Today I discovered that I had a review for my novel, Vengeance Will Come on Amazon. Further more, I’ve had the review since November and didn’t even know!
For some strange – and surely nonsensical – reason, it appears Amazon displays comments only on the Amazon site where the novel is purchased. I would have thought it’d make more sense to display all of the same-language reviews on every Amazon site that caters for that language… i.e. give your customers more feedback about a product (and not to mention, potentially help your authors).
The review is very generous:
An engaging story with a surprising twist at the end. The characters are very well developed and vivid. The story is told masterfully and I wish to congratulate the writer on such a well written book. I only wish that they make it into a movie! I look forward to Book 2.
Thanks so much “Amazon Customer” 🙂 Such a review is encouraging, and encouragement is a big help. You too can buy my novel at the Amazon US, UK, AU or other site of your choosing 🙂
I have heard before that every author (regardless of previous successes) doubts themselves and their writing ability. It’s nice not to be alone in that feeling. It just so happens Francine Rivers who is an incredible writer, recently wrote about her continuing doubts and how she overcomes the immensity of the goal.
I promised this week that my blog post would be about some of my C# coding, which also happens to dovetail in beautifully with my writing. I’ve taken my earlier work and begun the super-charging process. That being said: this is just the beginning. In the future I plan to make it available, far more powerful and with a few of the bugs ironed out.
The general premise behind the program is that it can load your story from a text file, and then allow you to analyse it. At the moment it is sans-UI – which means it doesn’t have pretty user windows, checkboxes and other controls. I’m calling it Text Analysis Command Line (TAC). As it’s a command line program you have to type commands in to operate it.
So what can it do?
Like any good program it contains help – typing ‘?’ will give you a list and basic description of the available commands; typing ‘<command> ?’ will give you detailed options on that particular command.
When you see a pipe symbol ‘|’ it means or. Square brackets (‘[‘, ‘]’) mean optional.
Most commands can either display output on the screen or save the results to a file. If using a single greater-than symbol (‘>’) the file will be saved (unless it already exists). Using the double option ‘>>’ will save the file, overwriting it if necessary.
Below is a description of all of the currently available commands. The results are based on processing Vengeance Will Come, my scifi/fantasy adventure (available now):
wordcount. You can display the frequency of every word used. Earlier in the year I bought Scrivener (left). For the most part it’s a great program but I was disappointed there was no way to export (or even easily query) word count data. The image of TAC (right) shows a snippet of both the textual version (default) and the ‘basic mode’ (using -b option). The basic mode is valuable if opening the file in Excel to do pretty graphs.
wordcount can also provide the number of words which begin with given letters (-f) or the length of words (-l).
Just in case you’re curious the longest word at 20 characters is ‘uncharacteristically’. The three 16’s are: ‘conspiratorially’, ‘incontrovertible’ and ‘responsibilities’.
For the purpose of completeness, I’ll briefly mention the data command. At the moment it’s limited, a means to interrogate the data. In order to do all of this (and future) processing I painstakingly categorise every character of text into a type. Using the -expseg option outputs this information.
At this stage the only two other data commands are -sen (output sentence). For example outputting the sentence at segment 128 is:
At first light they invade my mind, besieging it to the point of exhaustion.
And -block (output block) at 128:
“I wish that I didn’t know the future; that I couldn’t see the prophecies unfold before me. At first light they invade my mind, besieging it to the point of exhaustion. Even in my fitful sleep they haunt me as wild animals stalk the scent of blood, turning what little rest I get into an extension of my waking nightmare. I cannot escape.
The find command is powerful and will be leveraged heavily in future updates.
Unsurprisingly, find locates the occurrences of a specified word. Importantly the before and after options allow displaying the word in a variable level of context (e.g. want to see 10 words preceding the word, or only 5?).
find can also locate every instance of a specified type of punctuation. Want to know how often I use exclamation marks? Typing ‘find -p’ brings up a list of punctuation options from which a selection can be made.
The answer is of course 45 (as displayed on the screenshot). However, now I know exactly where they are (and in what context).
I’m a big believer in not over-using the exclamation mark, so a tool like this would let me easily see how often I’ve used it in a given book (and calculate the amount of text between each usage). More importantly, it can also let me track down when I’ve used a ” instead of a “ which seems to happen no matter how careful I am.
This brings me to the end of the tour of TAC v0.0.1, I hope you liked it.
Picture if you will a large planet named Fantasy. It’s home to an array of creatures, each with their own societies and cultures; some primitive and some advanced. The laws which govern the world are far different from the physics, chemistry and biology that we Earthlings are familiar with.
A neighboring celestial body, the planet Xi belongs to the Sci-Fi Federation of planets. Xi and it’s galactically renowned bazaar is home to an assortment of aliens and Artificial Intelligences. Some aliens are sentient and others are not, depending on whose definition of sentient you adhere to. Naturally the aliens, though sharing a planet, each come from different homeworlds and customs.
Each planet – or literary genre, if you will – has a gravity well and loyal fans orbiting, some within the ionosphere and others at the very edges. They are loyal to their own planet, but the thought of traveling between planets is foreign…
Perhaps it is my own biases, and I’d like to think it’s breaking down… but once upon a time a fantasy novel was constrained to a single planet? No planet-hopping allowed. And if dragons exist on the planet, for some reason the inhabitants can’t develop space-faring technology? Why can Jaja Binks exist, but a dragon cannot? (Because we all know which one we’d like more).
