Category Archives: On Writing

Celebrate Nanowrimo 2018 with a free how-to ebook

Here in Australia it’s December 1 already, so Nanowrimo is over for another year. I didn’t even come close to winning Nano this year, but my heartfelt congratulations to all those who did. 50,000 words in 30 days is a great accomplishment, so well done. πŸ™‚

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, Nano is still in its final hours, and I imagine a lot of you will be furiously writing to catch that November 30 deadline. I congratulate all of you as well. No one can ever take this achievement away from you, but memories fade, so I suggest that you print the page that contains your 50,000th word and frame it. I did that with my first Nano; the word was ‘gut’. Not exactly poetic but hey…-shrug-

And finally, a word for those who didn’t make it. I know you’re probably feeling pretty disappointed at the moment, but you have to remember that winning Nano is not the end, it’s just the beginning. Your writing doesn’t have to end on November 30. Use what you started as the jumping off point for the story you’ll write all through 2019.

Win or lose, this next bit is for everyone. When your Nano story is polished to perfection, you will probably want to publish it. If you decide to self-publish your work, you will have a number of options:

  1. publish as an ebook
  2. publish as a paperback
  3. publish as both an ebook and a paperback

If you decide to go with options 2 and 3, then I can help. ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing‘ is my step-by-step guide to publishing a paperback with KDP. In it you will find information about trim sizes, bleed, PDFs, formatting, Amazon distribution, royalties and heaps more. Each step is illustrated with screenshots and examples, close to 150 of them so even complete beginners can follow the instructions.

To celebrate the end of Nano 2018, I’ve made the ebook version of ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ free for one day on December 1, 2018. [Click the link to be taken to the Amazon page or click the image of the book on the sidebar].

Due to timezone differences, the guide will become free on Amazon at about 6:00 pm, Australian Eastern time. For Northern Hemisphere writers, it will be free from midnight.

This is what the guide looks like on the Kindle Fire 6:

 

Because the ebook is in colour, and fixed format [so the layout of each page is controlled], you will only be able to use it on the following devices:

If you need the free Kindle Reading app., you can get it from here:

Clicking that link will open the following popup:

From this popup, you can select the device on which you want to use the app. I’ve only done it for the PC, but I think it should be fairly easy for all devices.

So there you have it, my free guide to printing your finished Nano Novel. Even if you don’t intend to publish for some time, download the guide now and save yourself some money. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 


Nano2018 – when a Pantster just has to Plot

In a previous post I waxed lyrical about how I’d worked out what made Bountiful so deadly. Flushed with euphoria, I thought I was home and hosed, and that the writing would now flow. Not so much…

Since then, I’ve had to acknowledge that the core of my Nano story this year is actually three-fold:

  1. What made Bountiful so deadly?
  2. How did Beaumont cover it up?
  3. How did James Milgrove, aka the Burning Man, discover the Beaumont cover up?

I thought I had the answer to no. 2, but I soon realised that if I went with that particular solution, no. 3 would be almost impossible to achieve. I say ‘almost’ because I could have fudged the solution. ‘OhΒ  look, I just found a memo that proves Beaumont were culpable. How lucky is that?’

Just writing those two sentences raises the hackles on the back of my neck because it’s such a cheap trick, and so patently unrealistic. I mean really, with billions of dollars at stake, readers are supposed to believe that Beaumont cares enough to send an assassin to Innerscape, but not enough to burn the evidence?

Fortuitous events do happen, sometimes. Most of the time, however, big events are the result of a cascade of tiny, seemingly unrelated events, and the decisions taken over each one.Β  And that’s where plotting becomes a necessity.

Although I call myself a pantster, the truth is that I’m a hybrid who does a lot of research and a lot of plotting to make the base mechanics of the story work. In the case of P7698, that core revolves around the pseudo-science of Bountiful. In the Innerscape trilogy, the core centred on the constraints of the digital world itself. In Vokhtah, it was the whole world vs the biology, culture and history of the Vokh and iVokh.

Science fiction may demand more, in terms of these core mechanics, than some other genres, but I know that the best fantasy results from the same, fastidious attention to detail. Characters have to react to believable events and circumstances or their actions will come across as ‘fake’, and none of us want that.Β So here I am, a little bit stuck on points 2. and 3. 😦

I gave up the idea of winning Nano almost a week ago, and I can live with that; the element of competition was just a little added extra to keep me going. But getting this stuck is seriously depressing as I know I’m going to have writer’s block until I find solutions that feel real.

