Hahaha! So here I am, writing more nonsense on my blog thing.
Blog updates are just too time-consuming.
All about thinking about what I should write—drinking tea, typing something, getting worried that it’s pretentious bollocks, deleting, drinking more tea, wondering if I should go down the pub, while commiserating with my stomach that our combined health issues mean we can’t ingest bacon and egg and brown sauce sandwiches with the regularity that we deserve.
So this time, I’m just gonna write the thing and get it over and done with.
What is this blog about?
I’m annoyed. Really annoyed. I did a shitload of writing last year and all I published was a single short story.
That’s just not good enough. So, in response to that, I’m gonna publish loads of stuff this year.
Of course I am. There’s no reason to think otherwise.
So here’s what’s definitely happening this year. Definitely.
Vatic is already on his way to solve another fucked up space mystery… Hoorah!
Your favourite Skilled is trapped on a berserk spaceship and in a mean, mean mood about it, so don’t get in his way!
Blue into the Moon
Aaaaargh! That’s just how I feel about it at the moment. But it’s damn near done.
I just need some undisturbed thinking time and tinkering and it’ll be away to the editors.
The main problem though, is that I can’t draw spaceships and the cover needs a spaceship.
A big one.
So what does Blue get up to? Well, he goes to the Moon for starters.
There’s murder, a Tourney and an asteroid made out of sapphire.
But the big thing is his first kiss!
Yeah. It’s all happening to Blue in Phase two of cadet training.
Quick-Kill and the Galactic Secret Service
Fast-paced action all the way.
I bashed out a synopsis – it’s not quite finished, so some tweaking needed. Here it is:
An assassin should never get caught…
On the backwater, patriarchal planet of Plenty, self-styled assassin and man-hater, Quick-Kill, executes small-time criminal, Rollo Barla, in what should have been a straightforward kill—one of the many she had built her reputation upon.
But soon afterwards, Quick-Kill learns that the contract on Rollo was ordered by the Cabal—a loose network of galactic criminals, and that they, and the equally shady Galactic Secret Service, were now trying to chase her down.
Quick-Kill must stay one step ahead if she is to survive.
Someone recently sent me a Twitter DM saying they had read a ‘very poorly edited book full of grammatical errors and awkward prose’ and wanted to know why self-publishers would want to put out ‘sub-standard’ books.
It’s an important question that is not as straightforward as answering:
They should’ve used an editor and been more professional.
Sure, my knee-jerk response was pretty much the above.
But as a strong advocate for self-publishing, it’s not as simple as that.
No one should be put off from self-publishing.
If it wasn’t for Kindle, Createspace, Nook, Kobo etc. I wouldn’t be an author today.
And my gut response to all writers is to write and self-publish.
Getting your writing out there will get a response, good or bad.
That’s a million miles away from sending away your manuscripts to publishers and agents and getting the inevitable rejection six months later with no explanation as to why.
If you publish, it will be read by… readers!
And any criticism, either praising or damning is better than nothing at all.
Quite simply… it’s gold dust.
This is the way writers learn their craft—by suffering the horrors of readers disliking their work.
But if they don’t know what readers dislike, how are they going to get better?
Writers need to get their work read by as many people as possible and must take any and all criticism on the chin.
All the slaps on the back are nice, but authors only ever grow from negative criticism.
I dislike it intensely, but I never ignore it.
But my question was: what is a poorly edited book?
To answer that, I’m going to look at the most important aspect of any story.
It beats bad punctuation, grammar and even misspelling.
I’m talking about flow.
What is Flow?
We intuitively recognize flowing prose when we read it. But what is it?
sentence structure and length
paragraphs and pacing
rhythm and syntax
the finished novel.
Think about how the story flows.
In its simplest terms, flow is writing that does not jar.
It has an ease of movement from one word to another, from one sentence and/or event to another.
How is flow relevant to grammar?
The flow, pace and style of a novel will dictate how it is received by the reader.
Sometimes authors feel the need to discard certain grammatical conventions and rules to do this.
This is perfectly acceptable.
Indeed, by adhering too strictly to the rules of grammar, their writing may suffer.
Flow and meaning must come first.
If they are writing a ‘naturalistic conversation’, grammar can and will get in the way.
