Note that the “Ow!” is intended in the style of Michael Jackson rather than an indication of pain.
So what is a MOOC you may well ask. Well, a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. The reason I mention it on this blog is that a new course called Start Writing Fiction commences on 12th October. This free course is run by the Open University and lasts for eight weeks. Various authors have been conscripted to provide guidance and advice including Alex Garland, author of The Beach.
Even though I have completed my first book, I still have a huge amount to learn about writing so free advice is always welcome. If some of the input from the successful authors involved in the course rubs off, it will be well worth while. The details page suggests that course work will take up approximately three hours a week so it doesn’t require a huge investment in time.
I took part in a MOOC on a programming language last year (I work for a high technology start-up company during the day) and to be honest it was a bit of a mixed bag. The course started well but then lost pace after the first few weeks. I am hoping that this course will maintain my interest until the end. I intend to go into it with an open mind. If nothing else, it will make good material for a future blog!
Another good source of advice about writing is Marg McAlister’s Writing4Success site. There are literally hundreds of articles about all aspects of writing, many of them thought provoking.
When you want a publisher or agent to accept your book, generally you need to submit a synopsis. The synopsis should be a basic summary of the plot and is written in the present tense. That should be easy, you might think, after all you have just written a hundred thousand words or more. Different publishers and agents have different constraints on the length of this document but for most of them it needs to be no more than 600 words long.
Now try and cram your well crafted novel into that number of words. I have to say that it’s not easy. My first attempt came to about 2500 words – only four times too large. After some fairly vicious cutting I was down to about 1200 words – still twice what it needs to be.
Time for a different approach. I found a good guide at publishingcrawl.com that uses the plot of Star Wars as an example. One of the main pieces of advice is to only name three characters. When you think about it, it’s kind of obvious. If you’ve only got 600 words you can’t describe all your characters, their motivations and their actions throughout the book.
Another recommendation is to stick to the main plot and omit sub-plots. In the context of The Rage, this meant omitting all the stuff that explained the cause of the outbreak.
The final major guidance was to ensure that you reveal the ending. Well I was going to do that anyway but the temptation is there to embellish the finale.
So, after taking this advice, I was left with 620 words. After rewording some parts and culling a few unnecessary details I came in at 598 words.
Maybe next time I’ll write the synopsis before I write the book!
So, that perfect work of fiction that I have created, it contains … wait for it … errors. Yes, you read that right, errors. There are the typos, the missing words, the missing punctuation, the inconsistencies, the implausible behaviour and several other mistakes of one form or another. The question is how to weed them out.
You may have read in an earlier post (Lulu – you make me want to shout!) that I bought four copies of the first draft for review purposes. Well those books are now covered in pencil, red pen and various other almost illegible scribbles. Many thanks to my early readers including Judith, Emily, Tony, Tim, Chris and Ted for taking the time to help me resolve many of the problems.
The second draft of the book is certainly not perfect by any means, but most of the obvious issues have been ironed out and the reviews so far have been very complimentary. So if friends and family like it, a publisher is sure to want to take it. The only problem is finding one who thinks the same way that I do!
More about that in a future post.
… in a good way. So after wrestling with CreateSpace, I turned my attention to Lulu. The idea is the same – print on demand and sell through Amazon if you want.
I could probably have found a 6″ by 9″ template but the site recommended A5 size so I patiently converted the text into one of their templates. I uploaded the Word document and … no problems at all.
Now for the cover. I have to say the online cover designer isn’t as good as CreateSpace’s version but it’s adequate for the job. If you are an expert, you can download a template and design the cover offline.
I save the design and .. the web site is satisfied – happy days! I order four books (for the price of three) and wait for them to arrive. They tell me they will be delivered after printing time plus four or five business days.
Four days later I get a parcel. My books have arrived! I open the package with bated breath and … Wow! These are really professionally printed books. The cover looks a bit dark compared to what I had envisioned but the quality is excellent.
For about the same price each that you would buy a bestseller from a book store, I have four books that look like any book that you would pick up in a um … well a book store.
Now for the reviewing stage …
For those of you who don’t know, CreateSpace is an Amazon owned company that you can use to publish your book. It is what is known as a Print on Demand publisher. The idea is that you upload the text of your book, design the cover and then you can publish on Amazon’s main website or buy copies direct.
So I wanted a few copies of the first revision of my book to send out for review. I used a template that had been created for CreateSpace; being an American company the default size is 6″ by 9″. I faithfully copied the book contents from the Word document I had been using to write it, into the template.
Right, I’m ready to upload my book. The site allows me to select the file from my PC, and a few seconds later it is telling me that it is checking the format. It recommends that whilst I am waiting, I design the cover, so I do. The tools for this are actually pretty good and a few minutes later I have a first draft of the cover.
And that’s when the problems start. The website states that there are two issues with the format. The main issue is that I have to embed the fonts in the document. Google is my friend so I do a bit of research and a few minutes later I upload the new file (which is now ten times bigger so I know it’s got the fonts in it).
The website ponders my new format for a few minutes then states that there are still two issues (the other is to do with the resolution of the map images at the front of the book – easily sorted). Strange … I open the problem page again. It still says I haven’t embedded the fonts. Argh! I know I have because the file’s ten times bigger.
Okay, let’s try converting to PDF. I save the document as a PDF and upload again. CreateSpace ponders for a few minutes then delivers its verdict – 3 errors! What? The fault screen now says I still have the resolution issue, I still have the font issue and now I have another issue to do with the text going into the wrong area of the page (the bleed area to be technical). When I click the fault to see which pages the new problem lies on, it’s all of them.
Well I didn’t give up there – I tried several different options and formats, all to no avail.
I hear that Lulu is really good!
The Rage is Richard T. Burke’s first book, set in the fictional village of Netherwell.
Alice Dean becomes worried when her husband fails to return after walking their dog in the woods. Her fears are exacerbated when the dog comes home alone.
Dave French, a paramedic, is called out to attend a suspected fatality. Whilst examining the body, he is brutally assaulted by his colleague in an unprovoked attack.
Over the course of the next two days, the quiet village of Netherwell is rocked by a series of murders and descends into a spiral of escalating violence.
As Alice and Dave battle to survive in a world in which every living creature is a potentially lethal foe, they discover that the infected may not be the only source of danger.
They say that everybody has got one book in them and I had been meaning to write a book for a while. So a couple of years ago I started working on The Rage. There have been several periods during that time when I didn’t have the time to write much; completing day one (the book is set over three days) was a feat in itself! I had some big scenes in my mind but getting the characters into those scenes in a believable way was hard. In some ways I needed the prolonged writing period to come up with the plot. That said, I think a sequel would be much quicker to write and I already have some ideas about the direction.
The idea for the book came when I was walking our black Labrador, Max, in the woods close to where we live. We had just been watching the Walking Dead (great program by the way!) and I got to thinking about how zombies could happen for real. All this stuff about dying and then coming back to life as a creature that wants to eat flesh is total nonsense (but entertaining nevertheless).
So how could it really happen? Well there are a number of parasitic creatures that affect the brains of their hosts and change their behaviour. For some gruesome examples just read Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (when I say read, I really mean look at the pictures).
Incidentally, I have just read The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey and that uses the same idea as the core of the story.
I don’t want to ruin The Rage for you so you’ll just have to read it to find out what is causing the violence.