Writing Tips

Set in the style of a blog the following paragraphs contain snippets of my thoughts and ideas about the art of writing. While everyone has their own methods and style some of these may prove useful for those starting out on the bumpy path of becoming an author. For those that don't know me my name is Raymond Johnson. I fell in love with the written word many years ago and have published ebooks on the Amazon Kindle, printed books via Lulu Publishing and web stories posted directly on my website. I never stick to one genre and often experiment with different writing styles. My personal favourite are interactive stories with multiple plots, sub-plots and endings.


What Constitutes A Book

I was thinking about this recently while updating some of my websites. If I wrote something then had it published in paper form then it would be a book, if I published it as though it was a book but only made it available to be read online then it would be an ebook. So what is it called if I publish something on a website with a mixture of images and text? Would it still be a book or a website? I've written a lot of game guides and walkthroughs for videogames yet they only exist online so do they still count as books? It doesn't matter as the question's rhetorical but I guess a lot of people are writers yet don't know it simply because of the medium in which they choose to publish.


Slowing Down

The problem with writing is the writer can often be so absorbed in the work that they get over enthusiastic and churn out as much as they can in whatever amount of time they can find. I've noticed I've been doing this of late and have to force myself to stop. It's far better to write at a constant pace, without trying to cram as much as you can within one sitting which has the side effect of compressing the plot and making it far more difficult to test read.


Padding Stories

I've just finished a new book and as far as I was concerened it was perfect. I had written a story that flows correctly and is evenly paced out, but alas it's only 93 pages long. The problem is that 93 pages is far too thin for a printed novel to have a spine with the title and author's name written down the side, yet at the same time it's far too large to be staple binded with no spine down the edge. So I have to pad the story to a minimum of 110 pages to get it to print correctly. It works out an average of about 1 page of padding per chapter, either that or add another chapter to an already completed book. The story has an end twist so I can't simply add another chapter at the end, so I'm going to have to resort to padding and hope it doesn't slow down the pace too much.


Monitor Brightness

This is one of those problems that came up from time to time with my old computer but it's become particularly worse since getting my new laptop. The brightness of the monitor is always slightly brighter than how things look once they are printed so often I feel the need to increase the brightness of my book covers before printing and simply hope they turn out right. In some cases I forget then end up with a darker cover. Book covers containing lots of black are more susceptible to this whereas brightening a cover that contains lots of white will make no difference. This doesn't apply to the text however because that's always printed in black, in fact the grey page numbers in Microsoft Word always come out in pure black once printed.


Words I Can't Spell

I was doing some written work earlier today and I discovered my brain just will not store the spelling of the word "studio", for some reason I always think it ends with "eo" and not "io". I've been thinking about other words that I'm repeatedly having to looking up the spelling of. The word "scene" is another, I keep thinking there should be an "a" in there somewhere. Also the word "sense" sounds as though it should contain a "c". With some words I have learnt my way around their unexpected spellings. I always remember "invisible" ends with "ible" not "able", and that "original" isn't spelled as "origional". I think my biggest spelling faux-pas was when I attempted to look up the spelling for "creeped" because my word processor and dictionary didn't recognise it as a word that existed. The internet recognised it only in the tense of feeling "creeped out". I then later realised I meant "crept."


Writing in First-Person

I always write in first-person, it's simply my preferred style. I think it's because I used to read a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories and they were written that way with Dr Watson as narrator. It's also a good way to hide twists in the story ready to reveal them at the end. The only problem with that structure is when events have occurred when the main character wasn't present. It then becomes a case of having them find out by other means. Another problem is the style of language used in composing the story. Should the writer, i.e. me, use my own language to describe events or use the style and slang words of the main character? This becomes especially difficult when the main character is unlikable. One of my first novels, simply known as 'bee', has swearing in the narration toward the end yet I totally avoid it at the start, implying the gradual character growth and mood change of the main character. The events of that particular story are set over a number of months whereas the book I'm working on at the moment takes place over only a few days, so I'm finding it difficult to insert subtle changes. I hope the amazing twist at the end doesn't appear too forced, I may have to insert a few more chapters if it does.


