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.