My final manuscript is complete. So what now?

Beneath the Surface

My 60,000 word novel manuscript — Beneath the Surface — is now fully posted to Wattpad. It’s about a young boy who enters a fantasy world under his garden. While writing the fantasy story, I partly drew on my experiences working as an HIV/AIDS social worker in the 80s and 90s.

Publishing the book chapter by chapter to the social media site Wattpad as I reworked it has been quite an experience. There wasn’t a moment when I didn’t brace myself before opening an email with a new comment from a reader. What if this one blasts the hell out of my story? Yet, all of the readers’ comments have been positive — many confirming they were enjoying the story, and some special ones offering thoughtful, constructive advice.

Wattpad offers writers something very special. The chance to hear directly from readers what they think about your book. And my book has changed in certain ways because of the feedback. Often these changes were descriptive details — things that were not as clear as they could be. The one that comes most to mind is the description of the moment when Christopher first enters the fantasy world of The Underplane. The use of ‘micro-chapters’ also received plenty of support. This approach led to many ‘upbeats’ in the story’s rhythm, as I like to finish a chapter on an upbeat (with a sense of actively moving forward). I enjoyed writing in this style and plan to try it again, no matter what my next story may be.

Other aspects of my story may change as I now progress to the next stage of manuscript development. The title, for instance, may change. It used to be Under the Garden, and for one brief moment it was Christopher from the Middle Bit (only I seemed to like that one!). Who knows what it might be called in the future. And new feedback may lead me to alter key moments in the story. We shall see!

But where to now for me with this book? That’s what I have to decide. The idea of seeking out potential interest in the more traditional way does entice me. I thoroughly enjoyed the formal editing process that my first, traditionally published novel underwent. I am also looking forward to engaging others in professional consultation about the story.

I will give myself a little break and begin to explore the options for Beneath the Surface soon. And I’ll most certainly let you know when I have any news.

I also need to decide just how long I should keep the complete manuscript of Beneath the Surface posted to Wattpad. I have no idea how traditional publishers will respond to that — yet visibility on the internet is crucial in this new world of ours.

If you’re interested in checking out my story while it’s complete on Wattpad — some holiday reading of a brand new novel before it’s even published! — here’s where it starts: Beneath the Surface on Wattpad.

Drafting Beneath the Surface

The next chapter of Beneath the Surface I post on Wattpad will be Chapter 23. This is still less than a third of the novel, but Christopher’s adventure in The Underplane is well underway. I’m aiming to have the complete draft novel posted for your ongoing feedback within the first week or two of December. Another 45,000 words (give or take) to go!

Beneath the SurfaceMeanwhile, I would like to present to you my latest chapter, just completed this morning. Bells are ringing throughout the village of Onehill, though Christopher — or Cee as his new friends call him — has yet to know what they signify. Christopher is eating breakfast with Ria and the children, and recalling…

Chapter  23: The church by the sea

I want to tell you about another time I heard bells.

On that day, I’d no idea where Dad was taking me and I knew better than to ask. All I knew was it took us a long time to get there. Hours spent in silence and bitter cold in Dad’s old Ford Falcon. The heater had packed up long before we’d ever owned it.

We arrived at a tiny church by the sea. It sat on a sandy strip opposite some shops and looked more like an abandoned portable classroom. Ferny branches hugged it, keeping it close and protecting it. When we left the car and made towards it, I could hear the rush of the sea somewhere out of sight. A sound, I thought, that had been going non-stop forever — before all things to do with humanity. Before that even. And would continue to go on forever. Way beyond us.

It almost suggested that the church, as piddling as it looked, was connected to greater things.

Almost.

I kicked at a pine cone and Dad tsked at me without looking up. But the pointy things were everywhere, just begging for it. More of them were piled up in the church’s lopsided gutters above us as we entered. Someone wasn’t doing their job and clearing them out.

And that was when I heard the bells. But they didn’t ring out all over the land like the Onehill bells. They dinged in a shrill, plasticky way. They came from a cassette player sitting on a trestle table just inside the door. The player looked like something left behind by a handyman; it was paint-spattered and the slot in the front where the cassettes went was held together with a rubber band.

