I recently bought an iPad, downloaded the iBooks and Kindle apps and started scouting for freebies.

What I found was a wealth of copyright expired classics swaddled within the damp, soiled rags of negligent designers.

In this day and age, classics should be treated with a little more care and attention…and here is my idea.

Amateur, student, professional designers should be donating beautiful cover artwork to dress these epic texts up so they can continue living long and productive lives for new readers who maybe put off with such staid and boring covers.

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A printers opened up near me, infact, it’s technically the nearest retail establishment to my flat.  This maybe a coincidence but I like to think of it as fate.

So it would be rude not to go to them to get my 3rd draft printed to dish out to some local beta readers.  Pictured is the result.  6 manuscripts printed; 1 for me, 4 for others and 1 spare incase someone else nearby wants to give it the once-over.

Living during these heady first days of the ebook revolution, it’s always nice to see your novel in the flesh of printed paper.

I’m going to give it a month or two before I read through it again, just to have a rest and try to approach it again with some semblance of freshness.

I broke a few manuscript formatting rules because I’m giving it to beta readers and not submitting it to agents/publishers.

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That’s it!  3rd draft done and dusted.

The next stage for me is to get feedback.  I’m blind to the multitude of errors, faulty plot points, grammatical mistakes, lack of character development, personal writerly foibles and general shoddiness.

I can’t see the wood for the trees.

So here’s where YOU can fit in.  You can be one of my beta readers!

Sarah LaPolla wrote a good piece recently concerning recruiting beta readers in her blog post – The Beta & the Omega:

…the advent of online forums and blogs and Twitter have made finding beta readers that much easier and that much more common. And most times you never even meet them in person.

So I’m putting her words to the test. This is a call out to the internet to get some beta readers.

Show the dog the rabbit!

OK, so I finished my novel, ‘Broken Branches’.  It’s 60,000 words long. I suppose it would be filed in the science fiction section but it’s more of a dystopian story.  There’s no aliens, spaceships, ray-guns or airships with steam powered bazookas. Sorry.

Here’s some blurb;

The UK prides itself on a population connected by heritage, improving every generation via meticulous compatibility testing based on the potential child created, not love. A ‘parental democracy’ drives this development, approving or denying applicants wanting a child. Men are made sterile to avoid sullying thoroughbred lines.

Down in Wigthorn, on the South Coast, this suits Charlie down to the ground. After a hard day window cleaning, there’s nothing he likes more than harmlessly pursuing the girls. Charlie’s good looks and easy charm means the pursuing doesn’t take long but a one-night stand may have consequences that last a lot longer.

Grace’s husband wants children and has applied for the sterility antidote so they can conceive, Grace isn’t too sure though. Like Charlie, her twin brother, she’s not a thoroughbred and fears what she may pass on.

Grace and Charlie are genetic islands; orphaned by their parents, cast adrift by their ancestors, branches broken from the National Family Tree.

What’s inside may seem worthless now but soon the government, terror organisations and foreign agencies will pay any cost to sequence and replicate their genomes, but to what end? Build supermen? Breed GM soldiers? Create perfect citizens? Who knows.

But it all begins when you start the first chapter.

(Feel free to crit the blurb in the comments!)

Click here to download a PDF and read the first 2 chapters.  If you want to continue and not only read the whole thing but also provide feedback, then contact me here.

I’m no-one, so who am I to determine the expertise of a potential beta reader?  If you like what you’ve read so far, then you’re good enough for me! If you haven’t liked it and really want to tell me…then even better!

I very much doubt I’ll have to confront this option but if so, I’ll limit it to 10 beta readers.

I’m also up for ‘swapping’ reads.  So if you have a novel (now or in the future) we can swaps crits.

O’yeah, if you’re not going to participate but like the idea then retweet this or stick up a link to this post.


June 6, 2011

This is the final push! I’m giving myself until the end of the week to finish this 3rd draft which will then get printed and given to some specially selected victims for feedback…

…if you’d like to be a specially volunteered victim, let me know.  There’ll be more on that later.

This 3rd draft has taken longer than I thought, mainly because real life gets in the way. I have a handful of changes left to make so all running, golf, swimming, blogging and other distractions have been cancelled until I’m done.