In this instance, it’s far more important to get across meaning.
This is the same for more informal narratives.
If they are telling the story in the ‘voice’ of a character, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be colloquial and all over the place grammar-wise—as long as the damn thing flows.
What is ‘bad writing’?
There are grammar experts out there who can pull apart any great piece of literary work and expose its grammatical flaws.
Writing that does not follow the rules or conventions is not, per se, ‘bad writing.’ Far from it.
Writing should always come from informed choice.
Often stylistic concerns and sentence flow will dictate the words you use rather than grammatical rules and convention.
This does not mean that authors can abandon grammar altogether.
Instead, writers must strive to understand these rules and conventions and make informed decisions about when to ignore them.
Their work is still readable and engaging, they are possibly very successful authors…
And so we get to the nitty gritty… Just what is ‘bad writing?’
For me bad writing is writing that:
contains unacceptable or poor grammar (grammar that does not work in any context).
uses extra and unnecessary words
repeats the same phrases
has weak characters or characters who act ‘out of character’
has a poorly realised plot
unintentionally puts the author in a bad light.
By disregarding the basic grammar rules and conventions—or being ignorant of them—writing can become unreadable and jarring.
What is poor editing?
There are three main types of editing.
A line edit addresses the creative content, writing style, and language use at the sentence and paragraph level.
It focuses on the way authors use language to communicate their story to the reader. Is their language clear, fluid, and pleasurable to read?
Does it convey a sense of atmosphere, emotion, and tone?
Do the words they’ve chosen convey a precise meaning, or are they using broad generalisations and clichés?
A developmental edit is concerned with the structure and content of the author’s work.
It is to improve their story—not their writing.
If their manuscript lacks focus, a developmental edit will help the author find the right direction by suggesting fixes and changes to make their work more marketable.
Proofreading is quality check and tidy-up.
A final set-of eyes to give the author’s work the once-over before publication.
It checks for typos/text accuracy, consistency and presentation.
Poor editing is:
a lack of any editing (under-edited/unfinished)
over-editing (grammar is more important than meaning)
lazy editing, where not all issues/problems are properly addressed
Editing is another set of eyes.
It gives the author direct feedback on their work.
I would always recommend that everybody gets their work read before publishing.
But not everybody can afford an editor.
I’d suggest all new writers to join a writing group, either locally or online.
Or to find beta-readers—wonderful people who will take time out to read new stories and give feedback 🙂
My reply to the Twitter question was this:
Contact the author or leave a review explaining, as best you can, why you didn’t like the novel.
They may not like your feedback, but they may come to respect it, as long as the criticism is given respectfully.
As for other self-publishers out there…
If possible, get everything professionally edited.
If not, join a writers group and find beta-readers.
Remember that flow is king.
And if you are going to break the rules, first make sure you know what they are.
MAJOR SPOILERS! This is not some rant at a Star Wars movie. I’m a huge Star Wars fan and always will be. I really wanted to like Rogue One, but, for me, it was a confused mess that made little sense throughout. The problem? Too many whys.
I’ve now seen it again, hoping that my first viewing was just an off day or something. But if anything, I liked it even less.
Characters I didn’t get/like
None of the main characters jelled with me as they did in The Force Awakens.
Rogue One just didn’t work at the character level.
Unlike Rey and Finn, I got no sense of ‘who Jyn was’. She seemed a very flat character who I never got a handle on. Which was problematic as the story arc involves her influencing hard-nosed soldiers to follow her.
And as for Cassian? He lacked depth, charm and believability. Nearly everything he did was odds with who he was supposed to be—a calloused field agent.
Andwhy didn’t Cassias pull the trigger to kill Jyn’s father, Galen Erso?
If he was this hard-nosed assassin type, he’d have no trouble following orders like this in the field.
And, importantly, there was no preceding scene to cement a relationship between Cassian and Jyn to prevent him pulling the trigger.
Both characters were not portrayed deeply enough to justify their lead roles.
The ‘relationship’ between the two didn’t have time to blossom. Things simply moved too rapidly from one event to the next.
Also, why didn’t Jyn kill Director Orson Krennic when she had the chance on the tower?
Krennic killed Jyn’s mother and forced her father to create weapons of mass destruction.