Anyone else having this problem?

Meeks


KDP, CreateSpace, Fate and Me

I know the title sounds a bit pretentious, but as I begin yet another round of editing on the KDP how-to, I can’t help feeling that Fate is looking out for me. How else to explain the fact that the IngramSpark review result came back just one day after KDP swallowed CreateSpace whole?

To give you an idea of the timeline, I approved the KDP how-to for publishing by CreateSpace just one day before the announcement of the merger.

On the day of the announcement, I logged back into the KDP website and discovered that I could no longer migrate my CreateSpace books over to KDP manually. The option to do so was gone, completely. The before and after screenshots below highlight the change in the KDP interface.

This is how the KDP interface looked before the merger:

If you clicked the button for ‘No’, you’d be shown the options for uploading new content. If you clicked the button for ‘Yes’, you’d be shown options for migrating your existing paperback from Createspace to KDP.

Now look at the same part of the interface after the merger:

As you can see, the CreateSpace option is gone entirely. I can only assume that KDP has decided to control the entire merger itself. On the one hand, this will make things easier for authors because the whole thing is now out of our hands. On the other hand, excuse the pun, it may also mean that we’re in for an almighty mess as thousands of books are moved from one system to the other, en masse.

Once the dust settles, I strongly recommend that all self-published authors check their books carefully. In particular, make sure that the ‘Print Options’ on the KDP interface correctly reflect the trim size of your book and the cover finish.

The shaded boxes are the default selections. One book I migrated manually had the cover finish shown as ‘Matte’ rather than ‘Glossy’. It was easy to fix, but it pays to be vigilant.

Getting back to my timeline, the change in the KDP interface means that I will have to take out an entire section of my KDP how-to: for the CreateSpace/KDP version, the KDP Textbook Creator version and…for the IngramSpark version.

And here’s where Fate stepped in. The review of the IngramSpark version did not arrive until one day after the announcement of the KDP-CreateSpace merger.

To understand why I’m so happy, you have to understand how the IngramSpark system works. The sequence of steps goes something like this:

  1. You upload your book and cover.
  2. You review a digital version of the book and cover.
  3. You approve the book and cover for review by IngramSpark.
  4. IngramSpark do a technical review of the book and cover and email you a report.
  5. You can then make revisions to the book and cover.
  6. When the book is as perfect as you can make it, you give final approval for the book and cover to be printed.

Note: there is no printed proof with IngramSpark, only the digital proof.

Now here’s the important part. Once you do step 6., any revision, no matter how big or small, will incur a $25 AUD charge.

To bring this point into context, I’ve already uploaded about 4 versions of the KDP how-to interior and at least 2 versions of the cover, all at different times. In dollar terms, that could have cost me $150 AUD. Luckily, I was still at step 4. above when the KDP/CreateSpace merger was announced. That means I can still edit the how-to, free of charge.

Coincidentally, this fortuitous timing also means that I won’t be approving the two original CreateSpace how-to’s for printing by IngramSpark at all [I have them uploaded but was waiting to get all my books approved, printed and shipped at once].

So there you have it, more editing but less frustration thanks to a helping hand from Fate. πŸ™‚

I know a lot of you are self-published authors as well; how are you finding the changes? Pleased that you won’t have to move your books to KDP manually? Or a bit apprehensive?

cheers

Meeks


When is close too close?

This will be a post about POV – point-of-view – in writing, so if this kind of thing bores you to tears, look away now. For everyone else, I have a question:

Do you enjoy First Person POV – i.e. the type of story that is all about what ‘I said’, ‘I saw’, ‘I did’, ‘I thought’, ‘I felt’?

The reason I ask is because I’ve never particularly enjoyed First Person POV, but I didn’t actively hate it until I began reading the second book in First Person POV in almost as many days.

The first story I read was actually pretty good. It had a lot of the elements I look for in a good sci-fi story. But it also had a heroine I simply could not ‘like’. She vacillated between ridiculously wimpy not-quite-adult and hardcore, kickarse hero. The motivation was there, but it was almost too much, along the lines of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’.

I like characters that aren’t perfect. I like them to have quirks, weaknesses, flaws. I even like them to be ‘broken’ because then there’s the hope that they will heal and grow. What I don’t like is seeing them from the inside.

