descent. 50,000 writers are crushed in the stampede. But one person is inevitably going to catch that falling Smartie. That person will have the longest arms, or the deft ability to knock every other bastard out of his way. 

Perhaps changing my writing environment will alter my way of thinking. Clear the empty wine bottles away. Empty one of the ashtrays. Begin smoking cigars instead of rolling baccy with a picture of a gangrenous foot on the packet, which doesn't actually put me off smoking, although, admittedly, I smoke in bare feet now - so I can administer health checks on a regular basis.

Maybe I should utilise my Twitter account to more purposeful ends. I could follow a couple of thousand authors, thus boosting my 'follow backs', and learn what everyone else eats for breakfast, or how bad their three-year-old's cough really is.

But then where does it stop? I'll just become a clone, and start writing acknowledgements at the start of my books, as though I'm one of those famous authors with all the bookshelves behind them: This book is dedicated to Great Aunt Jemima; from whom I stole £1000 to pay for the new laptop, and without whom, none of the crap you are about to read would have been possible. I'll run the risk of becoming one of the back-patting, jolly Kindle brigade...

The Pen is Mightier says:

Great news, friends. I just sold my first e-book in India.That's ten sales this year, and it's only December :)

Writing Addict says:

That's wonderful news, TPIM. Well done, old chap. You should include that in your bio: International author. Ooh! It may become a Bollywood movie. How exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! O/T how are your houseplants doing?

ML Stewart says: 

[This post was removed by the cuddly forum moderator for extreme use of profanities.]

Where the hell would it all stop? Would I end up buying an e-reader myself? A Kindle, or Kobo, or iPad thing. Jesus Christ! I might even start writing reviews. Can you imagine? Me! Reviewing other people's work. My God, it would be a disaster. Authors across the globe would be committing suicide. Killing their beloved pets and families before turning the gun on themselves. There would be Waterstones' Martyrs: Strapped with dynamite as they search the A to Z for their books and see its the only slot still full, not even thumbed through, not a dog ear in sight. 

The more I embitter myself by reading what's out there on the internet, the more I feel like the proverbial square peg and round hole. Call me a cynic, or a hater, I don't mind - a judge at the Old Bailey once called me much worse, but I think every angle of life needs someone like me. Albeit for a limited time.The three-legged dog that bites the postman's arse; or the crazy drunk on the street corner who directs traffic. 

And, therefore, I think I'll continue to take the piss until the postie whacks me with a rolled up newspaper, or I get hit by that oncoming bus.

Available soon from an author near you.
The Amazon #1 best seller in the Japanese Origami for the Partially Disabled chart. 
Priced at £0.04 for readers in India. 

Let me leave you with the best, worst review I have ever received. Obviously from someone with a Kindle...

fionafrog: 2 out of 5 - The Facebook Killer (Part 3)
I don't like it but had to finish it! 17 March 2013
Utterly grim but totally compelling. Not my sort of book at all and yet ... I simply had to read the final part. What on earth is wrong with me for getting into it in the first place. The things that happen in this book are revolting!! So why I had to read it, I don't know but I did.

The author has clearly tapped into a side of me I don't know myself - but I don't like me very much for being fascinated by it.

Over and out,

Disclaimer:ML Stewart acknowledges there are many talented and successful self-published authors in the world. He only takes the mick out of those who waste their time promoting their wares and bum-chumming instead of writing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How too RIGHT a proper bo0K !

The internet is awash with advice, instruction and "rules" about writing books. Much of it adhered to by many aspiring writers, all of it ignored by myself.

In the following waste of your time, I will offer some tips and an insight into the way I, myself, write. And as some of you, who are so desperate for entertainment that you read this blog on a regular basis, will know, I've sold one or two books over the past eighteen months (unlike some of the advice-givers out there).

