thinkinglazy

Aspiring author and random thinker

Tag Archives: author

On Writing: language and syntax feedback observation

I started reaching out to people to read and review BoK:SoU, some of them just samples and other the entire book, and I got a few responses so far. Because of not having gotten the book edited – a grave mistake which I intended to do to test something I will share later – there were a decent amount of spelling and grammatical mistakes, mostly oversights.

Now here’s the fun part, I’ve been studying quite a bit during the past few years and writing a shit-load of reports. When you edit a dozen pages or so, its easy to peal through each word and make sure it conveys exactly the meaning you want, thus in that case you can reduce such mistakes to none, or a mere few, during an entire paper with little effort.

With creative and long writing, however, it’s not as simple a task as it takes time and is extremely boring, especially when you get to the fifth edit. Naturally, some mistakes here and there sneak in, and naturally you’re overwhelmed with grammar, characters, story development and other aspects of the book.

So that’s why it’s important to get an editor if you’re serious about it. Even better if you get two.

Going back to the grammar mistakes that were picked up by the readers. Just going through the latest edit, in the first chapter, I picked up some debatable mistakes, which you can blame on style or so, and a few complex grammar mistakes, namely the ‘Past Perfect’, which very few people use accurately, especially Americans for some reason.

None of the reviewers picked up a single ‘complex’ tense rule error, let alone a ‘simple’ tense rule error, while they seemed to be enraged by the other simple typos (Eg: leapes instead of leaped). Now I find that ironic; grammar Nazis don’t seem to mind the mistakes in the rules they don’t know!

PS: I am grateful for those who point out the mistakes and only wish that everyone would be as constructively critical. If I conveyed any negative tone during that post please know that I had no such intention.

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On Writing: the banes of time

I’ve taken the past two months off after finishing my studies and immersed myself in a bout of networking, reading and writing. During that time I managed to kick-in a total of 110k words, surpassing my word count for the year by 37k now (of which 27k was written before this sprint). In two weeks alone I managed to edit a total of 90k words which funneled in to a drastic manuscript change including the plot and characters. I just wanted to contrast between a month of work/study with writing (in which I wrote usually no more than 10k and more often around the range of 6k) and a month of leaisure time (In which I managed an additional 80k of writing and an edit of an entire manuscript).

I’m still not to a level where I want to be, but its been around three years and I’m still writing. Baby steps ought to do it, I hope.

Looking for book reviewers

Hey, I’m looking for someone to review my fantasy book Book of Kayal: Strength of Unity. Send me an email on Snileson@gmail.com if you’re interested and I’ll send you a free copy.

On Writing: Tags and keywords

Keywords are quite important to help your visibility. I am no expert in book publishing, but, by virtue of having an MBA, I do know a thing or two about marketing.

A tool I found and wanted to share was google ngrams. This free tool allows you to look for the frequency of use of words in books depending on the year search range. While it is not directly derived from the internet, I suspect there is a significant correlation between the use of words in books and online. Thus, I believe, that it would be wise to use this tool to compare keywords when deciding on what tags to use on your book.

On Writing: Revision Preperations

It has come to my attention that I have not been preparing for revision enough. Hell, I have not even been trying to learn how to do it write and in a structured way.

A few days ago while surfing Youtube, I came across an interesting video about editing your book. After watching it, I decided to start over and take notes, preparing some sort of checklist about how to edit.

The list, a group of simple errors to look for, so far goes as follows:

Error 1: shifting point of view in the middle of scene. EX: A character cannot know if their cheeks are red without seeing them.

Error 2: painting a scene without knowing whose point of view it is. Make sure it is made clear in the first two paragraphs, if not sentences.

Error 3: describing an experience that no one had. EX: Shouting that no one heard.

Error 4: a character thinking about themselves as a different person. No one thinks of themselves as ‘the boy’, rather ‘name’, ‘he’ or ‘I’.

Error 5: information dumps; when actions stop delivering the information mid action narration. Use different situations and organize them like a puzzle so reader could pick up and later feel proud about ‘getting it’. Did I stop my story to tell?