People sat on rows of wooden benches. We stood sidelong to them and they turned and faced us. No one waved or nodded. I knew a few by sight — aunts and uncles I’d met once or twice. There were about fifteen in all.

I sat where Dad pointed, in the front row. Everyone behind us. Except for a lone man dressed in what looked like layers of green and white curtain lining. He jumped up from a chair as we sat own and hurried over and clacked off the bells. They went off mid-ding.

Din— Nothing.

Except for some sniffs, and creaks from benches.

Before us was a long wooden box. It was on a metal wheelie stand and in front of a colored glass window showing a bleeding man who was doubled-over, carrying a massive cross on his back. The wood of the box was glossy, I couldn’t stop gazing into its soft reflection. It looked as if it could be warm to touch. The lid was bolted down with shiny bronze knobs and Mum’s photo was on top of it, in a little frame.

I knew Mum must be in that box. I didn’t want to know, but that picture made sure I didn’t forget it. Though I couldn’t sense her with my radar illness. She was long gone.

With only the box to look at, I concentrated instead on thinking about the time she’d spent propped up against a stack of pillows in a hospital bed in our family room, gazing through the bay window and into our garden. She’d been dying for months but living every moment, with her family. That was what her illness had taught her, she’d said. Live every moment.

Not so, me. Born ill, everything just was the way it was.

The man in curtains told us he was Scottish, in case we hadn’t guessed. He laughed loudly, like that was an amazing joke. But the only thing funny was his accent, as if he was always on the verge of cracking another joke, but then thinking the better of it. Thank God.

He told us he’d become a priest a long, long time ago and had been sent here. Across the sea. We were his family now. He raised his arms as he said that last bit. As if to a great crowd.

I twisted around and checked out this ‘family’, half-expecting to see a gang at the back, cheerily waving. But there was only us few bunched up the front.

And then it struck me. Dad was returning Mum to the town where she’d grown up. She would be buried in this place she’d left years ago. A place of happier times, maybe? Or not — she’d run away as a teenager (something she’d told me, but Dad didn’t know I knew).

So why?

I wished she could have stayed with us. We could have buried her in our back garden. That was not as silly as you might think. Who was to say anyone would have found out? (And maybe she would have appeared in The Underplane? Met my new friends?)

I’d never been to that church before or any other and I’d no idea why the priest included me in his so-called family. Same went with the rest. I bet they weren’t regulars either.

A lonely man.

And now, as I ate breakfast in a village in The Underplane with my new-found friends, remembering these things and thinking about lonely men, I wondered if Dad missed me.

Was he out wandering the streets of Acity, searching for me?

I let the thought go, stopped eating and sat back. The others munched on. Maybe my stomach was smaller than theirs? But honest to God, I couldn’t have eaten anymore.

One last thing, back to remembering the church by the sea. There were two things that most bothered me, and I don’t know which was worst: the priest at the end taking the photo of mum and shoving it in a trouser pocket deep beneath all of his layers, or two black-suited strangers turning up and, without a word to anybody, wheeling the wooden box away with Mum in it.

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If you would like to check out my progress on Beneath the Surface (and the earlier chapters too), my Wattpad page is here.

Workshopping with the world – How it’s going!

Beneath the SurfaceIf you’ve been following my posts and tweets, you’ll know I’ve been workshopping my new draft novel as I revise it. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about an unwell 14-year-old-boy who enters a secret world under his garden. I have posted seven draft chapters so far, which comprise Part 1 of the story.

I’m happy to report the use of Wattpad for workshopping is going well. All was going well on Widbook until recently. Here’s a little more detail about them both…

Steady feedback on Wattpad…

A useful thing about Wattpad, from a workshopping point of view, is that one can put comments at the bottom of each chapter. This has been a very useful way for me to pose specific questions. For example, What do you think about the title? What do you think about the short nature of my chapters? Do you feel like reading on? These questions are not always responded to and that’s OK, but it’s great when they are. I genuinely want to know!

I’ve received all sorts of advice, some of which I’ve immediately acted upon, some I’m still thinking about, and some I’ve parked to one side in my mind, waiting see what a professional structural editor might suggest, when that time comes.

