All about confidence?

Let’s be honest. What matters most is not how good you think your novel is but how others rate it. Now I’m not writing this as someone who received accolades for their work and can smugly pontificate. On the contrary, I’ve had some negative reviews, one even used the dreaded B-word (bored), a state you should try to avoid causing more than even offense. So how could this happen?

After a number of rejections I lost confidence in my second novel Time Over. The first book The Hidden Realm was also rejected, but the problems with it were clear and I mostly fixed them although in the days before self publishing became, er … respectable. So I cut my losses and put it out as a free download. It proved relatively popular, got a good number of likes. Only Time Over seemed to have no easy fix; I’d set up a simple premise, which then spiralled into something rather complicated.

The problem is, once you lose confidence in a project you focus on what’s wrong rather than the positive: a loose end here, an inconsistency there. You imagine a reader picking up on some implausible aspect (and in SF there can be a lot of those). So what you do is add more detail for verisimilitude. Dialogue can also be affected in this way, slowing down the pace. I’ve of course tried to address these issues. But regaining confidence: that’s something entirely different.

Still, you move on to the next project with a renewed faith. At least until the next rejection.

 

Time Over is free to download for a short while:

http://www.amazon.com/Time-Over-Adrian-Kyte-ebook/dp/B00NXG4EQ4/ref=sr_1_1/185-3386155-5558339?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411929363&sr=1-1&keywords=time+over

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Time-Over-Adrian-Kyte-ebook/dp/B00NXG4EQ4/ref=sr_1_1/277-0911588-5459748?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411929652&sr=1-1&keywords=time+over

Reviews still welcome.

My other site: http://www.adriankyte.com/

Reaching for the Stars

A question many writers ask themselves is: how much do reviews matter?

I noticed something curious when I recently withdrew a novel I wasn’t happy with, and also had some spare time to rewrite. The book could best have been described as an interesting failure, problematic in its creation. So I’d given up finding a traditional publisher and went with Lulu.com as well as putting it up on various other sites as a free download. Anyway, checking the Amazon UK page I was surprised to see there’d been nine reviews of the book, averaging 3 stars. So did that suggest mediocrity, or something more interesting? I think most writers would prefer to think – given that average – some hated their work and some loved it. But there was not that smiley face bar graph. Ok, so there were way out concepts in the book, stretching the science fiction to the fiction end at times. I half expected there to be some negative comments about certain sex scenes that were not exactly conventional (although not especially graphic). None however. Frankly, it was That Difficult Second Novel where I tried to expand my writing range, where I’d got a little too ambitions. You aim for the stars and end up getting three! It is pleasing though that even ten people (1 US) were motivated enough to write a review of a free book from a relatively unknown author, especially those who seemed just a bit disappointed. Trouble is, when you write a blog about writing you build yourself up to be knocked down. At least that’s usually the British way. But I’d be the first to admit there’s always room for improvement. It’s a constant learning process.

Well, I’ve republished Time Over on Amazon KDP. The price can’t be set at zero but is as low as possible, for now anyway. Will be interesting to see how it fails this time. I know there are those who have an aversion to paying for a novel that hasn’t been recommended or passed some threshold of star rating. But any starred reviews are welcome – if they’re well considered.

http://www.amazon.com/Time-Over-Adrian-Kyte-ebook/dp/B00NXG4EQ4/ref=sr_1_1/185-3386155-5558339?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411929363&sr=1-1&keywords=time+over

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Time-Over-Adrian-Kyte-ebook/dp/B00NXG4EQ4/ref=sr_1_1/277-0911588-5459748?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411929652&sr=1-1&keywords=time+over

 

The Novel vs the distracted mind

You might read the first sentence or two and then you’ll be distracted. Perhaps it’s an email or twitter update from that person who once said something personally relevant, or even profound, and is bound to do so again; well, maybe not this time.

    I’m currently reading Iain M Banks – The Hydrogen Sonata. I’ve read almost all of his SF books – avidly – but am finding this one a struggle; can’t seem to get immersed in it and find it difficult to follow certain strands of the plot. Is the problem with me or the book? I get the feeling I would have found it easier to read had it been around ten years ago.

     So what’s happening? Am I being caught up in the great digital distraction by things such as blogs, or is it those pernicious shooter games giving me that immediate short-term reward? There’s just so much, well, content and it’s so readily available, and there’s always something better – more useful – just a click away. This is one of the reasons i avoid twitter (for which the twitterverse can be grateful) or spend much time on any social media.

    It’s reported that distraction can become even more of a problem with the natural ageing process. Maybe in part due to that incipient sense of time running out. I hear it being discussed increasingly: Are computers and smart devices ruining our ability to concentrate? In my case, I’ve never had the greatest attention span but have noticed it is getting worse.

    Ironically, the number of self/published novels is increasing exponentially, while my generation or younger have (on average, in the UK) a lower ability to read and write than the over fifties. There’s an argument there about changes in forms of communication. Anyway, the education debate is for another blog/ger. So if you’re publishing today without an agent, a traditional publisher or a considerable number of followers, or a successful back-catalogue, it’s going to be tough to get noticed. Not that the pre-digital method (which depended on people seeing your book in a store and taking the time to consider it) was ever ideal. So does this mean the conventional form of the novel has to change to accommodate the digital environment? I hope not. I hope it can always remain in a pure form although only in content; I’m not one to fetishize the dead tree medium.

