Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Social Media: is it any good?

Sometimes I think I waste my time on pointless social media activity when I could be writing more of the next story. But then I think I need Facebook and Twitter 'cos my readers are there. How else will they ever get to know about me? Without paying out good money I don’t know any other way to grow a readership for my blog and books, and paying out goes against the grain. If I were 25 and had a whole career ahead of me, then spending hard-earned money on promotion would be a good idea. But I’m not 25, so it isn’t.
(Note to self: read Chris Syme’s post: “Taming the Social Media Beast.”)
Social media is often useful. How else would I know the single dads and lonely widowers that proliferate on Facebook are scammers doing what is known as “catfishing?”
OTOH, the constant stream of words can get irritating, and that is a good time to take a break from both Fb and Twitter. I know I’ll drift back, but the rest does me good, and I get more writing done. And see more of my other half!
If readers want to friend me, I welcome them, but I don’t beg for “likes.” Authors often send out requests for me to like their page or book or whatever, but if the person and their work is unknown to me, then I don’t respond. If I have read the author and truly like their books, then I do.
“50 people who love your books and tell their friends about them are worth a whole lot more than 500,000 fake followers somebody bought from a click farm in Bangladesh.” (Until I read Anne Allan’s blog, which I dip into every now and then, I never knew about click farms anywhere.)
I often doubt that social media is any good for selling books. Endless “buy my book” Tweets, or repeated quotes from your books do not sell books anymore. I’ve often read that my social media should be 20% marketing and 80% interesting, friendly stuff that’s useful to my readers. So I try sharing funny memes, inspirational author quotes, and pics of my dog Tim; I’ve shared grammar jokes, tales of my hols in rural France, and pics of Aidan Turner and Rafa, but I’ve no way of knowing how much good it does me.
I’m told that if you Tweet that a book is free or on sale, people notice. I once had 19,000 plus downloads on a free book, but that was back in 2012, and I don’t think that sort of rush happens anymore. But maybe I shall try it and see what happens. I must admit it is a while since I tried a "free" week.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

How to handle the transition

Some time ago now I discovered Psychic Distance and mentioned it on this blog. Now I've begun a new story and I find I keep rethinking who is telling the story. Is it him? Or is it her? I still haven't truly decided, and that makes my Psychic Distance hard to evaluate. 

The heroine is proving hard to pin down, whereas the hero keeps dashing about and is really in the action. I'm also wondering if PD  can or should change with the character. I like the idea that I can go really deep with the hero/heroine but don't want to do that with every character. My initial feeling is that secondary characters can be less deep. But does the reader agree? 

I think that when the secondary character is doing or thinking something really pivotal to the character or the plot, they should be given extra prominence and then sink back to being,  well, secondary again, in the same way we don't mention all the boring detail of getting from one physical location to another - unless it is of vital importance.

The thing is, that this sometimes makes me want to change POV characters and that leads to the thought that the trick with all this is moving graciously from one character to another. I don't always want to end a chapter or have a total scene break, so how to handle the transition? Don't want to be accused of the dreaded "head-hopping!" 

If I go straight from the hero's thoughts to the heroine's,  without a scene break of any kind, I sometimes confuse myself when I read the chapter back, so it is more than likely confuse the reader. But there must be a way of doing it successfully. I wonder - if I can come out of the hero's deep thoughts and let him observe the heroine's actions and possibly guess her thoughts; would that work? If I do it with care to signpost the way, surely it is feasible?

Travelling from  the hero's thoughts and feelings to what he does takes us from him; then a comment on the heroine that might or might not be his takes us a little further. Perhaps then attention will shift to the heroine and we will learn something about her from John, but not from her. Then something the heroine knows, but the hero cannot know because we have finally stepped out of his mind. Now we are in her mind, and the next move is to give us her thoughts and feelings about what is happening. Obviously, in practice this would follow a more gentle progression from one character to the other, but basically ..... it should work, don't you think?

Friday, 17 May 2019

Which is the real me?

Victorian and regency romances, Tudor and Viking adventures – do they all sit happily together? I’ve been wondering that for some time. Which is my favourite? That would be whichever one I’m writing at the time. Which is closest to the real me? I cannot say but I think they all reflect part of me. If I could only write one, which would I choose? A dreadful question and happily one I do not have to answer!

In the greater scheme of things, does it matter? Not to me, but I wonder sometimes if it puts off readers. If they think I read soft romances, will an adventure story be up to the mark? You can turn that on its head for the other side of the coin. I think it can be done. Not by everyone, perhaps, because some people are only happy in one genre.

Crossing or writing in different genres certainly means more research, but I’m one of those people who finds research as much a pleasure as writing. Sometimes more so, because it is most rewarding to find something you’ve been searching for and struggled to find.