My Latest Novel

The book I'm currently working on is literotica, but while its very adult in content it's also very quirky and cheeky, parts of it could even be considered comedy. It's also got a brilliant twist at the end. Quite often I come up with the ending twist before working out what the main plot is. As of yet I haven't got a title for it but as well as the ending I've also got an excellent picture for the front cover. It's still early days and it could be another month or two before it's finished.


Web Browser Compatibility

There are many advantages to publishing stories directly online, the main one being that you have sole control over their content and can easily make corrections and alterations if need be. Another advantage is that the over all feel of the website can made to match the types of stories being told. A gothic background for horror stories for instance can enhance the subject matter greatly in the same way that a light pink background is good for fairy stories. Black text on a white background is always the easiest to read but in some instances, especially with short stories, it's good to use varying styles. A problem that can arise however is web browser compatibility. An amazing looking website that looks perfect on Google Chrome may not look quite the same on Microsoft Internet Explorer. Generally speaking the way around this is to use only standard fonts and automatic word wrapping, while avoiding justified text, bordered pictures, coloured scrollbars and background sound. But alas even my websites sometime fall flat when a new version of a browser comes out meaning having to adjust a website to make it compatible with both browsers. Luckily the way HTML works there's more than one way to do the same thing so it's usually just a case of a slight adjustment here and there.


Erotica, Nudity & Sex

While reading about upcoming game releases for the PS4 I read about a PS3 game called 'Beyond: Two Souls' which may be coming out on the PS4 in the future. I've never played the game, and knew nothing about it, but apparently it's considered controversial due to a nudity scene that was cut from the game but released online anyway. From what I gather from what was shown on Youtube it looks as though the main character is at home and simply walking around her apartment in a state of undress and I'm sure the player has to dress her before leaving. I've always found it odd that nudity equates to sex which in turn is considered offensive. I've seen horror movies full of gore that were rated a 15 certificate while tame horror movies containing brief nudity are often 18 rated. Even the Horror Channel (Sky 319) will display a warning before a movie if nudity is present. Gore is okay, violence is okay, death is okay, but a naked breast is offensive. Anyway, to my main point of this blog entry, I've published erotica stories before and always include warnings of its content, yet feel it unnecessary when a story contains nothing more than nudity. It's only words after all and it's not as though someone will come across it by accident while browsing through the pages. I suppose everyone has their own sense of morality so it's more of the case of the author's own values being put across. I did once self-censor one of my light horror stories in which the main character's thoughts are described while she's being carried by another character. The description of those thoughts contained just a hint of sexual desire so in some ways I'm being a little hypercritical in this blog entry.


Changing Endings

This is one of those things that often frowned upon among writers but sometimes a good story can become a great story by the alteration of just a few paragraphs. Usually those alterations occur during the middle of the story just tweaking the flow of the plot, but when it comes to the ending that's a whole other matter. I'd never do such a thing to a novel, but recently while re-reading my short web stories, I've felt the urge to totally replace an ending. It meant I turned a character from a nasty evil person to someone who was simply misunderstood whilst performing a kind gesture. The rest of the story remains the same it's just the reader's opinion of the character that changes. In some ways I've asked the reader to decide if the character is evil rather than telling them.


Publishing Decisions

I've got around thirty books published on Kindle, five larger books on Lulu and a high number of short stories published online. The problem with short stories however is the decision whether to publish them on Kindle or not. Obviously a short ten page story wouldn't be worth it but anything ranging from thirty pages plus then I often have the dilemma of deciding the best way to publish. Simply posting a story directly online is always the best way to attract readers, as the stories are free, yet at the same time I feel my best work should be available in book form even if its an ebook format. I intend to put some more short stories published directly online over the next few months before writing something more substantial for Kindle.