1- You will need (in no particular order)
a) A brain.
b) An imagination to go with the above.
c) A pair of working lungs and a pulse.
d) Some form of contraption with which to write. I, personally, use a folding computer with buttons.
e) Lots of spare time. This phrase is in the past tense because when you begin writing, the 'spare' part disappears.

Okay, so you've checked every item off the above list. If you only have one working lung, this should not inhibit your writing ability, so don't let that put you off. Although certain amputations may be a hindrance to your end goal.

 Next, you will require a story. Many people in the fabled land of Amazonia will tell you to plan out your storyline in meticulous detail, planning each chapter before you even begin writing. They suggest 'character sketches' so you know exactly what your heroes and villains smell like, and what colour underwear they don on any given day. Hmmm...bollocks. In my humble opinion this is a surefire way to end up with cardboard characters, unflinching and reacting strangely to situations as they arise. A character writes the story alongside you. Their moods change, even their opinions, as the story progresses and fills out. So to have a rigid preconception of every character is a no-no. Okay, let's say Mr X is tall, muscular, with black hair and a missing ear, but that's where I leave it. I know, roughly, the part he plays in the whole affair and I want him to tell his story, to evolve throughout each scene and glass of red wine.

There must be a beginning, middle, and end: Fair enough. I suppose there has to be, but I tend not to know the middle part. Sometimes the end isn't exactly clear, either. In fact, I usually don't even know where to fucking start! Each book I write begins with an idea. A vague notion of ... let's say: "A man's wife and daughter are murdered. The killer gets off. Man wants revenge. Uses social media to hunt down killer's friends and family." And that's it! So what I do is put pen to paper, fingertip to button. I know the story starts with the protagonist's family being murdered, so let's get on with that. After all, there's probably a week's worth of writing there alone. As I write, I think. I see the characters taking on their own form and personalities, and this influences the next set of events, and so on and so forth. I once tried to plan a book chapter by chapter, but it went arse up after chapter 1. So I returned to the organic method of writing: Make it up as you go along.

I've said it before on this blog, as have many other writers: If the author doesn't know what's going to happen next, how can the reader?

Don't write for writing's sake. I hear of so many self-published authors who cut swathes from their books during editing, sometimes two or three chapters, sometimes more. And my question is: What the fuck were they doing there in the first place? I would rather spend a couple of days not writing than bash out ten thousand words of utter crap. When I edit my books, I'll be lucky to delete a couple of paragraphs, and these are always highlighted in red, meaning I wasn't too sure about them to start with. But usually I end up adding around 5,000 words to the story as a whole. Clarification, enhanced description and maybe filling in a plot hole here and there. In my opinion, make every word count. Having said that, if you then submit your book to an agent or publisher, they may well say your book is too long and it needs to be trimmed, chopped, or even halved. Writer's block isn't really writer's block, it's a period of time when you have to pause, take a step back and actually think about where you're going with this. If you've come to a roadblock, it's because you've got lost and driven the wrong way. Reverse! For God's sake don't just keep ramming the barriers hoping there's something good on the other side.

Beware of burglars. WTF? Seriously, it's all very well saving your work as you go along, and very admirable having a duplicate copy on that USB, which was still connected to your laptop when Barry the Smackhead from the Broadway Estate decided to pay you a late-night visit. But when you wake up in the morning and there's excrement all over your living room walls, your wife's granny's jewellery has been swapped for a gram of heroin, and the place looks like poltergeists had an all-night rave; the first thing you're going to see is the empty space where your laptop used to be..and the USB...and the book you've just spent six months writing. It sounds like paranoia, but it has happened before. Plus, I know Barry the Smackhead, and he's a bastard for dishing out one-star reviews, so be warned. On a more serious note, though. Viruses can cause the same distress (except for the excrement and jewellery, of course), as can corrupted USBs. So email the book to yourself. I have a backup email account, too. At the end of each day I email the Word document to both accounts. Think of it as storing it in a cloud. Okay, thanks to Barry, you have to buy a new laptop to continue writing the book, but at least you won't have to start all over again. Oh, and by the way, don't make the same mistake as I did with FBK1. Do not save various versions. For some reason I did and ended up publishing a totally unedited copy to Amazon. See the 1-star reviews for proof. This isn't an excuse . I actually did it, and when I realized (by which time it was too late) I considered cutting off various body parts.

