About Writing, Life and Writing About Life

Archive for August, 2012

Today I Will Mostly Be Walking

Today I am meeting up with my Dad, who is staying in our part of the world on a walking holiday. My older son is also coming along with his friend, and we will be walking in the sunshine and by the sea. I’m really looking forward to it. Here’s a picture from the walk we did on Monday – this is when we were walking in light rain in the morning, not the heavy rain of the afternoon. Today, luckily, the forecast is fine.
As well as walking, though, I shall be doing some other things.

  • Wishing I could see Dad more often
  • Trying to find out if having a break has helped him prepare mentally for going back home to his role as carer for my stepmum, who has Alzheimers
  • Finding words inadequate to express that I love him and wish there was more practical support I could offer, but hoping that he understands anyway

I do what I can to support Dad, but it never feels like enough. Phoning regularly is important but it doesn’t allow him to express how he’s doing as my stepmother is close by. So I will arrange to visit him in October, and hope that we will be able to get out on our own while I am there. And still it won’t feel like enough.

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Writers Take Note

Well, even I was surprised at how strongly readers feel! On Monday I posed the question as to whether readers mind errors in books – and how much they mind. Now it might be that those who mind were more inclined to answer the survey, but even in these early days the results show heavily that mistakes are just not ok. So far, over 70% of people have agreed that writers should not put out books with errors. From other comments I have had elsewhere, it seems that people feel it is insulting for an author to put a book out without it being checked thoroughly and errors removed. It seems the main problem is the one I found – that it gets in the way of taking in the contents of the book, causes frustration, and may even result in a book being abandoned. If you want to see the full results of the survey so far, or add your vote, you can find it here.

In my forthcoming book, Be An Author, we looked at the rise of ePublishing, and the increase in free content. The consensus was that this would result in the buying public having to ‘sort the wheat from the chaff’. For me the problem has been that these books aren’t ‘chaff’, or at least they didn’t have to be. They are books that have value, with stories to tell, that I want to read. But my reading pleasure has been diminished by the lack of polishing of the finished product.

So I am now in a campaigning mood. As a self-published author, I want self-published books to be regarded just as highly as traditionally published ones. In order for that to happen, though, self-published authors have to be prepared to put in the work, or pay the price, to get their work to a professional standard. I will be making this clear in the self-publishing guide I will be making available on this blog shortly, but in the meantime writers please take note. Anything less than pretty-near-perfect is just not good enough. We could say that we are not just self-published, we are Professionally Self-Published. What do you think?

The other thing I have vowed to do is to review the books I find have this problem truthfully warts and all in the future. I will tell what I like about the book, but if errors have put me off in my reading I will demote the book by one star and say so. Otherwise, how can an author know they have not met the required standard? I know that this means I will also be held up to that standard, and you are all sure to let me know when I don’t meet it. I can live with that. At least I will learn something, too.

How Forgiving Are You As A Reader?

As I mentioned before, I am enjoying using my new Kindle to explore independent authors and self-published books. I’m really enjoying it, too, and am finding some great ways to find these books. It has, however, brought up the issue of quality again. I wrote on here before about the importance of editorial input, but it seems that there are plenty of books out there which haven’t had much if any of that kind of input.
Of the two that I am particularly thinking about, the first had some typos, grammatical errors, and problems with sentence structure which made the sense difficult to follow. All of these are mistakes that I regularly make in my writing, too, as does everyone I believe when they are in the flow of creation. I do try hard to eliminate them on editing, though, and my husband is especially good at spotting them too. I loved the story in this particular book and forgave it, but had to keep on doing so throughout the story, which I thought was a shame. When I reviewed the book, though, I couldn’t bring myself to mention it. Am I a coward, or just sensitive to how it feels to have negative aspects commented on so publicly?
The one I’m struggling with at the moment is a consistent mis-spelling of the word ‘prized’ meaning ‘held to be of great value’ as ‘prised’ which should mean ‘removed from a tight grip’. The same applies to ‘prise’ for ‘prize’ and so far it keeps cropping up in the book. It’s making me trip up every time I come across it. What I want is to be able to read smoothly without really thinking about the words individually, and things like this stop me in my tracks.
So I’m wondering how others feel. Do you mind errors in books? Does how much you pay for them make a difference to how you feel? Is it fair enough for a self-published book to have some errors as they do not have the resources of a publisher – and are traditional publishers immune to errors in books? Or should a self-published author not have the temerity to put out a book unless it has been checked over by someone else? I would love to hear what you think in the comments, and as I am still working on my self-publishing download what you think will benefit self-publishers of the future too. I’m going to add a little poll too, so that we can build up a balance of opinion.
Thanks.

Misty – Friday Fictioneers

I was very last minute getting an idea for this week’s Friday Fictioneers challenge from Madison Woods. no time for polishing, so please feel free to give your suggestions. The picture prompt for the story is shown below and if you want to see the other stories this week you can click on the little blue fella. I couldn’t think of a better title than the photo caption, either.

Photo by Maggie Duncan

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“This is how God must feel,” she thought as they crested the hill. Her breath was frozen by the beauty of the scene before them. The mist clung to the slopes of the Gloucestershire valley, caressing the contours with its moist white fingers.