Writing By Hand

I've always been the kind of person who sits in front of the computer and writes directly into Microsoft Word or an internet editor without the need of putting pen to paper first. Even if a book is at the planning stage I'll jot down my ideas using the computer. My old computer was noisy with a loud fan so in some ways it was harder to think and write, but my new laptop is practically silent with the only sounds emitting from my fingers pressing the keys. Recently I got a fountain pen that came free with a magazine and I've been using that a lot just for the novelty as I haven't used one in such a long time. It's surprising at how different ideas flow from my mind while using the pen. It's as though my brain is more relaxed sitting in front of a sheet of paper than sitting on front of a computer. I won't write full books that way however because it'll be an enormous chore to type it up afterwards.


Converting To Kindle Format

One of the features of publishing a book on Kindle is that during the conversion process from Microsoft Word into Kindle's format it will reveal spelling mistakes. What I have noticed however is that sometimes it will highlight when two words run into one another, yet the original typo never existed to begin with. For example it highlighted "verystrong" as a spelling mistake so naturally I assumed I typoed by missing out the space. Yet when I tried to correct it in the Microsoft Word document there was a space and the typo never existed. I can't tell if this is a bug in the conversion process or even a bug in Microsoft Word itself. To get around the problem it's just a matter of deleting and retyping the sentence that has the so-called spelling mistake in it.


Spoiling The End

I've written a story and have found a perfect cover photo but realise it would spoil the entire story to have that picture on the front. Basically the story is set around a human and a non-human character but the reader is unaware that one of the characters isn't human until it's revealed at the climax of the story. The cover photo would totally ruin the ending. I could either change the story or the cover but in this case I think I'll use a different cover photo instead.


When To Select A Book Cover

I was working on a book recently and the main character within the story uses a desktop PC, but when I found the perfect picture as a book cover it contained the image of someone using a laptop PC. So the question is, do I search for another picture, do I change the story to match the cover, or do I leave the story alone and use that cover anyway? I chose to alter the story. In the future I'll search for book covers before I start writing as to avoid such occurrences.


Sex Sells

It's simply a fact, whether you like it or not, that an erotic novel will vastly out-sell a great piece of fiction even if it's badly written and full of tired clichés. In some cases a badly written erotic novel may even out-sell a nicely written erotic novel simply because of the scantily clan woman on the cover. When you write a piece of fiction what you've got to ask yourself is, am I writing a story that I want told or am I writing purely for the sake of making money? If the latter is the case then erotica is the answer. You can try and mix it with another genre by writing erotic horror, erotic romance or even erotic comedy but when it comes down to it it's the erotic content that sells the book.


Writing Horror

I'd thought I mention this as it was something that surprised me. Recently I was reading a horror story that began as a romance about a couple having a picnic and ended with them being attacked by wolves. It was very gory containing lots of violence and was difficult to read. I then realised if I had written it I would have likely made the attackers vampires with a clever twist at the end that meant the vampires perish in some gruesome way. Mine would have been a whole lot more bloody but less scary. Maybe the best horror has to be realistic for people to actually find it frightening.


Getting Ideas

Luckily I'm never short of ideas for stories and have a pad full of thoughts written down that will keep me going for a long time to come. Some are ideas for plots while some are simply titles, most of which I'll likely never write up. It's important to write ideas down as soon as they pop into your head otherwise they can vanish as quickly as they came to you. Ideas can form in many ways but I think the worst way is to sit down and try to think of one, as that method will always end with something shoddy and unexciting. Think of writing as an art and try to be inspired. Remember that once you start the process of actually writing your story you'll have more and more ideas pop into your head as the characters themselves will influence the plot.


Free Stories

The problem with selling books is that people have vastly differing tastes in not just the subject matter but also the format of the book itself. Some people prefer the good old fashioned printed book while others prefer Kindle books or other ebook formats. There are also people who prefer to read a story right away without waiting and simply read the book within their web browser. My web stories tend to be far shorter than printed books and they are normally a good way for me to test ideas or even use ideas that never made it into printed form. It may seem strange to write stories and simply post them online for free but in many ways it becomes an advertisement for the purchasable books.