    I’ll stop now, ’cause you’ll be wanting to check that new message. But thanks for giving this your attention.

    My websites:

http://adriankyte.co.uk/

http://timeover-sf.com/

The Pitch

 

If I am to follow the much sage advice I should be preparing my latest submission proposal email for the next agent, instead of writing this. A sophisticated form of procrastination, perhaps.

But you get to a point when you think where have I gone wrong? Especially after having felt i’d finally got it right, then that rejection comes through (or passes through my over-zealous spam filter. The last couple of times in red, as if the computer was somehow alerting me that it could be a dangerous one to read – dangerous to my happiness, especially on a Friday). OK, so it could be the content of those first few chapters. Otherwise I may have missed a trick in my pitch.

So is there a secret to The Pitch? Truth is, if I knew of one I may’ve succeeded. But what I have learned is that it’s best to condense the synopsis and introductory letter/email into something that can be read within ten minutes minutes. (Agents would doubtless speed-read.) Start with a few lines to say what it’s about. I also provided a blurb link http://www.timeover-sf.com/ which does the same, but that might be overkill. I added the synopsis as a separate doc, so more emphasis is on those first few lines to encapsulate a 100,000+ word novel. Not easy!

Really, at the most, all I can tell you is how to fail better.

Btw, I’m still having that technical problem mentioned in my last post. Will have to do something about that.

My links:

http://adriankyte.co.uk/

http://www.thehiddenrealm.com/

 

Making that breakthrough

If the first rule of blogging is check carefully what you’ve written before publishing, then the second should be: double-check if it was done late at night.

And if you’re sending off a manuscript submission you’d probably quadruple check. Yet it’s amazing what mistakes slip through. I often am of my own, and I think I’ve learned to be careful!  Anyway, I might give my thoughts on the submission process (to agents & publishers) in a future post.

But let’s assume you’ve completed the novel, with all the basic errors eliminated. Typically, In the process of writing, it’s been enthralling but troublesome in varying measures, and in the darkest days seemed as if it would never be finished. Then (after [insert number] rewrites) it is finally ready to be released to an unsuspecting world. And with the myriad of free self publishing opportunities it can be. Only problem is it won’t sell, or at least only achieving numbers that barely reach three figures, unless you’re one of the rare exceptions – which has more to do with gaining a following, hitting upon some Zeitgeist whereupon interest snowballs. But more likely it’s your mood that will resemble fifty shades of grey (heading nearer the black end) than sales; and if you’re writing SF, that’s a uniquely tricky proposition. Of course giving it away is far more likely to generate interest. I write from experience here. But to have a realistic chance of making money from your labour of love there’s still only one sure route: The agent.

With the second (and hitherto unsuccessful) attempt at publishing, I’ve become obsessed trying to second-guess what a publisher – or in the first instance an agent – is looking for: their filter process. Now, if they are having to apply some quick criteria to deal with the welter of submissions the process might as well be done by an AI. Let’s see … Previously successful idea+variation, at least enough to give a new spin on the genre Zeitgeist, which can be described in a back-blurb length; opening chapter that does not contain lengthy description (esp world building or biography) but instead either an immersion into an action scene or a character; plot driven by character rather than a concept; no switching POV without a clear break of paragraph; no author intrusion or omniscience; no red herrings or loose ends that are never tied up; no false cliff hangers; SF esp: no deus ex machina style contrivances; no concepts which lack any basis in contemporary science; no scenarios without any bearing on real life situations, or cannot be related by analogy, metaphor or allegory. And there’s probably much more needed to add to the programming. And you’ll notice the filtering would mostly be done through negative criteria.

Anyway, it’s likely I would fail on that test. But then good writing is not about adhering to a strict set of rules, even if it is about having an awareness of them. I can think of some great/acclaimed writers who break the rules, except their talent lies in knowing how to break them, and previous success gives them the confidence to do so. And confidence comes from finding a [writing] voice readers like but which is not pandering to some perceived market-oriented populism. So, of course, you can write something great and it will get slammed (check out Amazon reviews of classic acclaimed novels, or Booker winners) or simply have your work dismissed. Above all it’s about garnering interest. Many flawed novels can be interesting and valuable; I tried to analyse one, only to find smoke and mirrors, but the illusion was enjoyable.

So, yes, something does need to change in the publishing industry. In the meantime, there’s only the frustrating waiting process and the uncertainty of never knowing where you went wrong. Sounds like a publishing dystopia!

 

Where to begin?

Well, it’s late. But now is the time to dip my toe in the water with my first blog.  I’d be tempted to opine on a number of matters, particularly science fiction. Been reading others’ thoughts for years, but never took the plunge. Was finally motivated by the need to move out of the shadows, after the trouble I’ve had getting a book published. Nothing unusual there I guess.

          Hope to add more content soon.

http://adriankyte.co.uk/