Tuesday 29 October 2019

Authors Re-Reading Their Old Work

I’ve been re-reading some of my old fiction lately, and like many authors, I’ve been cringing. Because the writing is terrible.

The stories are still good, but the grammar sucks, there are way too many commas, I re-use the same words over and over again, there’s too much passive voice....

Basically, it reads like an amateur wrote it. And considering I wrote some of it seven years ago, that’s exactly what I was.

So what sparked this sudden interest in my old work, you ask? Well, (you heard it here first) I’m planning to give one of them away for Halloween on Thursday.

If you know my work, you can probably guess which one I’m talking about, but the thing is, I’m expecting the vast majority of people who pick it up to have never heard of me before. And since the purpose of the giveaway will be to convince people to a) review it, and b) buy my other stuff, it needs to be the best it can be.

So I’m thinking of re-editing it. I’ll be keeping the story intact, but I’ll be changing some grammar, language, and style.

As a reader, do you think that’s a good idea?

Do you appreciate it when other authors do this, and do you even notice?

The problem is that, if I did it, it would be for the ebook only. At least at first, because re-issuing print books is expensive....

But that shouldn’t be a problem, right? I mean, should it?

Oh, and that cover image? That's me, cringing as I read those old stories. I can't believe anybody actually paid money to read them back in the day. And didn't even ask for a refund!

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Reading Multiple Books at Once

As you'll remember, a friend challenged me last week to read a chick-lit book. Which I did, but I already had some books lined up to read and I didn't want to set them aside. So I decided to further challenge myself to read my challenge book at the same time as the others.

This isn't something I normally do, but I know some people in the group I told you about who do it all the time, so I asked them for some advice. How do you do it? How do you keep track? How do you decide which book you will read at any point in time?

I got a few different answers:

Some people like to consume their books in different formats. They'll have one paper book, one ebook, and one audiobook on the go, and then it's just a question of which one they want to open at any point.

Or perhaps they won't take their paper book with them when they go out, so while waiting in a queue at the bank, the ebook's the way to go. Sitting in traffic, it'll be the audiobook. And when they're home, they'll read the paper one.

I understand the attraction to that, but it wouldn't work for me, for two reasons. First, on account of my eyesight, I seldom read paper books, so those are out. And I dislike audiobooks because I struggle to pay attention to something while I'm busy with something else.

My second problem with the above is I'm seldom anywhere but at home. I don't get out much, largely because of the aforementioned visual disability. And when I do, I'm always with other people and engaging with them, so there wouldn't be time to read.

Some people read different books depending on their activity. This is like the above, except it is irrelevant of format; they'll read one book while they're eating lunch, another while sitting on the toilet, another while waiting to pick their daughter up from netball practice, for example.

This also sounds reasonable, but I just don't get that many opportunities to read. This may be too much information, but I read on the toilet, and I read for a while after work, while waiting for my wife to get home. And that's mostly it.

I could read one book on one day, and another on the next, but I'm obsessed with updating my reading progress on Goodreads every day (although I don't always manage), and I think I'd feel bad if I updated my progress for only one book at a time.

What I ended up doing was reading my regular book on the toilet, and, because I wanted to get the challenge book out of the way as quickly as possible, reading that one in the afternoons. Still, every time I picked up one book, I felt guilty because I wasn't reading the other one.

I think reading speed also has a part to play. I read a mid-length novel (say 350-400 pages) in around a week. Which I used to think was fast, but I also know that some people on the group I mentioned read a lot faster than that. It's not out of the question for them to read a book of that length in a day! And that's not because their lives are less busy or they have more time to read; they just read that fast.

I suppose if I was reading a 350-400 page novel every day, it'd be way less of an issue for me. As it stands, I found it difficult.

How about you? Do you read multiple books at the same time? Do you have any of the same hang-ups as me, and if so, how do you manage them?

Cover image: Vintage photo created by freepik - www.freepik.com

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone (Love You, Love You Not by Jo Watson)

Have you ever challenged yourself to read something that you would never normally read?

Let me tell you a story: in my day job as a Software Developer, we (like many development companies) work to two-weekly "sprints", and when planning each sprint, we allocate a certain number of work items that we believe we can achieve. We call these work items "stories", because they describe a particular requirement that a particular kind of user has. To each of these stories, we assign an arbitrary "point value" to, as an indication of how easy or difficult we think it's going to be to complete, and we have a total cap on the number of points we can commit to in a sprint.

That's a very abridged description of the Scrum process, which is used by thousands of software development companies today. If you want to know more about how it works, just Google—there are zillions of articles about it.

Anyway, last sprint, as a bit of team-building fun, we decided that each of us would assign a non-work-related story to one other member of the team. This would be something fun that we believed the person could achieve. One of my colleagues, who knows I'm an avid reader, challenged me to ask for recommendations in a Facebook group for readers (which we both belong to), for a book either in the "Chick Lit" category, or one about South African politics. I accepted her challenge.

As she requested, I asked on the group, and I got a ton of recommendations back. The book I decided on was Love You, Love You Not by Jo Watson.

I was a bit trepidacious, but also really exited, to start. I've been reading it ever since (in between my other reading commitments), and I have to say, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. More than I thought I would, in fact. It's super eye-opening to get a glimpse into the kind of book that many, many women read all the time.

This post isn't a place to post all my thoughts about this book specifically (I'll write a review of that when I'm done, and put it on Goodreads), but rather to encourage you, dear reader, to try something new. Do something you've never done before, and never thought you'd do. Do something that scares you.

How about you? Do you stick to one single genre, or do you like to mix it up every once in a while? For me, I think I'm going to be mixing it up more often in future, because this is a really freeing experience!

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Journaling for Authors

First off, apologies for not blogging last week. My Internet connection was down because another fibre company was digging in the street outside my house, and they ended up damaging my cable.

A common piece of advice given to writers is to keep a journal or diary. And to be honest, it's something I've tried a few times in my life. It never lasts more than a few days, but I think that's because:

  1. I've always tried to force myself to write in it every day, and I get very despondent when I miss a day, or
  2. When I do miss a couple of days and want to get back in it, I try to make myself record everything that's happened since my last entry, but there's no way I can fit it all in.
Eventually, I resigned myself to the fact that journaling's not for me.

But lately, I've been struggling with my writing. I've got loads of different story ideas floating around in my head, but none of them is any more than a glimmer. Little glimpes of story strands, but as soon as I try to grab onto one and plan out where it's likely to go, I got nothing.

A couple of weeks ago, I figured I'd start writing down some things in a journal. Just basic stuff, like my dreams (when I remember them), random thoughts and snippets of writing, and stuff that's happened to me and how I feel about it.

It's slow going; as of the time of this writing, I think I have maybe three entries. But I think it's already starting to bear fruit, because my thoughts are becoming a bit more coherent, and I think there might just be one complete story in there, waiting to be told.

And you know what, if I miss a couple of days between entries, I give myself permission to leave huge gaps in the "narrative"—after all, it's only ever going to be read by me. Whether it's been a day, a week, or a month since I last wrote in it, I'm going to write what I feel is important and nothing else. That's harder than you might think, for the completionist in me. But wish me luck!

Oh, and of course this isn't a physical paper book! No way, nuh-uh! I'm way too private a person for that. No, it's a Scrivener doc on my computer called "Journal"; do you really think I'm going to leave a physical book lying around where some random person might pick it up and read it? These are some of my deepest, darkest, most private thoughts, here. Sheesh.

What do you think? Whether you're a writer or not, do you keep a journal or diary? Do you think it's a good idea for a writer to do it?