Making Up Words

The English language is constantly evolving with new words coming into use all the time, but it's not just the words associated with new technology that are new as quite often older words can evolve too. Think of literature as an art form and don't be afraid of changing structure and allow yourself to break convention if you feel your written work needs it. If you add a word to your story and the dictionary says that word doesn't exist don't alter it just because convention says you should. So long as the word is understandable then leave it in. I've used these words in my books; intimidatedly, nose-tears, this's, heamophobia, heartwarmingly, and yet according to the dictionary these words don't exist. Every word is understandable by the reader so why should I change them?



I don't often use a pseudonym for any of my work but in certain circumstances I have. If for example I wanted to post something online that's a little controversial I'll use a pseudonym, I've even created an animation all about farting and intentionally used a fake name just in case people never thought it was funny. It received over 60,000 hits so in many ways I should have used my own name. So far I've used my real name as the author of my books but am tempted to use a pseudonym in certain genres. Would a book about fairies be more acceptable coming from a female author for instance? On the other hand would it be better to always use my real name and be honest and not care if someone is put off? I haven't decided yet but it's something to think about in future.


Kindle Books Formatting

I've recently signed up with Amazon with the intention of releasing my books for the Kindle. The problem is however that it uses a totally different format to how I'm used to totally doing away with page numbers. No matter now neat and tiny a book is just the simple matter of viewing with a larger font size will mess up its format increasing the amount of pages. I can get around it by avoiding certain format structures and pretty much releasing the entire book as plain text, but with my existing stories I'm not sure that it'll work due to them designed around their chapters, i.e. without page numbers a contents page is meaningless. I'll think what I'll do is write an entire new range of books specifically for the Kindle rather than converting my existing titles. I'll make them short and sell them cheap.


Characters Changing The Story

This may seem like a common cliché but it's happened a lot to me over the years and it's happened again while writing my latest book called Angels' Coven. Basically the plot is about a boy whose sister is accused of witchcraft. She admits to the crime to avoid being tortured and begs her brother to destroy her diary in order to protect the family name. While attempting to do as she asks he gets murdered by a group of witch hunters. Then four hundred years later the diary is discovered and he returns from the grave in order to destroy it. The ending was originally supposed to be a happy one and the kind ghost of the boy returns to the afterlife once the diary is burnt in a fire. But upon writing I realised he would be curious about its contents and also angry that his family were accused of such a crime. In many ways, even though he's a nice person (ghost) he won't let me write the sweet ending and instead wants an exciting twist!


Spam Filter

I've been looking online at the websites of literary agents, wondering if any of my printed books could be published by a more specialised publisher, then found an agent who only deals with novels that are true stories. I thought one of my books may fall under that category, but wasn't willing to simply send the entire manuscript so instead I sent a simple email with a synopsis of my story and whether it would be the style of genre they would be interested in. The next day I discovered my email have bounced back with the message that it had been deemed as spam by the literary agent's website. In other words their own spam filter rejected it without any human being reading a single word. I'm so glad I didn't send the full manuscript.


Keeping Track

Recently I've been altering some of my online ebooks and found that the font didn't quite match the original. It was all due to Internet Explorer displaying the spacing in fonts just slightly differently to the web editor. So I spent time jiggling with font sizes and switching bold on and off and wondering if the anti-aliasing had other settings, yet everything looked correct once it was viewed in ebook form. Whenever things like that happen it's a good idea to keep a note of it as to remember not to spend time fixing something that isn't broken.


Knowing When To Stop

I've been writing a collection of short stories but I realised I have far more ideas jotted down than I need. If I continue to write more short stories then I'll still get new ideas popping into my head that I will jot down in my notes causing an everlasting cycle of stories. I'll still jot down ideas of course as I can always use them in other written work but I don't think it's likely that I'll ever finish writing up every idea that I have. This is also true for larger novels that at some point you have to end the story even though you may have many more ideas you want to include. This is probably why I've written so many sequels to my novels.