The image is a small snap-shot of the changes I’ve had listed in my notebook for this novel. It’s a bit small but believe me, you don’t want to actually read it. It’s entitled ‘Notes for Second Draft Additions & Changes’ but the 2nd draft actually turned into a read through and a general clean up. The 3rd draft is adding specific things to help make the whole novel make more sense and run smoothly…hopefully.

I’m fast becoming sick of redrafting. It’s as good as I can make it without external feedback.  I need a sense of perspective to help polish off the edges. I like it and I think it’s good, but like a teenage child, you want it to leave the house and make it’s own way. It’s keeping me up at night, getting on my nerves and questioning everything I do, undermining every decision.

If I don’t post that ‘Broken Branches’ is completed in a week’s time then I’ve either let distractions get the better of me or we’ve come to serious blows.

Yesterday I completed the 2nd draft of ‘Broken Branches’ which I had hoped would involve plenty of artistic styling and subtle moulding…but turned out to be fixing a ton of inconsistencies, deleting gobbledegook and generally reacquainting myself with the whole story.

The inconsistencies stemmed from facts changing from one chapter to another because editing 2 chapters might only take a week but writing them could’ve taken a couple of months. There was a lot of changing the weather, seasons, clothing, directions, race of a few characters plus a few names.

The gobbledegook originated from mixed metaphors, convolution and writing myself into cul-de-sacs of meaningless. It sounded good at the time but rereading it months later, the cold light of day did not do it any justice.

Took me about 3 months in total which is a month longer than I expected.

Anyway, the positives to come out of it are;

a) I can see the areas needing to be fleshed out and specific events/actions that need to be sprinkled around in certain places to give more meaning and context.

b) I like the story (I’ve read articles saying you should hate it but I think they’re referring to the first draft…but I still liked it after the first draft so don’t believe everything you read).

The second draft only added 2,000 words making the total about 56,500, so I need to add more, at least 10,000.  There’s a bunch of things I need to add so this isn’t a problem where I’ll end up seriously padding it with crap.

The third draft isn’t going to be a full read through, just going directly into places and adding stuff. Hopefully this will just take a month, so by the end of May I should be done.

The 4th draft will be a full read through with a special eye towards technical errors as per – Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do). I’ll give that another month and then dish it out to a few beta readers, probably in July.  If you’re interested in being a beta reader then go here!


I haven’t blogged in nearly a month because I’m still going through the 2nd draft, nearly finished.

Anyway, in the meantime I thought I’d give away this tshirt in a blatant act of whoring to get some more followers on Twitter and blog visitors.

I also run a menswear blog and WeAdmire sent through this tshirt which is the inane writings of a broken man…if there’s a connection with this blog, let me know.

Across the front of the tshirt is ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy‘ from The Shining, repeated over and over.

To enter just retweet the hash tag #alltweetingandnowritingdoesntgetmepublished and I’ll pick a name out the hat on Monday night and DM the winner. You don’t have to follow me but it would be nice : )

It’s a top quality tshirt, in size Large and this offer is only open to UK postal addresses.

There’s more literary tshirts over at WeAdmire here featuring Shakespeare, Orwell, Kafka, Byron, Lovecraft and others.

Haven’t blogged for a while cause I’ve been getting stuck into the 2nd draft of ‘Broken Branches’.  A little later than I originally planned because various other things kept getting in the way plus not being in the right frame of mind, but here I am, better late than never.

Just finished Chapter 5 (of 23) and everything has been pretty much hunky dory so far…eerily so.

I say that but I do plan pretty well so I’m confident in the plots and motivations, my main worries are the craft of writing quality prose and creating interesting, believable characters.

With the novels I’ve read recently I find myself analysing exactly how the author is progressing the characters and the story, what they’re including and what they’re leaving out which is just as important.  I’m not writing a police report or a NASA instruction manual detailing every iota of information, readers contribute their own imaginations to a story so a writer has to leave room for that to happen.

This 2nd draft is going to consist of reading through the whole thing in about a month; fixing obvious writing errors, adding description and characterisation, fixing names, researching real-world aspects I glossed over in the 1st draft, ensure the plots and motivations are good, making sure every scene/paragraph/line of dialogue deserves its place, trashing the fluff and the flim-flam, trim exposition to the bare bones and clarify the timings of the whole novel.