It’s been extremely useful to hear what readers have found interesting in the story, their various observations and reactions. I am not always sure I’m getting the balance right in terms of suggested symbolism, subtle meanings, character portrayal, plotting and so on. I’m wary of overstating something, which then may seem labored and obvious, or slipping into ‘clever writing’, which can interfere with the reader’s engagement to the story. It has been greatly reassuring to hear from readers that they are picking up on the story’s depth and various dimensions in an enjoyable way.

And I do have to say, the positive comments have been very gratifying too! They have helped me feel, Yes, this is a story worth writing. This is something others would like to read.

But slower on Widbook…

threeThe news on Widbook is not so good, I’m afraid. Sadly, after an initial burst of activity, feedback has dried up. At kick off, things were similar to how I’ve described them above, but not so any more. I believe there are still a number of Widbookers reading my draft chapters — my book was added to someone’s shelf only yesterday and I received a new follower today. (I always follow back, because I think that’s nice to do, but that’s just my style and obviously not a rule). But the energy has waned.

I have received some excellent support from a number of the Widbook staff (I’m yet to hear from anyone on Wattpad!). They made one of my earlier books ‘Book of the Week’ and also invented me to write a blog post for them. They were very friendly and I immensely enjoyed my interactions with them.

There are a range of possible reasons for the drop off in responses to my writing. Here are two that I’m pretty sure haven’t helped…

There are many Spanish-speaking writers/readers on Widbook, and no doubt this has an impact on ongoing interest in my English written work, even though users generally appear to have a good handle on English, especially from a reading point of view. However, as I cannot understand the Spanish language at all, I’m unable to reciprocate the gesture of feedback by commenting on a Spanish written piece.

Widbook has a five star rating system — this is probably not a good thing when it comes to formative writing/drafting. A rating system leaves writers too open to the subjective impulse of others. And of course — as we indie writers know only too well — it is open to easy abuse: friends giving each other top stars, or tit for tat.

Olearia-stuartiiSo, after posting only a few draft chapters (three, I think), the book was awarded an ‘average’ three star rating. Ow! This a draft I’m workshopping, people! Not a published book on Amazon — ready for customers’ reviews and ratings. Now, no matter how many revisions I undertake and further draft chapters I post, that mediocre rating will sit there for the rest of my draft chapter postings (nine tenths of the book is still to come!) and until I take it down from Widbook, in readiness for publication. The average rating has the potential to put off further readers who may have had highly useful feedback.

How I wish that that reader had instead chosen to give me actual feedback. Why did they find it average? That could be marvelously useful to know. Instead, I’m left guessing and others are possibly being influenced and staying away. A rating system (especially one akin to Amazon’s customer review system) in a creative space can only serve to throw a wet blanket over creativity, don’t you think? 🙁

What’s next…

I love the story I’m writing, and the feedback from these two social media writing sites has definitely contributed to story improvements, revision ideas (not to mention one helpful typo spotting!) and the keeping up of my energy —  serious redrafting can be exhausting.

Regrettably, after a very promising start, I may need to rethink how useful Widbook is for workshopping a draft novel, but I most certainly will continue to post to Wattpad in readiness for professional structural editing later in the year.

By the way … why all the damned daisies? They make sense if you read the story.

Here is where you will find me slaving away on the redraft of ‘Beneath the Surface’:

If you visit – be sure to leave some feedback!

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‘Beneath the Surface’ is featured on Penned!

penned app_icon

I’m happy to report the workshopping of my Beneath the Surface draft manuscript is going brilliantly. I’m receiving excellent feedback from where I’m posting the draft chapters on Wattpad and Widbook. And now — trumpets! — I have been approached by the marvelous Penned saying they would like to feature Beneath the Surface on their book app. I was quick with a Yes, please! and so you will find my first four chapters there too. But what and where is Penned? Not heard of them before? Read on below to find out more…

So just what is this Penned thing?

Penned is a literary app — it’s a writing app and it’s a reading app. You use it from your smartphone. Simply type ‘penned’ in the search field in your app store and up it will pop (for free of course). Beneath the Surface is a novel for teens (and the young in us, that’s me) and this is the absolutely latest way to read. You may or may not like it — it’s very different — but it’s fun to check it out and make up your own mind. I’m liking it…

Penned and Beneath the Surface

From the start I have been writing Beneath the Surface expressly to be read from an e-reader. (Do you like that adverb expressly? Suits what I’m saying exactly.) I have not allowed myself to write a chapter that bubbles over a 1,000 words. If one does, I split it, and rewrite the two new chapters afresh. I’m calling them micro chapters and often a single scene will track over a number of these little blighters.