Personally, I don’t see why genre blending isn’t more acceptable. When I wrote Vengeance Will Come (available soon), I didn’t write it for a particular genre… I simply wrote a book that interested me. It has elements from both science fiction (aliens, space travel, forceshields) and fantasy (telekinesis and other mystical powers and tied into arcane prophesy). In some ways it’s also an adventure story (fast-paced) that just happens to have those other elements as part of the setting. I don’t see how fantasy and science fiction can’t co-exist more.
Admittedly it’s been too-long since I read the masterpiece Dune, (particularly the first 3 books) but that successfully straddles the line between the two genres: a lot of science, but also brushed with a touch of fantasy in the Bene Gesserit.
Do you think genre-blending is more accepted by the reading communities in recent years, or do the rules of orthodoxy still hold true?
She’s so perfect I just puked a little. I apologise for the grotesque (and cliché) expression.
But the cliché fits and it’s how I feel about Sue-Le, my main character in The Rebel Queen. And I don’t mean perfect in a good way. She’s idealistic and only wants the best for her people. And unlike modern politicians, she actually means it. Her only flaw is she’s innocent to the point of naivety.
This doesn’t make her endearing to the reader, it makes her annoying. In summary: she’s trite, sickly sweet and ultimately annoying. (Is now a good time to ask for beta readers???)
But all is not lost. I’ll put her through the same tumble dry as I have my other characters. I started off with a cast of bland and cliché characters and have redesigned them into interesting, multi-dimensional characters. Sue-Le is going to take a tumble or two more.
I’ve twisted the characters a fair bit to make them interesting. Instead of having a paragraph or two of “who they are”, I now have a page or two. They are richer and deeper. This also makes them more challenging to write. It’s easy to say “write this from the perspective of an older woman”… it’s harder for me to do that as a young-ish male 🙂
After spending most of 2017 revising Vengeance Will Come I must admit I’d rather be writing a new story than revising still… There is also a temptation to say The Rebel Queen is written, and only doing a skin-deep revision. But I wrote earlier that I’m wanting to do a thorough revision, to improve the story as much as possible.
That means I’m re-writing entire scenes and I’m treating the plot as ‘branch A’ instead of a ‘blueprint’ of what must be.
You can find inspiration for writing everywhere. Everything you encounter, with any of your senses, can be part of a story if your imagination is released.
The following is a microstory example, where a common every-day sight turned my writer’s perspective ‘On’.
The gaping wound lay open. The artificial skin, the unwelcome armour, had been penetrated by great force, broken and torn apart. The soft flesh beneath cooked in the long-forgotten sun.
Blood and small pieces of flesh surrounded the wound, dug from the depths. The purposeful and complex system of nerves and blood vessels had become refuse, no longer serving a purpose, except a reminder of destruction.
It was a strange sight. For ages the bare flesh had been ‘normal’, unremarkable and ubiquitous. With the advent of armour the flesh had become alien, out-of-place in its own existence.
The flesh barely lived, its biological rhythms strangled to all but the faintest expression of life. Given time it would revive. But time it did not have. The artificial skin would soon be repaired, burying again the reminder of what had forever been.
Click “more” to see what had spurred this thought.
At the beginning of the year I optimistically planned on finishing my first novel, Vengeance Will Come would be followed by a quick revision of my next novel, The Rebel Queen. I was confident it wouldn’t take too long – after all The Rebel Queen was already drafted and had early alpha reader approval.
On the Writing Excusespodcast they advise that you’re not ready to write your second novel until you’ve finished your first. This is good advice in my experience. Having undergone the task of writing a novel, and importantly the synopsis for submission, I’ve come away with some new insights.
As is proper, my second novel should be better than my first. So in response my revision of The Rebel Queen will be more thorough than originally anticipated.
Significantly, I’m going to start by drafting my synopsis. I am going to describe my characters and their arcs first and then keep that in the forefront of my mind as I revise the text.
I want to increase the novel’s length. The draft of The Rebel Queen is 65,000 words. This is a medium-sized novel, and not a bad length for a new author. However based on previous experience I’d expect to cut 15% of that during the revision process. Which would result in a very short book.
Far more important than the actual word count though, is the pace and ending. I’ve noticed I have a weakness in writing the 4/5ths part of the story. I am going to expand that section, making it more cohesive. I’m also going to push-out the ending to get more resolution on the plot.
Reduce the number of point-of-view characters. My hope is I’ll be able to go deeper with each character, if there are less to juggle. This will likely be the hardest challenge to manage, as I’ll have to work out how to give the reader insights with less heads/bodies to switch between. Just who is on the chopping-block is yet to be decided.
Strengthen the resolution-bringing plot device, which was a little weak (in my opinion). I’ll be looking to change that up too.
That’s my goals for the next few months, what’s yours?
That’s how I feel about beta readers right now. They are a wonderful breed of people.
Today I received some surprise feedback on Vengeance Will Come from a beta reader. I’d assumed I wasn’t going to be getting a response, but the email had been left and forgotten in their “draft” folder. Needless to say; every beta reader’s comments are precious, so I feel like I’ve just found a $100 note on the pavement.
It also doesn’t hurt my mood that their comments were largely positive. I can’t begin to express how that spurs me on to continue writing – both to finish this project and others.
You mean I haven’t wasted hundreds of hours writing? You mean you’d willingly pay money for it and be happy you did at the end? Music to my ears.
Of course not every beta reader is so complimentary, and I do genuinely also appreciate the constructive criticism. I know some of my beta readers have picked up on weaknesses – because I had those same doubts. What’s even better is when they detect a problem which I hadn’t seen without their perspective.
I’m still looking for a few more readers for up to five chapters of my novel. More details on the previous post.