This weekend will mark the six month anniversary of the publication of my debut novel, The Exercise Of Vital Powers. A lot has happened in that time (mostly positive I’m pleased to say), but looking back at my first six months as a published author I have no trouble admitting that I embarked upon this independent publishing journey without the faintest idea what I was doing. I self-published my novel pretty much on a whim, with no forethought, content to just learn the ropes as I go. It has definitely been a valuable learning experience, and in hindsight if I knew six months ago what I know now, I would have handled the publication of my first book very differently. But I have no regrets. Sometimes the best way to learn lessons is through experience, and I’ve learned three things that will help me with the launch of every subsequent book I publish in future.
There are two pieces of writing advice that I can guarantee every aspiring author received (on numerous occasions) while pursuing their writing ambitions. The first advice is “read a lot,” and the second is “write a lot.” Both are simple, straightforward tips that likely seem so obvious you might wonder why anyone would find it necessary to give such advice. But there is a reason this advice is repeated so frequently; they are both crucial activities in helping writers to perfect their craft. And here are my thoughts as to why this is so.
If you ask a hundred bookworms to identify the most essential ingredient for a must read book, there’s almost no chance you would get unanimous agreement. All readers have differing sentiments that affect what they want and enjoy most in a work of fiction. For many readers there will be one specific box that absolutely needs to be checked in order for a book to be essential reading. For some, pacing is the priority, for others it’s writing style, for some it’s originality, while for others it might be thought-provoking themes and ideas. I’m not going to attempt to provide a definitive answer because there isn’t one. But I will give you my thoughts on what I consider to be the most important constituent of a good story, the absence of which always detracts from my reading pleasure.
It’s a Bank Holiday today and I’m bored so I’ve decided to answer one of the default questions that Goodreads presents to every author who signs up to their author program. The question I’ve chosen to tackle is perhaps the most common one an author gets asked: how do you deal with writer’s block? What I find most interesting about this particular question is the assumption that writer’s block is inherently a problem, and that it needs to be overcome. Personally, I’ve never viewed the matter in those terms so writer’s block has never been a genuine source of frustration to me. Whenever my own creative writing is brought to a grinding halt by writer’s block, I take it as a sign that I need to take a break from my story, so that’s exactly what I do. And depending on my frame of mind that break will manifest in one of the following six ways.
In recent years I have noticed an amusing trend in which some people will immediately cry out “plot hole!” when something they don’t like occurs in a book, television show or film. I often find that a cursory inspection of the complaint reveals that whatever plot element the person in question is objecting to, isn’t actually a plot hole, at all.
In order to help out these individuals, I will hereby take this opportunity to define and illustrate what a plot hole is; and conversely, what is not a plot hole.
This is a slightly revised update of a post I originally submitted back in 2014.
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The term tropes has a number of definitions, but for the purposes of this post, it refers to those themes, conventions and plot devices that readers have come to expect in works of fiction. In this context, tropes are very much like clichés, and any literary genre you can think of has its well known tropes. Many works of fantasy utilise the trope of the young orphan who (according to prophecy) is destined to save the day, for example. And, in science fiction, how many times have we read tales of scientists whose creations turn on their creators, and wreak havoc upon the world?
This is a revised version of a post I originally submitted two years ago, before the revamping of my blog earlier this year. I’m re-posting it, now, because I’m happy to say that I eventually implemented the advice contained within, which resulted in the recent publication of my debut novel.