Yet she allows Cassius to stop her doing this.
Just why would Cassian stop her?
He’s supposed to be a cold-blooded killer (we saw that in his first scene), so there’s no reason why he’d miss an opportunity to kill such a high-ranking member of the enemy.
Why is Cassian indestructible?
He should have died during his epic fall inside the tower. His head hit the metal beams.
He must’ve had broken bones or at least broken ribs, but he bounces back as if nothing’s happened.
Because I think he was supposed to die and they brought him back for the different ending with Tea Leoni and her father waiting to die on the beach, as they did in the movie, Deep Impact.
A lot has been written about the inclusion of ‘Asian characters’ in Rogue One.
I have no problem with racial types, aliens, women, homosexuality or gay, bright blue, furry xenomorphs in fiction, movies or any media.
Humans, like aliens, are fucking diverse. I love all that stuff.
But the Asian characters seemed to be added just for ‘effect’.
Chirrut Imre was dressed in Asian style. And was an ‘Asian style mystical type’.
Why make that generic choice?
We are in A Galaxy far far Away. It was just so lazy a choice for him. His character and his mate were a really disappointing duo.
As for the rest of the ‘band’?
There were too many characters and not enough time spent with them to get a handle on who they were… and more importantly, to actually care about them.
Also, Jyn’s mother? What was her motivation in taking out the gun to threaten Krennic?
Why did she do this?
I thought she must have some plan… but no. Nothing.
Did she want to get herself killed and leave Jyn parentless? It sure seemed like it.
A dumb move that I didn’t understand.
And I hate Mexican standoffs. Generic nonsense that infests nearly every movie and TV show.
The Stormtroopers/guards would have shot her dead where she stood.
Let’s move on to Saw Gerrera. A total waste of Forest Whitaker.
He was only there to excite the fanboys, not to further the plot. And what happened to his blue eyes?
Other cameos were awkwardly tacked on.
I found myself sighing at all these sad ‘nods’ to other characters. E.g. C-3PO and R2-D2 shoehorned in for fan service.
The movie didn’t need them.
They reminded me I was watching a film, and it jarred.
Characters I liked
K-2SO was the one character I loved. A wonderful change from the other Star Wars—a droid who can shoot! Bringing both humor and some great action to the film.
To be honest, K-2SO was the best thing in it.
Overall there was a lack of comedy—integral to get us liking and caring about the main players.
Grand Moff Tarkin was excellent. What a shame we didn’t get more from him. Although he wasn’t that wonderfully rendered. But neither was Leia for that matter.
I also liked Jyn’s dad, Galen Erso, although his holo-speech monologue was both rushed and too convenient.
Plots don’t always have to make sense if the characters are strong enough to carry the story.
But without believable, interesting characters, the plot holes shine through like bright fucking lights.
What I liked was:
The explanation for the exhaust ports on the Death Star.
The Jeddha explosion and the other planet explosions.
It picked up near the end with the Rebel spaceships. It was like Star Wars arrived with their ships.
But the things that jarred were:
The whole first act didn’t feel like Star Wars but more like some Homeland Baghdad episode.
A giant octopus that can send you mad, got one scene.
The guy who was ‘sent mad’, was only mad for a little bit.
The Empire keeping all their stuff on a single disk (no backup procedures? Haha).
The TV dish on the top of the tower…
The silly master switch.
The ‘Doc Brown wire that is too short’ sequence. I’ve seen it before in Back To The Future.
It was great in that movie. Here it’s just an embarrassing, cringe-worthy repeat.
The rebels assaulting the tower wearing WWII styled helmets reminiscent of US troops in the Pacific—again, hardly A Galaxy Far Far Away.
Too many storm troopers being shot and blown up that it became tedious.
The final couple of scenes were something taken from Star Wars Battlefront and again, tacked on.
And Darth Vader didn’t look or sound like himself—he didn’t connect with me as being ‘real Darth Vader’.
Because the Darth Vader we see at the end of Rogue One is not the Darth Vader we meet in A New Hope. In Rogue One he’s all fucking lightsabre badass. Killing rebs all over the place.
A scene for the fanboys.