I won’t name the story or the protagonist because I’ve suddenly realised that these are criticisms I apply to almost all First Person POV fiction. There have been exceptions [C.J.Cherryh’s Foreigner series is one], but they are rare, imho.

This issue crystalized for me when I started reading the second ‘Me, Me, Me’ story. It was even worse. Just a few chapters in and I couldn’t read any more. Not only did it have editing issues, it had a main character whose motivation can only be described as schizophrenic. This particular character spent virtually the whole first chapter being paranoid, for no real reason. Then she did a complete about face and…

Enough. I doubt that the author concerned will ever read my blog, or this post, but I don’t want to say anything that might identify the story because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Writing is hard. Publishing is harder, and none of us need other authors criticising us in public. That’s why I never leave reviews of books I’ve hated. Sadly, I hate this one.

Moving on. So what do I like?

I like Close Third Person POV – i.e. where we see the character from the outside, but also get some thoughts and feelings.

I also like reading more than one POV – i.e. where we get to see the story through the eyes of two or more characters. Importantly, we get to see the main character[s] through the eyes of other characters.

I know that some of you find multiple POVs distracting, and I can understand that; you’re reading along happily and suddenly, bang, total change of POV, of scene, of story arc etc. Unless you enjoy that particular technique, multiple POVs can be hard work. Nevertheless, don’t you think we get a more truthful version of the main character when we see them through the eyes of others?

I know I’ve been surprised by how others see me, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not. When I’m honest with myself, however, the change of perspective usually makes me grow as a person.

I’m not saying that I lie, to myself or others, but I’ve learned that we all see ourselves through the prism of some sort of bias. Confident people generally see themselves as hero material. Less confident people may focus on their flaws to the exclusion of their good qualities. Outsiders, however, can often see things we are incapable of seeing in ourselves.

Just as I believe this ‘outsider’ view is healthy for real people, I also believe it can work for characters in fiction. I think it helps to balance out the internal distortions of ego, providing a more realistic, and often likable, character.

Coincidentally, this outsider view also allows the author to avoid the necessity of writing that awful mirror scene. You know the one:

‘Look at me. I’m looking at myself in the mirror/pond/reflective glass so I can describe what I look like to you, the reader’.

That technique is a tool, and like any tool, it has its time and place, but like all the other tools in the writer’s bag of tricks, it shouldn’t be abused. And it shouldn’t be…predictable.

Okay, that’s probably more on writing than I’m comfortable with, but I would like to know what everyone else thinks. I really am open to persuasion. πŸ™‚

Agree?

Disagree?

‘Yes but…?

‘You’ve just been reading the wrong books…?’

‘Boooooring…?

cheers

Meeks


IngramSpark cover template builder

Just a very quick post about the covers for IngramSpark.

First, you can find the template builder on the IngramSpark website here:

https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/CoverTemplateGenerator

You won’t have to register with IngramSpark to use the cover generator, but you will have to type in an ISBN for the book plus other details like total page count etc:

IngramSpark will send you an email so you can download the template [two choices InDesign or PDF].

The template will look like this:

The cover has to fit over the entire coloured area, with particular attention to the text that goes on the spine. Then the WHOLE template plus cover image has to be saved as one, converted to whatever [for me it’s PDF] and that is sent off as the cover file.

Hope that makes sense.

Night all,

Meeks


CreateSpace paperbacks – matte vs glossy

First up, I am amazed at how fast CreateSpace delivered my printed proofs of How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing. Seriously, from either the US or the UK to Australia in a week? Thank you!

Unfortunately, the proofs prove exactly why printed proofs of paperbacks are so necessary. This is what I see when I look at the cover on my computer screen:

Note: ignore the back cover text; was a quick and dirty scale down in Corel.

Now, have a look at what the cover looks like with a matte finish:

Note 2: that curly, golden looking thing in the background is the dog’s tail.

As you can see, the matte finish looks, well, awful. Not the fault of CreateSpace. My fault. All my previous covers have been printed with a glossy finish and [except for Vokhtah] they all turned out beautifully. This is one of my glossy how-to’s for comparison:

The black of the background is the same on both the matte and glossy covers. The difference between them, however, is stark.

