- Readers – Fiction or nonfiction, Adult young adult or child.
- Genre – Over 500 genres are listed by Goodreads. The most popular being Biography, Comedy (some), Fantasy, History, Mystery and Supernatural, Romance including sex (some), Suspense, Science Fiction (including – paranormal and dystopia), Thriller (including –Action, Adventure and War and Travel). Less popular – Specialist, technical nonfiction subjects and Literature
- Form – Short stories, novels, textbook nonfiction type or poetry.
- “belief in what one is writing about and having a good idea. Wanting to know more about a subject.” How one can know one has a good idea is difficult, but the other two aspects seem sensible.
- “If an idea is interesting to you it is probably also interesting to many other people.” I am told in my case this is not necessarily so by my friends and family.“The best way to develop an idea is to start writing it.” This comment takes me back to my first post—at least someone agrees with me.
- Then – “Write what you want to read.” This turns me to Stephen King’s excellent advice about reading yet again and my own beginnings.
My own life is not interesting or notorious enough to write a bestselling biography, so my thinking developed in the summer of 2010 to make elements of my life more interesting by extension into fantasy through making impossible dreams come true. As a template, I liked the character of Alex Goodman written about by a peer of mine—mad, bad and dangerous to know— Ranulph Fiennes’ in “The Sett”. Alex’s innocent walk with his family in the Clent Hills turns into an international nightmare thriller of revenge set against many current events such as Broadwater Farm riots.
I then read several books by Ian McEwan to consolidate a direction for my own writing.
If I could get anywhere near the standard of writing by these authors I might be content. I recommend finding several books you like to act as yardsticks to judge one’s own work and to try and work out what makes a book hard to put down. Like prospecting for gold I have yet to find the answers, other than to think bestselling authors do touch stimulation and titillation switches in their readers’ minds. I continue to look …
Another recent web post concentrates on planning in writing nonfiction, which also seems relevant to fiction as well if you wish to be organised.
“Planning is the first and most important step in the process. This step forces you to ask many tough questions, including – What is your book about (in one sentence)? Planning organizes your thoughts and helps you plan every aspect of your non fiction book: Will it stand up to the competition? Where would it go in a bookstore? Who is going to read it? Why would they want to read it? Do you really have a book here, or should you just write an article and get it out of your system? Answering these questions is much more than a mere exercise because almost every word of it will become a part of your book later on.”
Looking back to 2010, and even now, I find it quite hard to give answers to these questions as these actions seem much easier to write down or say than actually do. I recall an old saying:-
“Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.”
Harvey, Sir John 1863-1944 British Actor-Manager.”
Reflecting now after I have completed a million draft words and relaxed, and having decided in future to carry on with my Plan A to write and read for pleasure, I have no regrets about deciding to write what I wanted. I may have done if I had decided I wanted write and publish aggressively in a commercial way and tried to climb higher mountains.
Contrary to all my jesting above I did have a plan on what to write, although I did not have PLAN TOP SECRET written across the cover. My Plan A in 2010 had four simple aims. Details of my Reserve Plan B and C if I decided to change my mind about commercial publishing will come later.
- Write a million words in three years.
- Write about a threat to me and my family.
- Use me as the main character adding my own life fantasies.
- Use my own sub conscious with its life memories and experiences.
This I have kept to over the last four years and the benefits have been:-
- A driver and task master to write 1000 words each day to keep momentum and focus and also provide a distraction to publishing paranoia. My actual rate proved to be 749 words a day to January 2014 when I reached my million draft words target.
- An excellent starting point to generate structure and stupid ideas.
- A release of 50 years of pent up emotion and ideas—like a flow from a champagne bottle opening with a pop!
- Writing down dreams before they dissipate and memory mining has produced a wealth of ideas and good and bad recollections and an alternative to writing a dull biography.
As well as finding many people unable to start writing, I have found many others with intense paranoia about publishing. It appears to me to be far from their minds to enjoy and to have fun in what they write or even read much.
I have found another source of great pleasure to be reading—about which more will feature in later posts. I have found it easy to take Stephen King’s good advice to read widely. After a slow start in life to reading, with few books and parental reading at home, and starting school unable to read, I progressed through text books and quick fiction to more solid fiction by my twenties. Then my reading balance strayed into nonfiction until 2010 when following Stephen King’s advice, I reverted to more fiction reading.
I have developed six “E” tests for reading books and writing book reviews.
- Engrossing and interesting—being hooked in.
- Enjoyment—warm feelings about a particular book.
- Entertainment—the chuckle and laughter factor.
- Emotional—one’s feelings and personal intimate memories.
- Educational—learning about a subject for the first time or in more detail. The technical background in my own writing.
- Ease of reading—I read fiction for pleasure so books with dull stories or poor structure are often discarded. I will work at a densely written book if content is good. For example: Howard Jacobson’s Zoo Time.
I bear these tests in mind in my own writing and recommend them to writers to take into account in their own writing.
7.0 Final thoughts
Returning to my opening sentences, I struggle with the concept of writing what readers want, and how on earth does one avoid writing a story already written by another author? Also, unless in my writing, there is not much chance of me flying to the moon so I do not have to worry about remembering to come back.
Now for some good news. On my four year writing journey, I have found four self-published authors who have cracked the issues around “What to write?” and been successful in self publishing in different ways. All score highly in my “E” ratings and proved to me the equal of books published by major publishers and established writers. Story telling content is the key.
- Angela Petch in her first book ”Never Forget” self published through Authors Online. (Allrighters joint serious fiction book of the year 2013.) Angela has used mixed genres of romance in marriage, with history and war.
- Tony Riches who in his latest book ”Warwick” published through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space in 2014 about the Earl of Warwick (The King Maker), seems to have found a niche being at 5,371 in Kindle sales ranking today (30.06.14).
- M.K. Tod, in her first book ”Unravelled”, self published by herself in 2013 also has mixed genres of romance in marriage, with history and war. [You can read M.K. Tod’s guest post for TIPM about developing a book marketing plan here.]
In nonfiction (Allrighters’ book of the year for 2013), Declan Henry’s latest book “Why Bipolar?”, self-published through York Publishing Services in 2013, has challenged established opinions and practice on the subject.
Douglas Burcham started writing on 1st June 2010 and has not stopped since. He was saved from the clutches of vanity publishing by Mick Rooney in TIPM in July 2010. In May 2013 his characters took all his fiction writing and set themselves up as the Allrighters with other writing friends. They published a book of short stories “Ywnwab!”in September 2013. In their latest Plan by working in 18,000 word bites, Douglas with the Allrighters are now trying to convert a million words of draft writing into several books totalling 900,000 words of fiction and 100,000 words of non-fiction. The latter being about writing, trains, boats and planes.
Mick Rooney – Publishing Consultant