Forming Realistic Characters

One of the important aspects of creating realistic fleshed-out characters is to make sure they are not alike. A tough action hero may be fine for the lead character but to have a group of characters with the same personality traits can make the story unrealistic. In some cases having different character traits within the same character can also work so long as an event within the story brings out the other traits rather than just a random change. Even subtle changes within characters can be enough. One of my books features two twin sisters and the plot mentioned a long dark passage. One of them referred to it as a "passageway" while the other used the word "corridor." The chances are a reader wouldn't notice yet it's all part of creating differences for what would otherwise be similar characters. In fact while both sisters were fundamentally nice one of them casually swore while the other only used bad language whilst angry. It's not just the personality of the characters but their physical appearance that's relevant to keeping a story realistic. One of my books contains a character with baggy clothing, blonde hair that covers half her face covering her right eye, thick eye makeup on the other eye and chunky shoes. She was based upon a real person I passed in the street. Remember that while the plotline of your story may be about a group of people overcoming adversity and defeating an evil doer it is okay for some of the main characters to be bad people too. Don't make your heroes larger than life, give them human imperfections.


Character Driven Stories

This is one of those things that a lot writers as readers say, that a character driven story is always vastly better than a plot driven one. Whether that's true or not is just a matter of opinion and depends vastly upon the story being told. A book about an army off to fight a war doesn't really work as a character driven story unless it follows a small group of soldiers, in which case the epicness of the battle could be belittled. Whereas a comedy about a family who get into all kinds of hilarious scrapes won't work if the characters aren't fleshed out with distinct and different personalities. I find that having detailed characters makes the act of writing vastly easier. In many ways the original plot is altered by the characters' reactions to what is taking place and character growth becomes second nature. I've said this before in another entry but characters develop far beyond their initial design, influencing the plot, practically writing the story themselves.


Browsing For Kindle Books

Normally when I purchase a book for the Amazon Kindle I simply type in the book title and up it pops, but I wasn't looking for a particular book and was just browsing. I've now come to realise how difficult it is as page after page of books fill the screen with the most popular at the top. I was hoping to search for a little gem of a short story hidden among the rest but my search proved fruitless. I think it's best to search for books elsewhere then see if it's available for the Kindle once you know what you're looking for.


Pen Names & Pseudonyms

I've always had a suspicion that a writer's name has baring on whether is book is well-received and I've realised I'm correct in that assumption. Famous writers will often have unusual names or in some cases a set of initials before their name. I'm sure their literary agent has some input on the name they choose. It's different if someone's already a celebrity to begin with, but if they are only famous as an author then generally speaking their name is something very individual. I realise now that I should have chosen a pen name for myself because if I look myself up online there are thousands of others with my name, even in some cases other writers. I have written two books under a pen name and I'm a little embarrassed to admit they are more popular than my other books. My fake self is more popular than my real self.


Short Stories Vs. Full Length Novels

I was thinking about this recently and it's an odd conundrum as to the best way to tell a story, especially made all the more complicated when wishing to gain more sales. Generally speaking certain books will only work as a short story while others as a full length novel. In some cases a short story can be ruined by padding it. So in a way the decision is made for the author due to the subject matter and style of story. But when it comes to book sales, especially on the Amazon Kindle, this becomes vastly more complex. This may be to do with the fast pace of the times we live in, or the type of customer that uses the Kindle, but I've noticed short stories vastly outsell full length books, even when they are priced the same. I suppose people are just looking for a quick read, the kind of story that can be read in a single sitting. Printed books on the other hand are the total opposite and it's larger novels that sell more than short stories. The disadvantage of printed media however is that it's difficult to keep prices down.