I’m sure there are some covers that work perfectly with a matte finish, but none of mine do, and I’ll never make this mistake again. 😦

Another design mistake I made was in the choice of ‘tablet’ graphic I used. The outline of the tablet blends into the background way too much. That will have to be changed, tout suite. My only excuse is that it didn’t look that way on my screen. Not sure if that’s because of the calibration of the screen, my ageing eye-sight or just an inevitable outcome when you convert from RGB to CMYK colour modes. Actually, it’s probably a combination of all three.

And now to something that wasn’t my fault. These are smears of, I think, glossy ‘ink’ that have transferred to the matte print:

Not sure how POD technology works, but clearly it’s not quite as ‘clean’ as one would hope. As these books are just proof copies, and I’m going to change the cover slightly anyway, I’m not terribly fussed. But can you imagine how I’d be feeling right now if I’d approved this original cover for IngramSpark?…and now had to pay $25 to fix the problems with the cover?

I think my blood would be boiling, there’d be steam coming out of my ears, and the house would be ringing with four-letter words at max volume… Ahem. Luckily, none of that is happening, thanks to CreateSpace.

Lessons learned:

  • setup paperbacks to be sold on Amazon with CreateSpace,
  • request printed proofs of paperbacks from CreateSpace,
  • do not approve any paperbacks for IngramSpark until you’re sure of the ultimate quality because you’ll be working sight unseen and mistakes are costly.

There is one more lesson I have to learn, and that is to see if the IngramSpark worldwide distribution is as good as it’s cracked up to be. But that’s for another day and another post.

cheers

Meeks

 


Indie Writing – about outlining in reverse

Most Indie writers will be aware of the two extremes of writing technique: pantsting and outlining. Well, I’m kind of a hybrid. Most of the time I write as a ‘pantster’, meaning that I allow my sub-conscious to direct the flow of the story rather than planning it out ahead of time. The trouble is, after a certain point, my stories become rather complex and convoluted, so I do have to think ahead, at least a little.

Nevertheless, my ‘thinking ahead’ still doesn’t constitute an outline. For me, outlining is something that happens after the story is told, not before. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past three days. I’ve been going through Vokhtah, line by line, noting down all the bits and pieces that make up the story. These include the plot, of course, but also things like timelines, motivation/backstory and the introduction of Vokhtan vocabulary.

All in all, my reverse outlining takes up 19 pages of notations. This is just one of them:

As you can see, its data in the raw, and tomorrow I’ll have to massage it into some sort of order that goes beyond the simple chronology of the story. But that’s for tomorrow. For now, I need a coffee and a walk around the garden with the ‘kids’.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


Achievements, failures and RESOLUTIONS!

In a fond farewell to 2017 I thought I’d list my achievements:

I worked out how to use CreateSpace [after years of thinking it was too hard] and created print versions of 4/5 of my sci-fi novels, including all four covers for:

  • Miira
  • The Godsend
  • Nabatea
  • The Vintage Egg

I used the CreateSpace experience to write, produce the cover and print a non-fiction book called How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace.

Then I got all ambitious and decided to do one for more complicated books. I am enormously proud to annouce that How to Print Non-Fiction with CreateSpace was uploaded to the CreateSpace website at 9:50pm December 31, 2017. Yep, I just scraped it in. The Non-Fiction book is not available yet as I want to road-test it a bit first, but at least it’s up there. πŸ™‚

As for the failures, most were small – like trying to replace the bulb in my rangehood and failing miserably – and some were just plain enfuriating. I mean, I’m a grown woman, right? I eat well, stay fairly healthy, I even do a bit of physical exercise out in the garden…so why can’t I lose weight? I don’t want to lose a lot, just 5 or 6 kilos…grrrrr.

Anyway, let’s not talk about the past. 2017 is DONE. It is over, finished, consigned to the trash heap of history. 2018 is going to be a lot better and for me it’s already started…Ta Dah

You are looking at the ebook version of How To Print Your Novel with CreateSpace!

Remember that poll I ran a short while ago? The one where I asked you which screenshots were easier to see? Well the results were overwhelmingly in favour of the coloured screenshots, but that left me with a terrible problem as I knew the print version would be seriously expensive [around about $25 USD for the longer how-to].

And then I stumbled across a new-ish Kindle app called the Kindle Textbook Creator. Could this be the answer to my problems?