He takes on an army all by himself without even breaking a sweat. He’s nothing like the Vader we meet in the next movie. It jarred with me so completely as to ruin his ‘return’.
Just utter fanboy nonsense—like the manic Yoda fighting Count Dooku in the prequels.
And I don’t understand the need to fill in every single gap of the pre-A New Hope narrative.
I’m the kinda guy who loves to watch Star Wars movies over and over—but not so much the prequels.
I’ve watched the original trilogy hundreds of times, particularly The Empire Strikes Back.
After watching The Force Awakens, I saw it at the cinema as many times as I could.
I only watched Rogue One a second time because I hadn’t seen what everyone else had and I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t missed something.
If I’d seen this before Force Awakens, I’d probably have been a lot happier with it. But it was a confused movie that failed to develop its main characters.
I was hoping it would find its feet, yet it never did.
I’ve read reviews where they say this is a ‘more dark’ Star Wars.
To my way of thinking, The Force Awakens was very dark. Han Solo killed by his son dark. Good vs Fucking Evil dark.
All the greys of Rogue One added up to a grey film. I wanted to be transported away from my life and taken somewhere fucking amazing and special—like a good Star wars movie should do. But Rogue One wanted to remind me of the Middle-east, the Second World and Star Wars Battlefront.
All these things just added up to keep me from suspending my disbelief. Lots of jarring moments where I was asking ‘why’?
So, what to end on?
Despite all the hope and the hype, the movie isn’t that great. Remove the Star Wars universe and the tiresome fanboy bits and no one would be talking about this three star (just) film at all.
The misuse and overuse of ‘as’ can negatively affect how your writing in perceived. Time to learn how to kick your ‘as’. Let’s get started.
‘As’ is most commonly misused and overused when trying to portray a series of events.
There’s nothing grammatically incorrect about using ‘as’ to show a person doing something at the same time as something else.
However, overuse of ‘as’ makes your writing look amateurish and clunky.
Particularly when there are many other ways to flex your writing kahunas.
Yes, I used the word ‘kahunas’.
A simple guide: ‘As’ shouldn’t be used to mean:
at the same time
at the same time as
What, when, how?
Events in the real world can happen at the same time.
Events in fiction happen sequentially.
Because readers prefer to read sequentially.
It’s less jarring and, more importantly, it’s better writing.
Example: John put his arm around Margery as Bill entered the garden.
We know that Bill can enter the garden at the same time that John is putting his arm around Margery.
However, the events need to be described sequentially for the reader to make more sense of the action:
John put his arm around Margery. Bill entered the garden.
Creating a sequence of events makes it easier for the reader to follow your action.
Another Example: Bill grimaced as John put his arm around Margery.
The above is a common error.
At first glance it appears all is well and fine.
Let’s take a closer look at the example with reference to cause-and-effect.
What is the cause?
John putting his arm around Margery.
What is the effect?
Both cannot happen simultaneously as the example suggests.
John must put his arm around Margery before Bill can react with his grimace.
The fix? Let’s try two solutions:
John put his arm around Margery. Bill grimaced.
Bill grimaced because John put his arm around Margery.
Notice how using ‘because’ makes the second example grammatically correct, but that it’s still clunky.
You can do better!
How to show-off my writing kahunas?
See sentences connected by ‘as’ – or using ‘while’, ‘because’, ‘while’, ‘when’ – as an opportunity to flex your writing muscles.
John put his arms around Margery, cradling her for the first time. The crack of a breaking twig and Margery froze. John glanced toward the sound. Bill stood watching them, a grimace plastered across his face.
Sure, the above prose needs some work. But the sequence of events is more easily defined. And not one ‘as’ in sight.
Separate your scene into a series of sentences for each event.
This will allow you to get a sense of the scene. Of cause and effect.
Then rewrite the scene using these sentences, adding extra nuance where needed.
Avoid using ‘as’ or any other connecting words.
Being real about writing
Do I occasionally use ‘as’ when writing cause and effect? Every now and then. Sure I do.
Has anybody else been watching Westworld the series?
I think we are at about episode 7 or 8. I’m not 100% sure if I’m on board with this series or not. It seems to be examining the nature of existence a bit too much for my liking. It’s old ground that has been trod over many times before. Anybody who has read their Philip K Dick, will not find this series particularly groundbreaking, to say the least. However it is very slick and there is a sense of mystery enhanced by the last two episodes which piqued my interest again.