Beneath the SurfaceIn my head, I’ve been thinking of each chapter as a bang from your e-reader. Something with zip and punch, even in the slow setting-up-the-plot moments. Something that feels right to be read from a glowing screen while your other hand clutches onto a train handrail. Or an ice cream. What the hell, anything — life is like that these days. The modern world is a bullet train speeding, multitasking world: hold onto the rail, eat your ice cream, text ur buddy, listen to the debut Bleachers album and read from Penned). A smartphone book app feels absolutely right for the micro chapters of Beneath the Surface and the whizz of today’s  world.

And before anyone says, What about print books? (some might still be saying that? as if reading from a kindle means you object to print books), I’m talking about workshopping my book with the world. Not the finished ebook and traditionally published print book. What better way to workshop your draft novel than through a mobile device?

So if you do check out Beneath the Surface — be it through Penned, Wattpad or Widbook — as always, I’d love you to tap on ‘Comment’ and let me know your thoughts. Without readers, a book is not a book.

Here’s the Penned website about the App, where you can find out more. And here’s their Twitter page if you want to follow them.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon…

 

Workshopping with the World

Beneath the Surface

My new novel is called Beneath the Surface and it’s about a 14-year old boy who, not long after his mother’s death from a mysterious illness called Radar, enters a fantasy world under his garden. The boy’s name is Christopher Reuben and he suffers from the same illness that took his mother’s life.

I know this sounds a bit gloomy! But — as with all of my writing — I work hard to make sure there’s fun and action in there too. As I wrote the first draft, I imagined stories such as The Wizard of OzSpirited Away and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardobe. And I also mixed in some of my own experiences from working as a social worker with people with HIV/AIDS.

Beneath the Surface is still a draft manuscript (I’m hoping it will be ready for a professional editor’s structural edit come December — for those of you interested in the writing process), and I’m trying out something different this time around. Something that has me a little nervous, but also excited. I’m posting my manuscript chapter by chapter as I redraft them further in the hope I receive good honest feedback from others. I want to make this story the best I possibly can. I’m really hoping fellow readers and writers — you! — will tell me what you think. Nicely.

There are a number of social media sites available for writers these days, and I’ve decided to post Beneath the Surface on two: a well-established one (Wattpad), and a reasonably new one you may not have heard much about (Widbook). Both of these ‘writing e-communities’ allow me to post my manuscript in an ebook style (Widbook is particularly good on this score), and they allow for comments from others. They also have things like ‘votes’ and ‘numbers of reads’ etc, which are all fine but I’m more interested in hearing from interested others about my story as I write it. And of course, I’ll make sure to acknowledge all helpful advice givers when my story’s finally published (indie or trad).

You’ll see from the picture above that I have created a cover for the manuscript. Creating a cover is not something a writer would normally do at this stage, but as I’m pushing my little story out into the world, it needs more that than the usual plain, typed front page of most manuscripts. I hope my effort will suffice until the book is finally published and I pay for a professional cover design.

In the hope it will stir your interest, here are the opening sentences (at least, they are at the moment, feedback may suggest changing them)…

I was ready for my dad when he approached the daisy bush, big plastic spray bottle held up like a gun, like he was going to put something down. I stood before the bush, arms folded, doing my best not to trample on his precious damned flowers. 

‘Christopher?’ he said. ‘What are you doing?’ He spoke slowly, worn out. His voice matched his slumped shoulders and his tired eyes.

Now, don’t bother hanging around here anymore. What I’d really love is for you to check out my draft and tell me what you think. Thank you!

You can find it on Wattpad here.

And you can find it on Widbook here.

Part 3 – Pushed into indie publishing. So I jumped!