Before I continue I have to send Chris McMullin a huge thank you. Chris is a publishing guru who writes textbooks and wonderful, clear blog posts about all sorts of technical things. One of his posts became my ‘bible’ as I researched the Textbook Creator:

Optimizing Amazon’s Free Kindle Textbook Creator Publishing Tool

If any of you have thought about writing say, a cookbook, but were put off by the tech, I strongly recommend that you read Chris’ post and get to work.

Anyway, I took Chris’ advice, optimised a copy of How to Print Your Novel for the Kindle [Fire only] and went to work. I finished turning it into an e-textbook just about 2 hours ago and uploaded it straight to KDP. It was a breeze!

The Textbook Creator uses PDF files just like CreateSpace, and basically makes each PDF ‘page’ one page for the Kindle. But the thing that really makes it standout is the clean, efficient interface that makes everything intuitive and easy. Amazon definitely got it right with this one.

So there we go, two days into 2018 and I have an e-textbook to my name. πŸ™‚

And finally to those resolutions. First up, I’m going to convert the How to Print Non-Fiction book into an e-textbook too. Then I’m going to take the Offspring’s advice and re-visit the cookbook I started a few years back. But mostly, I’m going to focus on the Vokhtah saga. Because I’m turning 65 in 10 days and I can feel my creative clock ticking. I’m a slow writer, and there are still a lot of stories I want to tell.

Oh…and that diet thing? I’m determined to win that battle too!

So, what about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you manage to keep any of them? Should I just shut up now? -giggles-

Happy 2018 my friends,

Meeks


Self-Publishing with IngramSpark…or not

IngramSpark, probably the biggest print-on-demand publisher, has a facility right here in Melbourne [Australia].

“Yay! I can get copies of my books printed locally to save a huge amount on postage!”

That was me yesterday. Today I have steam coming out of my ears because the only way I can use IngramSpark is as a Sole Trader – and that involves getting an ABN. Apparently, IngramSpark does not deal with lowly self-publishers who can’t pretend to be a business.

For those not familiar with the term, ABN stands for Australian Business Number. I used to have one, about 15 years ago when I ran a micro business teaching computer skills one-on-one. In fact, apparently I still have one lurking somewhere, inactive and unusable, but still in the ‘system’. Somewhere.

I could hunt down my old ABN, but I don’t even know where to start and, bureaucracy being what it is, the process could take hours or days out of my life. That’s a lot of effort to go to just for the privilege of printing a few copies of my book here in Australia, especially when the only benefit to me is a saving on postage [Ingram’s printing costs are a lot higher than CreateSpace but postage from the US is the real killer].

Oh, and did I mention that you have to pay IngramSpark $53 AUD for the privilege of using their distribution services, even if you don’t actually intend to use them to distribute your books? Yup, that’s part of the setup process.

So if you’re an Aussie self-publisher, my advice is to give IngramSpark a miss. Unless you already have an active ABN…

-sound of teeth grinding-

Does anyone out there know of a reasonable PoD company here in Melbourne? Maybe a home-grown one that doesn’t charge the earth?

Meeks


Say hello to Max Legend!

In case there was any doubt, I’m in love with a new composer, and his name is Max Legend! Raw, driving, powerful yet lyric, ML’s music is not gentle. It doesn’t yearn, it stirs…no, it doesn’t just stir, it kicks arse. And that is the exact feel I’ve been looking for all summer.

Many writers use music to set the mood for their storytelling, but for me, music is not an optional extra, it’s a necessity. And not just any music. It has to be the right kind of music for the story I want to tell. Without it, I write words, but they’re not connected to my heart. Does that make any sense?

Yes? No? Maybe? This is why I dislike writing about the writing process. Every writer is different so something that makes sense to one person may make no sense at all to another. For me, music acts like a portal that carries me straight past the logic centres of my brain to the weird, messy, parts.

But the right music doesn’t just take me to my ‘creative side’. It also helps to translate all those messy, nebulous thoughts and feelings into a linear progression of words that end up telling a story.

No two people will ever experience a story the same way, and no two people will ever respond to a piece of music the same way. But sometimes, if I get it right, they may share a feeling, for a little while. To me, that’s what real communication is all about.

So…I’ve finally found my way into the next story. I won’t publish excerpts on the blog because I’ve learned not to make anything public until its well and truly done. But I will post the odd bit of music, and for the forseeable future it will all be from the brilliant mind of Max Legend. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

p.s. ML is another composer who writes for trailers, games and movies.

 


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