Taking A Break

I think one of the most difficult things about writing is knowing when to stop and take a break. It's possible to write for hours, churning out page after page of quality writing, then to realise later it wasn't as good as you had first thought. There's nothing wrong with writing in that fashion if that's your preferred method but it's still important to take a break and rest those eager storytelling urges just to let what's been written sink in. A book written in haste often reads that way too and you don't want the reader to feel you hurried the story. In fact even when the story is complete it's a good idea to leave it for a number of days before test reading, leaving it to brew so to speak, and refresh any new ideas that may pop into your head that you can add to the writing.


How To Begin A Story

I was having a conversation recently with someone about writing and was asked the usual question, "Where do you get your ideas from?", the cliché question most writers are asked. But was then asked, "How do you begin a story?", which threw me a little as it's not a question I've been asked before. I suppose the best way is to ignore all the preliminaries and jump straight into the action then fill in the rest of the story around it later. With many of my books I've written the first chapter last. With my very first novel the third chapter was originally the first. There's another trick where you write the entire story in a single sitting as a very brief short story, then later divide it into chapters, then later still pad them out. There is no single best trick, it's just a matter of finding the best that suits you.


Why Are You Writing That Book?

Are you writing a book because you have a deep seeded urge to tell something you want the world to know? Are you writing because you hope it'll make you rich? Are you writing because you have a particular talent and simply wish to show off? There are many reasons to write books. Maybe that story you wish to tell would be far better received if it was in the form of a blog, there are far better and easier ways to become rich, and many other ways to show off. I could list a whole host of reasons as to why people write, but what's important is that you be honest when you ask yourself why before deciding the best approach.


Writing In First Person

I may have mentioned this in a past entry but my writing is always written in first person, with the main character as narrator, using "I" instead of "he" or "she" describing the events. In many ways this has a big advantage in that the reader never knows more than what the main character does while at the same time the main character may choose not to reveal to the reader certain aspects of what's taking place. Hiding snippets of information about the plot then revealing them later can create a story twist where otherwise one wouldn't take place. It can often have it drawbacks too as certain information about other characters can't be revealed unless the main character knows about them, thus preventing any sense of peril if the secondary character is dangerous. It's just a case of writing in the style you find most comfortable and working around any drawbacks you come across.


Fantasy Books

I've had a bit of a dilemma recently when dividing my book titles into categories. Many books can be classified under more than one category, for example "Steampunk Horror", or "Contemporary Sci-fi", but what do I call books that are set in the past about warriors? Books resembling Conan or Lord Of The Rings, what do they count as? The usual classification is "Fantasy" but surely all fiction is fantasy. I classified them as "Mythology" instead yet it also includes contemporary stories about mermaids and fairies. I'll have to think about it further and think of a better name for the classification.


Best Selling Genres

I was thinking about this recently as I was looking through my own work wondering if I should focus on a more specific genre. It's pretty obvious to say that literotica is always going to far outsell any other genre, but it's usually short lived and after a whole bunch of sales they tend to ease off. Fantasy/sci-fi books do really well too, especially books in the Lord Of The Rings vain, but there's a whole mass of competition that your book can get buried beneath. Steampunk is growing in popularity but it's more of a sub-genre that has to be combined with another which can attract some readers while putting others off. For example a steampunk horror is only going to be popular with fans of both steampunk and horror. I think it's just best to stick with what you're good at, write what interests you, and no worry too much about what's popular.


Writing In A Hurry

I was thinking about this recently when I was working on a story and eager to get it finished as soon as possible. I'm the kind of person who likes to write continuously while the excitement and enthusiasm of the story is still there before it has chance to turn wear off and become a chore. But on the other hand I find if I write that way the overall pace of the story quickens and important details can be missed. I think the answer is to get the story written down as quickly as possible then worry about the details later. While editing and padding a piece of written work can be a bit of a chore it's not that difficult if the main plot of the story is fully established.