Error 6: the ‘as’ factor/cause and effect fallacy/order of events problem. In cause and effect, the effect does not follow the cause, as should be. EX: ‘He arched his back as electricity shot through his spine’, this should be, ‘electricity shot through his spine, making/causing his back to arch’.

Error 7: the ‘ing’ factor. Things that happen at the same time but should not. EX: ‘Battling as he drew his sword’. It is not possible to battle while drawing your sword, the latter is the prerequisite for the first.

Error 8: telling instead of showing. Vague adjectives without a visual. EX: Fierce is not a visual, drawing teeth is. Cold is not visual but shivering is. Use colors, textures, body language and visual explanation. Happy to be replaced by smiling, trotting, energetically moving. EX: ‘he was intrigued’ to ‘raised his eyebrows in intrigue’.

Exception: when trying to get to once scene from another it gets exhausting to show instead of telling.

Error 9: changing speakers with no new paragraph.

Error 10: speaker tags problem. You cannot smile, or signal a word, it has to come from a sound. Creative speaker tags make you sound like an idiot. Chirped, hissed, howled…etc. Those are only acceptable in fast action settings with no time for a dialogue because it does not slow down the pace.

Exception: pace is more important than speaker tag rules

Error 11: lack of use of invisible tags, (said and asked).

Error 12: Speaker tags at the end of the speeches used often. Put them at the beginning to try and notify the reader of who is talking.

Error 13: separating dialogue with a bead (description of actions) without a natural pause in the dialogue.

Error 14: foreshadowing something that is not used. Do not mention a weapon without having it being used.

PS: Person first said second is more common in adult books than in children books. It is an archaic method of writing, use it more in fantasy and less in other genres.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKw80FwZJU0

On Writing: The Equation

After writing, as most of you who often write have realized, you can never read a book as you did before. The fact is that whenever you struggle at resolving an issue while writing it becomes an overwhelming thought that constantly returns to you when you least expect it until it is solved. And, of course, reading makes your brain often tread into the direction of this issue. That is, most certainly, vague and requires a more elaborate explanation – for I beg your forgiveness in my inability to properly and simply explain myself.

I remember when I first decided to write, I struggled at a very simple and rather embarrassing grammatical issue, does punctuation come before or after speech quotations. This issue was resolved as soon as I looked at the first page of a book, which I do not recall, I decided to start reading. As your writing progresses and the basic elements are, more or less, subconsciously implemented, more issues arise.

To be more specific, it moves deeper into the ‘there’s no one right way’ section. In other words, you start focusing less on the obvious and more on the hidden, such as character development, plot development or writing style. You start trying to incorporate slight twists in the general rules and slowly begin to feel comfortable breaking them. This, however, is a very dangerous and strenuous task for new writers such as myself.

I am very well aware that I have a long way to go before I can produce a considerably decent piece of work. In fact, I intend to rewrite almost all of my stories once I feel comfortable enough to write at an acceptably decent level. This, however, might never come to be, but I keep my hopes up as should you.

After realizing my shortcomings, I started thinking more about plots and writing styles. I have decided that my language is far too weak for decent fantasy, the type of stories I enjoy writing the most, and will try my lick at science fiction once I am finished with my current project. While being preoccupied over writing style, after reading Tolkien and hopelessly trying to pick up a few tricks from him, I started reading and analyzing different authors. I have then realized that more than not, successful authors tend to stick with one specific equation for their stories which almost never changes. This is when I realized that all what I have been doing was but a simple step in a much longer process that was hidden to me. Every author is unique and every author has her/his own writing equation that, if not already so, is anxiously awaiting to be discovered.

So far my writing has been more influenced by the books I read than my inner voice. It is a grim, but necessary, reality that I must endure until I have written enough to discover my personal writing equation. And I believe that the only way to do so is by writing a great deal. I believe that reading, however, will speed this process.