The other thing is that switching between time periods and genres prevents staleness. If I find the edge (of interest and enthusiasm) sliding down the slippery slope, then it might be time to consider writing an adventure rather than a romance. Then interest levels perk right back up, because it all seems so new.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Good for him, good for me

It must be all the good weather that is making Facebook and Twitter so quiet. So many things to distract! I am watching the clay court tennis season and working hard on a new book - another Viking story set in Stornoway. So I am not putting anything much on Fb apart from a few pics I have taken recently.

The new book is layering up nicely. My plan for it was sketchy at the start but a fortnight and 13k words in and it is taking shape. If only I knew how it would end!

The weather has turned hot again, so I am walking Tim early in the morning when it is still cool. Good for him, and good for me. Makes for a longer day, and a chance to get much more done. Our garden is colouring up  with everything coming into flower. I haven't planned it, but we seem to have an early summer garden; probably comes of darting off to France in the middle of summer. After the end of July it is a case of restoring order and cutting things back after the riot of growth.

I'd like to get as much done as I can before we do go away. I'd also like to do another Mailchimp mail shot, but am wary because I have forgotten how to do it. I'm not sure it did any good anyway, but then, how would I know?

These are the opening lines of the new book:

Fritha learned to sew, cook and look after livestock before she was ten years old not because she wanted to but because she had to when her mother died birthing the youngest child. 

Maybe I shall add more in later posts. What is it famous authors do? Add lines of the day? Yes, maybe I shall do it too. If I remember, that is.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Notes to self on Show and Tell

Show and Tell.
Showing is walking in the footsteps of the heroine, seeing what she sees, etc etc.
But how far should this go?
I read quantities of books that don't particularly use show at all.
I keep getting comments that say I should show more. Is it some glib comment tossed around for the sake of something to say? Can a book be written in nothing else but show? Is it ever useful? Are there times when it is not useful? I decided to do some research and came up with this article first time of asking - 


I don't know who  he is, but his explanation is good and clear, so I will keep it to refer to to when the clouds of confusion set in. 

This is what he says: 
When you tell rather than show, you simply inform your reader of information rather than allowing him to deduce anything.
You’re supplying information by simply stating it. You might report that a character is “tall,” or “angry,” or “cold,” or “tired.”
That’s telling.
Showing would paint a picture the reader could see in her mind’s eye.
If your character is tall, your reader can deduce that because you mention others looking up when they talk with him. Or he has to duck to get through a door. Or when posing for a photo, he has to bend his knees to keep his head in proximity of others.
Rather than telling that your character is angry, show it by describing his face flushing, his throat tightening, his voice rising, his slamming a fist on the table. When you show, you don’t have to tell.
Cold? Your character pulls her collar up, tightens her scarf, shoves her hands deep into her pockets, turns her face away from the biting wind.
Tired? He can yawn, groan, stretch. His eyes can look puffy. His shoulders could slump. Another character might say, “Didn’t you sleep last night? You look shot.”
When you show rather than tell, you make the reader part of the experience. Rather than having everything simply imparted to him, he sees it in his mind and comes to the conclusions you want.
What could be better than engaging your reader—giving him an active role in the storytelling—or should I say the story-showing?
Telling: When they embraced she could tell he had been smoking and was scared.
Showing: When she wrapped her arms around him, the sweet staleness of tobacco enveloped her, and he was shivering.
Telling: The temperature fell and the ice reflected the sun.
Showing: Bill’s nose burned in the frigid air, and he squinted against the sun
reflecting off the street.
Telling: Suzie was blind.
Showing: Suzie felt for the bench with a white cane.
Telling: It was late fall.
Showing: Leaves crunched beneath his feet.
Telling: She was a plumber and asked where the bathroom was.
Showing: She wore coveralls carried a plunger and metal toolbox, and wrenches of various sizes hung from a leather belt around her waist. “Point me to the head,” she said.
Telling: I had a great conversation with Tim over dinner and loved hearing his stories.
Showing: I barely touched my food, riveted by Tim. “Let me tell you another story,” he said.
Yes, it’s a mistake to take show, don’t tell as inviolable. While summary narrative is largely frowned upon, sometimes it’s a prudent choice. If there’s no value to the plot/tension/conflict/character arc by showing some mundane but necessary information, telling is preferable.
For instance, say you have to get your character to an important meeting and back, before the real action happens. Maybe he has to get clearance from his superiors before he can lead a secret raid.
Rather than investing several pages showing every aspect of the trip from packing, dressing, getting a cab to the airport, going through security, boarding the plane, arriving at his destination—you quickly tell that this way:
Three days later, after a trip to Washington to get the operation sanctioned by his superiors, Casey packed his weapons and camo clothes and set out to recruit his crew.
Then you immediately return to showing mode, describing his visits to trusted compatriots and getting them on board.