Leaving Reviews

Since purchasing a Kindle I find myself reading far more than I used to. I tend to download short stories, the kind that I can read in one sitting, but on some occasions have read full size novels. When leaving a review I find it difficult to type using the Kindle's on-screen keyboard so instead I log into Amazon Kindle's website on the computer to leave my review. I always try to leave a little feedback too, mentioning something about the story but without leaving spoilers for other readers. It's always good for authors to know why their story received such a rating rather than just a how good it was. I've never read a bad book on Kindle but let's just say some books are better than others. I've also received feedback for my books which I'm glad to say are positive, and I thank everyone who has purchased my books whether you left feedback or not. :)


Looking Myself Up

It appears that there are a number of other authors out there with the same name as mine and while this doesn't bother me I'm sure it can lead to some confusion. I've already seen some of my books listed on goodreads.com along with other books I certainly didn't write and an author's picture that isn't me. The links still direct to the correct amazon sale page so it's not as though they are intentionally trying to deceive, it's simply just a mistake. I may consider a pen-name in future, something that's unique.


I Bought A Kindle

This is a strange entry as I announce that I have recently bought a Kindle as I've been publishing my books on Kindle for about a year now and haven't been able to view them as they are supposed to be viewed. Obviously during the publishing process there is a simulated Kindle for use on the PC to make sure everything is formatted correctly but it's a whole different experience using an actual Kindle to read books. I've also been reading a lot of books, mainly short stories, by other authors. I find the best way to search for a good book is to visit Amazon's website and purchase the book directly from the site then download onto the Kindle. That feature is far easier than searching on the Kindle's small screen. There's some brilliant books available with the most popular being fantasy/sci-fi.


Writing Positions

The usual way I write is to sit down at my desk (a chest of drawers with a piece of wood stuck to the top) and write on my laptop. The main advantage of having a desk is other items such as pens and notepads are at hand. Recently though I've been catching up with work and have been using my laptop in the kitchen resting it on the counter top. It's a strange experience to type while standing up and I've found that in many ways it's more comfortable. The position of the monitor for instance is more at eye level and I'm less likely to get neck ache. Surprisingly standing for hours in front of the computer doesn't cause my legs to ache either. The kettle's nearby too. :) I don't think I've ever used my laptop on my lap, typing in a comfy sofa chair doesn't feel right.


Past Present Tense

I've been working on a story recently that is essentially a journal of someone who lived in the past so I've tried to use a lot of old style language throughout. One of the difficulties of writing in such a style is having to alternate between present and past tense, from one paragraph to the next, as an event being described may be taking place as the journal is being written while on the other hand the event may have taken place just prior to it being recorded. It's an odd sensation of writing fiction as though fact in present tense describing a non-existent event of the past. In some ways it's a good way to practice. I can also claim mistakes are intentional create by the fictional author.



I've written books in the past that were planned to have sequels right from the start. My Effluo Insula series of books were planned as a trilogy before I even began writing the first one. Whereas with some of my books I never intended to write a sequel until long after the first book was published. From watching movies, and more recently anime, I've come to realise that a sequel can often ruin the entire series by simply adding a new facet to a character or focusing onto a different aspect of the story. Eager to see what happens next then discovering your favourite movie turns out to be a reboot can ruin the entire experience. On a personal note I would never reboot one of my books, other than general padding of the story and changing the cover perhaps, but when it comes to sequels I suppose it depends on its popularity.


Kindle Book Pricing

There's been a little inconsistency in Kindle book prices recently meaning that my ebooks on sale in the UK are a little more expensive than they were before the new year, while ebooks sold in America are a little cheaper. This is all to do with VAT being added to the costs and there's a strange rule that states printed books have a lower VAT rate than ebooks. This is even more complicated for ebooks sold in Italy that have a varying VAT rate depending on whether they have an ISBN number or not.