Anthony Hopkins is acting at his most threatening best. But I find that my need for rationality is not satisfied by the game park scenario. I can’t see how it can work, unless each visitor can only be there for one day as the same stories circle over and over on a daily basis, and yet we have characters who are in stories that are lasting longer than a few days. What would happen if they return to the main town? Wouldn’t they then notice the same scenario is repeating? Wouldn’t that ruin their experience of the game?
Every night the park authorities must go out and repair the seemingly hundreds of androids that have been ‘killed’ the day before. They are getting repeatedly shot and stabbed. Surely no matter how robust these androids are, this level of daily damage would mean they wouldn’t last very long? And, on more than one occasion, an android who is going on a journey in the park with one of the guests, still ends up at night in the underground labs, only to return the next day. Wouldn’t the paying guests of the park notice them being taken away by the guys in the weird suits? And wouldn’t that break the illusion of the game?
To my mind, Westworld is fatally flawed, and I can’t really see where they’re going to go with it unless everyone is an android and the whole thing is an illusion or some sort which would satisfy my Philip K Dick needs.
Just why am I tinkering with the cover of a novel that’s out already?
The reason? It’s because I’m finalising the next novel in the series: Blue Into The Moon which means that I have to design a new cover. And as my Photoshop skills have improved somewhat, it means that both covers in the series have to match. Hence yet another version – although I’m confident that this is the last, never-to-be-repeated, closing, finishing, ending, concluding, terminating, culminating, ultimate, eventual, endmost, terminal and final version. Possibly…
About 20 years ago I was walking home one evening thinking I’d really like to produce a magazine dedicated to imaginative fiction… and the name Sygasm popped into my head from absolutely nowhere.
I wasn’t really sure what it meant, but I thought the name stood out. Nothing came of the magazine. I was too young, too inexperienced and too skint to make it happen. But the project has stayed with me ever since.
Fast forward to 2016, and now I have the ways and means to create what I originally wanted to do a long time ago, if not in a slightly different format.
For the last year or two so, Sygasm has been the nominal name for my self-publishing efforts. Recently, however, I decided to expand Sygasm publishing into an imaginative fiction anthology series, which you can find here on its Facebook group page:
I will be collating a series of cross-genre stories for each volume – being responsible for all the formatting, typesetting (some editing), cover design, marketing and promotion.
Submissions are now open!
This has led to the possibility of Sygasm now offering publishing services to authors who want their work out there in printed and electronic form. In effect, Sygasm has become a publishing house for independent authors.
If there are any authors or anthologists out there with a novel they want publishing, or who needs a cover, or help with editing and typesetting, then Sygasm can do all that for you. At a price of course!
Again, for full contact details, pop over to facebook and join the group.
It’s recently occurred to me that I spend far too much time editing Facebook Twitter, email and even blog posts. This is because I have a strong desire to make sure everything is well-written and well formatted. And to be honest… it’s becoming a waste of valuable time.
When I do come to make a Facebook post or reply to am email, and especially when it’s written on my phone, I find that I’m spending too long tidying up what is in effect something that is not particularly important and which is is not going to be read or shared by that many people. HAHA! But it’s true! 😮
So I’ve come to the difficult decision that from this point onward, I’ll no longer be doing this. The result? Expect a lot of badly written, badly punctuated and sometimes badly spelled drivel from me in the future. 😃 So no change….
Obviously, for the blog and emails, I’ll try to use a bit more editing but my focus has to be on my stories. On my day to day writing. And not on my random thoughts and sudden ideas for interesting blog, Twitter or Facebook posts that constantly pop into my head and won’t go away until I write them down somewhere. There’s nothing wrong in that, but its an OCD issue – great for fiction – but a waste of time for everything else.
It’s not unusual for me to spend an afternoon writing a blog post or an email and at the end of it wondering why???? Especially when I could be writing fiction instead.
So there we have it. from now on, I’m mot spending more than 10 minutes on a blog, email – and significantly less on Twitter.
BTW – this took me 12 minutes, including at least 90 seconds where I contemplated inserting a deliberate typo… 😡