On Reviews: Indie vs. Traditional

So I started reviewing independently published books. Interestingly enough, I find myself automatically assuming a lower quality and giving it a generous rating/review considering that it’s the work of a few people instead of an endless stream of professionals. After writing my first review and giving it a 4 star rating, I started asking myself ‘Should I be as harsh as I’m with other book or should I be giving it a chance?’

The question is an easy one to answer, considering that I experienced publishing my book independently and know how useful these reviews are. No, with traditional books I expect them to be perfect and harshly criticize even the smallest error, but indie books are different. First of all, the writers need the moral support and the reviews help them maintain their motivation, which would indubitably result in the improvement of their craft. Second, it’s a general notion that indie books are less polished that traditional ones. The core concept or idea, however, deserves no leniency in my opinion. Writing can be improved, but not creativity – although behavioral psychologists would disagree with me.

From a readers perspective, I believe that they also tend to read indie books with the same demeanor as I do, expecting them to be of slightly lesser quality than traditionally published books, unless the author is some sort of millionaire willing to spend a fortune on her/his work. So I don’t believe I’m cheating the reviewers by giving a high score for indie books. PS: I never give a 5 star or 100% score to any book that I don’t find myself enthralled with.

As the market for indie publishing quickly becomes more and more competitive, the threshold set for acceptable books and their rating increases. These days indie authors are starting to invest significant amounts of cash in the both post and pre-publication process. Will this market eventually end up similar to the traditional one, or will it remain in a relatively shark-free zone?

On Writing: Surprisingly Common Issues

AS you know I have been reading and writing a lot lately. When you write, the way you perceive books, regardless of the genre you read, changes. This made me appreciate good books more and dislike bad ones even more.

I found four elements that repeatedly repeat themselves in well-known books, occasionally best sellers too.

  • The objective of the book is not clear. You read without knowing what is the point
  • Characters do not change. Books are supposed to take elements you know and are habituated to and put them into a different setting. If if character in a book is too ‘unhumanized’, then it fails to fulfill its intended role. People change as they grow and gain experiences, people in books should too
  • The objective of the book remains unclear once it is finished and you start asking yourself what did I just read and why
  • This last point is a matter of opinion. I expect to learn something from every book I read, and when I don’t it bothers me. Many books leave their readers with nothing more once they finish it – like this post which abruptly ends.

On Writing: Character Interests

I have been watching lectures by Brandon Sanderson, a published Fantasy author and professor, on youtube and came across some interesting ways to keep your characters interesting.

The first thing that he said which grabbed my attention was ‘give your characters interests’. This would come the cost of some research – depending on how familiar you are with the interest you decided to give him/her – and time. However, it will reflect beautifully on your story. Once you learn to make them use terminologies of their interest or give them an appropriate mindset, you will find a far more colorful character which would entertain the readers while motivating you to write more about him/her.

He also suggested to use historical characters, something which I base most of my characters on, to start guiding your characters speech and behavior. A strong background of history also helps develop ideas and plots for a wide range of genres.

After watching these lectures, I started thinking more deeply in character creation and development. Naturally, the first step was to draw from my personal knowledge and experience. One of the many perks of studying psychology in college is the ability to dive deeper into you written characters’ personalities and making them more realistically complex. What I am experimenting with at the moment, while writing my current book, is giving my characters symptoms of a psychological disorder – all humans have symptoms of psychological abnormalities which is natural and healthy – not to a degree that they would be diagnosed as having it, but to render them more realistic and interesting.

Eventually you will find that as the story develops your characters change, a normal and welcomed occurrence, which might make the initial character personality research seem like a waste of time, yet is actually not due to the need to have a starting point.

Here is the link to the youtube channel which has Brandon Sanderson’s lectures:

http://www.youtube.com/user/WriteAboutDragons

I also want to inform you that my first book will be free tomorrow (Friday 21 June 2013) on kindle via these two links (US and UK):

US:   http://www.amazon.com/Book-Kayal-Hands-Fate-ebook/dp/B00DCJR284/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371754749&sr=8-1&keywords=book+of+kayal

UK:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-Kayal-Hands-Fate-ebook/dp/B00DCJR284/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371754752&sr=8-1&keywords=book+of+kayal

Follow me on twitter if you want an easier way to follow up my free days @TarekCherif3

On Publishing: Attempt One

Just in case some of you have not been following my writing posts, I will give you a short summary about what happened so far before going on with my first attempt at independently publishing.