She prayed that time might stop there, so she could stay in this moment forever, but instead the cart rumbled onwards taking her to her fate. God was busy elsewhere on this day, it seemed.

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Delayed Pressure Urticaria

At last I know what is wrong with me – Delayed Pressure Urticaria.
For over a year now I have had a strange problem – developing red itchy weals wherever my skin has been subjected to pressure during the day. Having been to see my doctor and been faced with blank looks followed by vague mumbling about age and water retention, I was left with the internet. But I didn’t really want to look – what if it was something really awful? I know this is a very dim attitude to take, but don’t we all?
Anyway, the other day I looked up my symptoms and found out that this is a Known Problem. It even has that funny name. But it is known at the level of ‘we’ve given it a name which describes what it is but have no idea why it happens to some people. It’s not life-threatening and will go away one day.’ I put this in the category of mildly comforting but distinctly lacking in helpfulness. It just brings me back to how little we really know about the human body and how it works, even after all the research that has been done.
The only advice offered seems to be to use something to soothe the itching (which I had figured out for myself or else I would never get ANY sleep) and to avoid pressure on the skin. As the type of pressure which causes the weals involves such activities as wearing a bra, carrying a bag on my shoulder for more than about 10 minutes or standing up for a while in shoes, you can see that it is not really practical.
Why am I sharing this on here? Well, just because it’s part of my life. I know it is a silly little problem compared with much of what others cope with on a day to day basis, but it affects me. More than I care to admit at times. So now I have to decide whether I accept that there is nothing I can do and just put up with it until my body decides it does not need to create a histamine reaction to pressure, or do I investigate alternative remedies in addition to my weekly healing group. It is just possible that the intermittent fasting regime hubby and I have embarked upon may make some difference, but that is really just wild speculation.
I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has overcome this issue and how they did so, or just to share my sympathy with anyone else putting up with this in their life.

Long Live Publishing

It’s interesting living in changing times, and being part of a changing industry. This could be thought of as related to the purported Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times’, but I prefer to put a postiive slant on things where possible. Recently I’ve had a couple of conflicting insights into the possible future of the publishing industry.
The most recent came last week when speaking to a customer at my day job. Although he was organising a purchase for his father in rural Dorset, he is in fact based in Los Angeles. When my boss asked him what he did out there, his reply was that he “used to be part of the music industry, but there pretty much isn’t a music industry any more.” This made me think about the paralells between the music and publishing industries. The music industry has somewhat forged the way, with the Ipod bringing forward the availability of digital music. I remember when I was in my teens and I would save up pocket money to buy LPs – this was what drove the music industry at that time. Now, though, when he is at home, my son has constant access to whatever music he would like, mostly through YouTube. He does still buy music, though. He wants his favourite bands’ records so that he can listen to them when out of the house. But I am sure this is much less than when I was young, and therin lies the problem for the music industry as a whole. However, although the music industry is in trouble – there is still plenty of music out there.
The other insight came from the research I did for the ePublishing chapter in Be An Author (my new book which I am excited to say is out soon). Since the eReader has actually started to catch hold in the last few years, it seems as though publishing will probably go the same way as music. But I’m not sure that it will. For one thing, people like to listen to the same song over and over again, and with the possible exception of poetry that’s just not true of writing. People want to read new content. There is still the issue of free content – blogs are a bit like the YouTube equivalent for words, perhaps; lots of free content that you can take up all your time reading. However the research that has been done so far seems to show that people with eReaders read more books, not less, which has to be positive, right? What I do think will probably suffer is traditional publishing. I think that the big publishing firms will have to innovate like mad to keep up in a hugely changing world (a bit like the struggle that newspapers have), and whether they do this and survive over the decades to come remains to be seen.
The changes that have happened so far seem in some ways to have tipped the balance away from the author – gone are the days of large (if any) advances, and it is harder than ever for a new author to be taken on. Personally I think the tide will turn, though, and perhaps this has started already. As authors take the initiative themselves, can the publishing houses offer a good enough service to attract any talent other than the ‘tv celeb autobiography’? Are they ready to embrace new ways of promotion in a changing world? It is going to be interesting not just to watch, but to be involved in this sea change. My sentiment is that the publishing industry in its old form is in trouble – but Long Live Publishing!

Tree-Hugger – Friday Fictioneers

I wasn’t sure if I would manage to write a story this week, what with having no computer of my own and borrowing time on hubby’s, but I had so much fun last week and was made so welcome I thought I would have a try.

Friday Fictioneers is organised by Madison Woods and involves writing a 100-word story based on the photo prompt. This week’s photo prompt is shown below, and the link to all the other stories is shown below my offering.

Photo copyright Lura Helms

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Tree-Hugger

“I suppose all your tree-hugger friends will be there. You’d all have been burned as witches back in the day, you know.”

She didn’t expect him to agree with all her beliefs, but did he have to be so vicious in his condemnation, she wondered. His aura could really do with a good cleanse.

Jennifer shut the door behind her without dignifying his remarks with a reply, and her mood lifted.

In fact, she was only meeting one friend tonight, and it wouldn’t be trees they were hugging, either. But their spouses didn’t need to know that, did they?

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You can find the link to the rest of this week’s entries here

Enjoy.