This is the third of my guest posts written for Silk Screen Views about my journey as a writer. Here I chose to talk about my current  – and very new! – adventures in the land of indie publishing. Indie publishing is not easy. There is a lot of work involved in trying to be noticed among the many, many other highly active and very good indie writers. And you are responsible for every step of the way, which can sometimes be quite exhausting. However, there is reward in the sense of control, and it’s important to give things time to grow. You can check out the last of my three posts here.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Little Readings

I’m proud to present to you what I’ve come to call in my mind, ‘little readings’. This is the very first – my bash at an audio recording of a reading. I’ve dug up an old poem from the murky recesses of my computer’s hard drive and I’m pushing it forward as the guinea pig.

To create the recording, I’m currently grappling with some audio software called Ableton Live. It’s pretty cool stuff. DJs such as Deadmau$ use it.  But it’s complex too. Well, for me it is. I tried a few different ideas, but the one that I like the best is this one. It has some rhythm behind it to support the words. I particularly enjoyed that aspect of the creative process. I used some random notes from some favorite songs, but the overall rhythm is mine.

So without further ado, I’d like to share with you my first-and-only attempt so far. A short, post apocalyptic sci-fi poem called ‘Earth’s Last Inhabitant Walks Out’. (Don’t forget to like it. Hopefully you will!)

I have set up a specific page on my website for my little readings, and I’ve included the poem’s lines (or lyrics?) there, in case you want to follow what I’m reading. The Little Readings webpage is here.

Little Readings - Ship in the sky.

Little Readings – Ship in the sky.

And I have also set up a twitter page (@LittleReadings) which you can visit here.

If you have any little readings of your own, or you decide to make one, be sure to let me know. I’d love to tweet about it too. You can use my words, from one of my books, or your own words. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a short reading and you keep it G rated!

I hope you like my reading. I’m looking forward to creating another one.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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What can I say, producing a book is a slow business!

The cover of my MS after prof. editing - don't worry my actual won't be as plain as this!

The cover of my MS after prof. editing – don’t worry the actual book won’t be as plain as this!

MonuMentally slow

Sometimes I wonder if my own inner editor is more obstinate than the most hard-nosed New York publisher. Many writers say it’s hard to let go of your book – and I’m probably one of the worst. There’s always something else you need to do. ‘No, not yet. Just one more change!’

The final step for me these days, the creation of an ebook, presents a fabulous opportunity that no writer has experienced in the history of publishing until now. Until now, it has always been advisable to print off your final draft and work on it as a hard copy, often reading it out aloud as well, as your eyes can skip over things like missing words, but reading aloud adds another safeguard against that.

But now, with ebook publication, it is possible to view your book in exactly the state the reader will see it. It’s like seeing your baby in ultrasound. It’s fantastic. BUT! (That’s a big but, isn’t it?) It does give you one more reason not to publish just yet. It has become another layer of editing. One more reason not to publish … yet.

There are many ways to create an ebook, I do it chapter by chapter through something called Pressbooks software. Each time I add a chapter, I privately publish it and read through it as an ebook on my iPad’s kindle app. You would be amazed at the new things that jump out at you as you read. Subtle things, but, for me at least, still crucial . I did this with my previous book (EleMental). It had already been trade published, yet still more things jumped out at me. Things that I, the editor, the copyeditor, and the proofreader had all failed to spot.

So please wish me well as I work through the ebook creation of MonuMental . I am up to Chapter 6 – and I am maintaining a running tab of my progress on my home page here.

Well, back to it …

 

 

‘E-FPS’ for 99c & win a $100 Amazon card!

The Holiday Book Sale

I’m happy to let you know, EleMental: A First-person Shooter is a part of the Holiday eBook Sale.

Today’s hottest fiction ebooks are on sale for .99 from Dec 28-Dec 31 only.

Mystery, romance, young adult, sci-fi, fantasy – there’s something for everyone …

… including the chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card!

Click here to check out the Indie Book Festival’s Holiday Ebook Sale!

 

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Happy Xmas!

Wishing you a big, happy Christmas and an excellent 2013.

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Okay, okay, this picture is rather mean-looking for Christmas. But I still love it.

His name is Gilbert and he’s a dragonbot. This is from my new book, MonuMental, and is the artist’s first go at a cover. It’s wonderful to see ideas coming to life in other ways!

Best wishes, everyone.