Okay, so you've now finished your book. You're happy with it. Old Marjory Butterfield from number 11 has read it and says it's magnificent. You ask her for a list of spelling mistakes and other observations, at which point she suddenly remembers that she forgot to remember why she was reading the book in the first place. But she liked it nonetheless, bless her. This is where we face two lines of thought...

1- Many people are of the opinion that you should leave the book, and forget about it for weeks, if not months, before returning to it with a fresh mind. Now, this to me makes no sense. The book is fresh in your mind. The characters are still in your head, and I, personally, go straight back to the beginning and start editing. I read through each book three times. The first time - for flow. I read it as a reader would. When I spot errors, be they spelling, grammar or continuation, I don't stop, but merely highlight the offending passage in red. The second read through is a thorough check of the aforementioned problems. This stage took over a month for The United kingdom of Islam, and encompasses characterisation, tightening sentence structure etc. Then the third reading, by which time I inevitably regard the book as the most boring piece of shit imaginable, is another, slow read through, to catch the ones that got away.

2- With the advent of Amazon, everyone is a reviewer nowadays. Every little old granny and her oxygen mask thinks they work for the New York Times or The Guardian (God forbid) and what they'll tell you is exactly this: "Could do with a good proof reader," "Needs an editor!" And who the fuck's going to pay for it, you old bitch? Not you, that's for certain. With your sixty-quid Kindle and 10,000 free books stored up like a fucking squirrel waiting for the end of the world.

A picture of a shocked old woman 

Freelance editors are expensive, and sometimes as much use a Salvation Army charity collector outside a mosque. So what do you do? Well, you can distribute your book among friends, family and colleagues in the hope that they're a little less illiterate than yourself, or you can self-edit. I do this. I tell everyone that I pay an editor, but that's a lie. It was a get-out-clause for when I published Kingdom of Islam, I would then have some imaginary person to blame, but, as it turns out, I didn't need one. Almost 155,000 words of perfection. Even the great and famous Stephen Leather said it was 'written like a pro'. Maybe he meant a prostitute, I'll never know.

Self-editing is quite tricky and very time-consuming. I have problems with hyphenation, placement of colons and semi colons etc. but I get around it by researching some of the better grammar and writing forums online.  If I'm not sure about a phrase I've used, I'll close it in quotation marks and Google it. Thereby searching for the exact phrase. Be careful with this technique, though, because often the first pages which pop up are from fanfiction sites, and they're about as useless as you and I. But if you're confronted with pages upon pages from leading journalists, excerpts from classic books etc. You know your phrase is probably going to be correctly worded. This is also a good technique to avoid unintentional plagiarism.

I won't go into book covers. With today's downloadable free software, Photoscape for example, there's no need to have a square cover plastered with a 1980's font.

And that, as they say, is that! That's how I do it anyway. Cheap and cheerful. The worst thing you can do is to rush. I have in the past and paid a heavy price for it. There are millions of books out there on the market, and one more won't make a jot of difference, or put a penny in your pocket, unless it's the best you can possibly make it...oh! and try to be original.

I am by no means saying all the information out there on the I'vegotanopinionnet is to be ignored. There are plenty of useful sites, none of which I've visited, that will tell you how someone who has sold five books thinks you should write. And my advice is to shop around. You can take a little piece from each and put them together until you're happy with your way of doing things. Or...you can just do what the fuck you want!

This (unedited) blog is all 'in my opinion' and if anyone wishes to argue against my methods, please do so with someone who actually gives a shit.

Love you all.