Story Lengths

The best stories are always written from the heart, the more thinking involved the more sterile the result. If you create a piece of written work intending for it to be a particular length it'll show in the final result with the pacing of the plot shifting. Sometimes there's no way around this and it's a case of writing and re-writing a piece of work getting it to fit within a set number of pages until it's just right. One of the many advantages with publishing on the Amazon Kindle, or similar book reading devices, is that pages don't matter. You can simply write until you reach the end of the story, whether it's 10 pages, 75 pages, or 500 pages it doesn't matter. A 10 page printed book however would look odd so padding such a story is understandable. The point I'm making is your creativity isn't stifled by the chore of padding when you write for ebook readers as it would be for printed material.


Write What You Love

When it comes to writing it's best to stick with what you know, what you love and what you enjoy. Keep to your favourite genre and the love that you feel for the subject will become apparent within the writing. If on the other hand you write something that doesn't excite you, causing every word to become a chore, readers will likely pick up upon it once the final piece of work is finished. Another advantage of writing in this fashion is that you can write a whole vast more than you otherwise would. Simply put if you love your work you will spend more time doing it and the easier it will be. If you wish to experiment with different genres you can always write short stories to see how it works out.


Authors on Twitter

Twitter, along with other social networking sites, is a good way to promote your writing whether you're promoting the book itself or just getting yourself known within the writing community. Personally I generally tend to talk about a variety of different subjects while occasionally promoting my own books and other books I've read. It's also a good place to get tips. I received a lot of tips about alternative book covers for instance and advice about pre-orders.


Changing the Story to Match the Cover

One of my books was rejected for publication by Amazon due to the cover art being a little too risqué even though it was a painting rather than a photo, but if I've inadvertently broken their rules then it's my mistake and I'll just need to change the cover art, it's not a big problem. I am a little disappointed however due to the art matching the contents of the book so precisely so I've had to search for a similar yet less revealing picture. The only problem is the person depicted in the new picture no longer matches the person mentioned within the book so I now have to decide whether to alter the book itself, destroying its integrity, or simply leave it and hope no on will notice. I haven't decided yet, but I thought I'd mention it here just to make you aware of some of the difficulties writers have to deal with.


Writer's Block

Personally speaking I don't think I've suffered from this but I know it can become a big problem for many writers. If I've written a short story that needs a lot of padding then in that case I probably have suffered from it to a certain extent with writing becoming a chore, especially when trying to insert new chapters without affecting the flow of the entire story, but 'touch-wood' I've never had writer's block. As I think about it what I just mentioned may actually be a solution to solve a case of writer's block. Write your entire novel as a short story then pad it later. Remember your book doesn't need to be written in the correct order. The thrilling exciting ending can be written first then it's just a matter of steering the plot toward it. Also remember to take a break, ideas can pop into your head when you're not thinking about them. Don't be afraid to abandon a story you've already started, you can return to it later, or use some of the ideas within a totally different story.


New Editions

Often I've looked over my old work and felt it could do with a word change here and there or possibly a little padding. Things such as a blatant typo or spelling mistake I'll correct right away, but when it comes to alterations that effect the plot itself then it becomes a different matter. Generally speaking it's best practise to not alter anything, even if other readers have commented upon it, but I'd be a hypocrite to claim I've never tweaked the plotline of a book that's already published. I've written a horror story that contained a paragraph describing the main character's sexual thoughts, then later realised it effected the motivation of that character, so I removed it. Another of my books contains a hint of toilet humour while the book itself is a serious sci-fi, yet I feel no need to alter it because a comedy moment feels appropriate. I've even padded short stories which is something commonly frowned upon by other writers. I think it boils down to personal choice as to what the author feels about their work, there is no real right or wrong answer.


How Much Detail to Add

I was thinking about this recently while working on a short story about people on a boating holiday. There's a scene where the main character is walking up a beach with the hot sand against the underside of her feet making them feel uncomfortable. As I continued to describe the event, creating a detailed picture in words, I realised I had taken over a page to describe an event that's not prevalent to the plot. The whole point of the scene is to reveal that it's a hot day, the beach is beautiful and the character is in bare feet, but I took a lot of words to describe it. In some cases lots of detail is important but often it's not. It's just a case of getting the balance just right.