I started seriously writing about a year ago and finished three fantasy books for a series I named Book of Kayal. I knew that the first two books would not be very good, yet I tried my luck finding a literary agent for them. Because there was somewhat of a cliffhanger in the end of the first book (Rise from Exile), I decided to merge it with my shorter second book (Broken Shackles), I named it (Wolf Emperor). Needless to say, I got rejections left and right. At first, doubt started to take over and it felt rather depressing, but I realized that this would not be an easy journey and kept writing just for the enjoyment of the process.

The third book I finished revising and all last week. It was by far the best work I have ever done in terms of concept, idea and plot. I spent some time researching the characters and integrated the same idea from the first book, with a great deal of tinkering, of using mythological and historical characters in the story. For example, Thalia was the Greek Goddess of drama, I made a character having similar features to what I expect a talented artist to be like – I named my character Thalia too.

This books outline was my second attempt at making one, I wrote the first book using a method referred to as discovery by Brandon Sanderson (author Mistborn series and many other books),  and making a coherent plot to bind all elements together while focusing on sub-plots during each chapter. After reading a lot of books, I mean over 40 in a span of less than six months, I found the exact style I wanted my books to have, that ending that makes everything suddenly seem so logical – the big ‘Ahhh’. Additionally, I read a great deal of short stories which provided a quick insight on the conceptual elements, not ideas, I wanted to have in my books. I finally decided to write each chapter as a short story with its own moral or philosophical lesson to it, some were better than others though. The hardest part, however, was finding this golden idea that made a mediocre book – I know this sounds strange – great by incorporating a hinted sub-plot that unveils itself in the end – the reason behind all of what happened.

So I finished my third book, revised it and decided on the platform I wanted to publish it on. From my experience with literary agents, I realized that most of them don’t even consider unpublished authors regardless of how well a synopsis, query or sample chapters are written, and you can’t blame them for it. Amazon Kindle seemed the best way of publishing my book, after some research.

Two days ago, I posted my book on kindle and started sending emails to various book reviewing websites/blogs. I am not sure what happened regarding the emails yet. Nevertheless, I could not sit and wait for the reviewers to respond, so I went with the second part of my plan and created various announcements on different forums, including relevant reddit subreddits, deviant art, facebook and goodreads. I know that there is practically no way I might make a single sale unless I have reviews or the book was offered for free, so I enrolled in the kindle select program and offered my book for free on Friday and Saturday 14-15. Yesterday at 11:00 am (+2 GMT) was my first book download. The amount of happiness I felt when seeing that 0 become a 1 was incredible, in spite of the face that it was a free promotion. Now, and 190 downloads later, I find myself reaching a halt about my next step. I guess the only thing to do is wait for reviews to pop in and see how it goes from there.

For a book to be successful it needs to have thousands of copies downloaded, but I do not expect mine to reach this level yet, unless by some miracle or great marketing. Being an author is a difficult thing, but when you see the slightest improvement or interest by someone else in your work, it is a reward which outweighs all the hard work and effort spent in this beautiful hobby/profession. I still have leagues and leagues to go, but perhaps one day I might be able to be good enough to make a living out of writing.

You can find the book on Amazon US here http://www.amazon.com/Book-Kayal-Hands-Fate-ebook/dp/B00DCJR284/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1371325868&sr=8-3&keywords=book+of+kayal and Amazon UK here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-Kayal-Hands-Fate-ebook/dp/B00DCJR284/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371325880&sr=8-1&keywords=book+of+kayal. It is free today (Saturday 15/6/2013) and will be offered for free again on (Friday 21/6/2013). I will keep you updated about any other free promotions on this blog and on my twitter account (@TarekCherif3), which I seem to be horrible at managing.