One of the things, among many, that I haven’t done on this site is talk about my writing. I’ve shied away from doing this because I’ve felt I wasn’t ‘qualified’ to say anything about it. Saying anything about it, I have felt was the purview of those who read my writing. But I feel that maybe I should be talking about it. I now feel this way because I’ve changed as a writer. How I’ve changed has more to do with the number of novels I’ve now written, more than anything else. Certainly not because I believe I’m a good writer. I’m still hazy on what that actually is. Whether I’m any good I leave to the reader. I also don’t see being a good writer as having something to do with massive book sales.
I don’t have a big problem stringing words together. This hasn’t been something I suffer with; unlike some people do. They seem to struggle at putting words on a blank page. Some people seem to freeze when they see the a blank page. The blank page doesn’t frighten me. What frightens me has nothing at all to do with writing. I guess I’m lucky in that sense – with respect to writing. But I’m certainly not like other writers. Apart from the obvious – I write. I haven’t written novels since I was young. I started later in life. And maybe that’s somehow an advantage. I really don’t know.
Looking back at the time when I decided to write my first novel – Reciprocity (Parts 1 & 2) – I can certainly say about myself that I was naive. I was naive to think I could write like my inspirations – Frank Herbert, Umberto Eco, Arthur C. Clarke. Just to name a few. I’ve read many authors, some disappointing, others providing a rich, rewarding, reading experience. But I believe I naively thought I could write like at least one of my inspirations. But, to date, that hasn’t happened.
What has happened is that I’ve written. And I’ve gained experience. I’ve tried to write continuously, as that is challenging, there are always interruptions, whether I felt confident or not. And has resulted in three novels being written – Reciprocity, The Directive, The Subjugation. A fourth is on the way – Ocean Thyme. [Update: as of 29/9/17, I have written 9 books] Now I got to tell you that I really didn’t think I would get this far. What with some of the feedback I got from some of my writer peers. It wasn’t encouraging. It wasn’t what I expected. I expected them to say things like ‘What a magnificent novel!’ and ‘You must be very proud’ and ‘What an achievement’. But alas, this was not what they said.
What they said was, more or less, you can do better. They said things like you’ve got the right ideas, the structures, the feeling for novel-writing, etc, etc. But instead of taking this feedback as it was intended, I took it negatively. Because I was naive. I was also quite ignorant. Ignorant of many things that writers must think deeply about when writing a novel. The only thing I was thinking about, chiefly, was I can do this. And that drove my writing. That was the best thing I had going for my novel-writing, as it turns out, because it resulted in a lengthy novel on my first attempt.
Writing my first novel taught me many things. But it didn’t teach me everything. I am still learning everything there is to know about novel-writing. So I won’t claim here to know even half of what there is to know about novel-writing. Learning is a slow process for me. And that slowness has disappointed me since writing Reciprocity. I almost gave up writing when, having bravely submitted my second novel, The Directive, to be reviewed, I got back some of the most heated responses I never expected. I admit that it was partly my fault. When submitting a novel for critique, especially to the group I submitted my novel to, the critters (in this particular group) expect the author to submit the novel as if she/he is submitting their manuscript to a publisher. I failed to do that and suffered the consequences. I felt hard done by since many people using the group submitted messy manuscripts. Even incomplete stories.
So one of the important things I learned from having Reciprocity critiqued was to make sure the novel is ready to be read. That means no grammar mistakes and no spelling mistakes, at least. You can get away with one or two, but not a truckload of mistakes. ‘Think about the poor sod reading the novel’, I have often been told. And I’m still told. Grammar, though, can be tricky in novels. Novel writing borrows creative license, and flouts the ‘rules’. Hence why novel-writing is so interesting and so richly rewarding – even to read. The two main characteristics of a novel, that I am aware of (among many other things), are the narrative and the dialogue. If you have characters that converse in the novel, that is. Think of these features as the paragraphs of story telling often placed between the characters’ conversational exchanges. Those two aspects are important to get right. So I’m told. Every novel is idiosyncratically different, though they share common characteristics.
Anyhow, some people don’t like extensive narration. Well, not these days. Apparently today’s readers want snappy dialogue and lots of action. Well, for me, that can be dead boring. I want a good story, even if it is told without loads of snappy dialogue and action. Action for action’s sake – catering for someone with a short attention span – is mindless dribble. In my humble opinion. Some readers don’t like to see many paragraphs of story telling, and only a few lines of dialogue. Unless, of course, the narrative is engaging enough to keep the reader’s interest. Well, I have tried to write interesting stories. And I hope I have, and do. But again, that’s up to the reader to decide. Of course I find my books interesting – I wrote them! I would not have written them if I thought otherwise. I encourage people to read them and share their feeling about them.
My aim, of course, is to improve. Get better at writing with every novel. And if I sell some along the way it’ll be a bonus. I am currently writing my second paranormal crime story, Ocean Thyme. The Directive, my second novel, is also a paranormal crime story, and, incidentally, my first paranormal crime story. Reciprocity and The Subjugation are pure Sci-fi/fantasy, with a touch of crime. [Update: since I wrote this post, I’ve written 9 books] These genres of Sci-fi and crime are my favourites, and I have tried to combine them to make interesting stories. I am tending to write Sci-fi/crime and paranormal crime stories. But in the future, I’m sure I will write other genres and broaden my scope.