Archive for December, 2011

IOU one blog post

It’s typical, isn’t it? As soon as you set yourself a deadline and promise something to your readers something comes up.

I’ve been ill with a bad bout of flu and it’s left me with way to much to do to get ready for visitors this weekend.

Don’t worry, the post is still coming. I should have it up on Monday or Tuesday at the latest.

If you don’t know what you’re not getting, you can find the details here.

Stay tuned *cough cough*



A pessimist’s view on the option of self-publishing.

When faced with rejection, the aspiring author used to have two options: consign the unpublished novel to a dusty drawer somewhere, never to see the light of day again, or take a deep breath, dive in, and rewrite and reword, repeatedly, until the rejection became an acceptance.

An old fashioned printing press plate showing text and images.

Typeface - The Old Way (Bill Owen - click for full credit)

Now there is a new, but potentially very dangerous option. If no one wants to publish your novel, why not publish it yourself? At first glance, it seems like an attractive solution but, personally, I feel it is a quick, efficient way of shooting yourself in the foot.

I’m not categorically against self-publishing. No one can dispute that it has allowed authors much more freedom and, in the right circumstances, can be the ideal solution. For instance, you have a specific target audience, you are an established author and you want to move away from your current publisher, or perhaps your novel has been rejected for reasons other than quality, like market trends.

Unfortunately self-publishing – electronically or in print – bypasses the quality filter of a publisher and is thus open to abuse.

A friend of mine once showed me a shocking example of a novel she’d been given at a comic convention with a request for feedback. The dialogue in the book didn’t follow conventional mechanics; sometimes words were highlighted in bold or italics rather than enclosed in speech marks. Paragraphing seemed thrown in as an afterthought, with occasional whole pages as a single paragraph. It was littered with spelling and grammar errors. The plot was poorly structured and the characters one dimensional. All in all, it screamed “hack.” Given that the author had obviously invested a large amount of money into a print run of several hundred copies, my friend really didn’t know how to tell him that his book was not worth the paper it was printed on.

But, so long as you can sell a few copies, does it really matter if your book isn’t up to the exacting standards of a publisher?

To put it simply, yes it does. It directly affects you and your career as a writer and it has a knock on effect on other authors, readers and the industry in general.

Firstly, your book is now fated to remain mediocre. You languish in obscurity and the reader is deprived of something that, had self-publishing not been an option, would have been edited and transformed into something great.

Secondly, if you take the easy way out, you no longer benefit from what you might have learned in slaving over your manuscript until it passed inspection. Now you’re free to move on to produce another unimpressive piece of work.

Like I said; shooting yourself in the foot. And, it’s not just you who suffers.

Those novels, which would have been destined to sit in drawers, now sit on public display and readers must wade through them to get to those deserving of their attention. This reinforces a general public attitude that self-published works are, by definition, sub-standard.

Maybe you’re self-publishing for the right reasons and your book is well written and well edited. For every one of you, there are ten people using it as a short cut, because they can’t be bothered to do what they would need to do to get published by a more traditional route.

The option to self-publish takes away many of the incentives which drove author’s to achieve great things. Unfortunately, publishers are not necessarily helping the matter; more on that next time.

For a more optimistic look at self-publishing, check out this Guardian article “How self-publishing came of age” by Alison Flood

What are your thoughts? Do you think you can convince me that self-publishing is a legitimate route for authors entering the profession? In what circumstances do you think self-publishing is a viable option?


As a writer, I want to publish my work so people can read it. This used to mean talking someone into printing it onto paper and wrapping a cover around it but new writers coming into the profession now have multiple options.

I’m going to present a three part series of posts on electronic publishing:

9th DecemberFrom dusty drawer to lost in the masses – A pessimist’s look at the option of self-publishing.

16th DecemberThe value of words – Speculation on the relationship between publishers and authors in an electronic world.

23rd DecemberOne book for life – How to choose an e-reader when you read more than the latest best sellers.

Plus you can also look forward to an extra post with something fun for Christmas.

Pantzer or Plotter – A verdict?

Before I started NaNoWriMo I explained how I wanted to use it to explore how I work as a writer; whether I work more efficiently from a detailed outline or just letting the story flow and evolve.

In the summer, writing Inyana for Camp NaNoWriMo, with no plan at all, I managed 30,000. This November, working to a fairly detailed outline, I wrote just over 15,000 words on Mime. This seems like fairly conclusive evidence in its own right, but I want to take a longer look at how my NaNo month went.

Yay, time for a really cool giant graph! (Click to expand)

A graph showing my word count over the course of November with annotations

Distractions, disasters and setbacks aside, I have to admit that I didn’t fight for it. I didn’t get that feeling I’ve had before when I’ve written a lot in a short period of time where I wake up in the morning and all I want to do is write the next scene and the next and the next.

The outline did not help in that respect. Writing felt less like exploration and more a matter of in painting. Okay, so the fleshing out brings the bare bones of the story to life, but it’s just not the same as watching it unfold under your fingers. What was worse, I found my creative instincts pulling me in different directions and I had to force myself to conform to the outline which felt counter intuitive and I expect may ultimately end up being counterproductive.

What have I learned?

Outlining seems to be a noble idea, but I don’t feel like I get on with it. It takes a lot of the fun and excitement out of writing for me. I think if I am going to use outlines I need to be loose and flexible with them; I need to leave myself room to explore, and if my creative instincts want to take the story in a different direction I need to adapt the outline to accommodate that.

I rebel against deadlines. Right now, if I set myself a target I will procrastinate. I never used to have a problem with stress affecting my work output but it seems things have changed. I need to work on finding my drive and enthusiasm again. I write because I love writing. If I’m putting it off or avoiding it then something is wrong.

I’ve had a lot of failures in my life these last couple of years and I’ve begun to forget that feeling of triumph that comes with meeting your goals. It’s no longer acting to motivate me and I need to work on getting that back. I need a reminder of how good it feels to succeed.

The Verdict

I like the idea of planning, but I don’t like the practice. It seems the side of my personality that likes planning things is not the side that is a writer. I can see a place for planning in my work, but creating a detailed, intricate outline before I start writing is not it.

I think the extra work in re-writing and editing a pantzed project, for me, outweighs the negative impacts of restricting myself to a detailed plan.

Therefore I embrace my true nature as a pantzer. From now on, planning and outlining will be minimal or take place after the first draft.

What about you?

Are you a pantzer or a plotter? I’m going to challenge some of my writer friends to do a little self reflection and choose a side. Look out for a future post! If you would like to display your allegiance with pride, feel free to copy the badges below:

Web badge - Proud Pantzer Web badge - Perfect Plotter


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