No major headaches so far, just lots of little things needing improvement.  It’s amazing how often simply deleting a phrase or sentence actually fixes the whole problem.

Here are a few blog posts I’ve stumbled on that’ll help me tighten things even more;

  1. Novel Doctor – The Editor’s Hat: 11 Tips for Your Second Draft
  2. Holt Uncensored – Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)
  3. WordPlay – Most Common Mistakes Series
  4. The Creative Penn – On editing and rewriting
  5. Hey, There’s  A Dead Guy – 8 Fiddly Things You Can Do To Your Manuscript To Make Your Editor’s Day

The hardest thing to do is read this 1st draft like I’ve never read it before.  I don’t remember everything, and it’s great to read a catchy line I’d forgotton, but I still know the basics of how the whole novel will unfold.  It’s difficult to imagine how the reader will feel at a particular point and assess if you’re doing things in the right order, in the most interesting order, or if they’re following as enthusiastically as you’re leading…

…like a blog post…hello?

In doing a 2nd draft, there’s one unavoidable consequence.

You’ll have to do a 3rd draft.

It’s all going off in the world of books at the moment!

Today is ‘World Book Day‘ and Saturday is ‘World Book Night‘, not on the same day.  I don’t make up the rules.

On book night you can attend an event and get given a free book chosen from a limited selection.  If you’re in Worthing then check out the book night event at Mooey’s Mocha Shop where you can receive a copy of Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights‘.

Also, The BBC have a book season going on with loads of great programmes.  You can see them all here and watch them on iPlayer if you missed them.  The Review Show and The Culture Show have specials airing plus dedicated shows such as ‘My Life in Books’ and ‘Faulks on Fiction’ which have been good. ‘Birth of the British Novel‘, presented by Phil Mitchell, was also very good.

All these shows are a great eye-opener into loads of classic books you may not have read and may never get around to reading.  It’s all a bit daunting when trying to sculpt your own little corner of British literature but educational and awe-inspiring at the same time.

February 11, 2011

Sometimes I think, “What the hell am I doing, who the hell do I think I am?”

You know those first few episodes of X-Factor or Britains Got Talent where some self-deranged idiot has convinced themself they can dance/sing/act/juggle but are quite plainly rubbish?  If only they’d recorded themself sing, they’d realise!

Sometimes I think that’s me.

So why am I wasting my time doing some crappy job which leaves time to write crap?  It feels right.

A few times over the past couple of years I’ve done some job hunting within my previous career of internet marketing and it makes me sick to my stomach.  The thought of continuing a career which would leave less time to write albeit earn more money, doesn’t feel right.

There are some good posts about this dilemma by Gareth Powell ‘Balancing writing with your day job‘ and Joanna Penn ‘Where do you find the time to write?‘.  I’ve basically gone for the crappy, low engagement job to pay the bills so evenings and weekends can be filled writing…well, mostly anyway.

The flipside to this is, what if I’m a crap writer and I’m not going to go anywhere….ever?  I’m totally wasting my time.  I could’ve sold out and become a banker where being crap is not a barrier to an obscene bonus.

Amongst the form rejections there’s been a couple of glimmers of hope in terms of encouraging feedback, plus I’ve had two short stories published so I’m not a total tone deaf wannabe but it doesn’t look like I’m Leona Lewis either.

There was a great Twitter rant by Kevin Smith a few months back which included this snippet;

Don’t pursue a role, LIVE that role. Like my sister told me, back when I confessed I wanted to be a filmmaker…“Then BE a filmmaker,” she said.

“That’s what I’m saying: I wanna be.”

And that’s when she gave me the million dollar advice…

“No – BE a filmmaker. You say you wanna be; just BE a filmmaker. Think every thought AS a filmmaker. Don’t pine for it or pursue it; BE it. You ARE a filmmaker; you just haven’t made a film yet.

And it sounded artsy-fartsy as fuck, but it was CRAZY useful advice. A slacker hit the sheets that night, but the CLERKS-guy got out of bed the following morning.

It’s easy to say that when you’ve made it but there were some kernels of truth in there too; do what makes you happy, you make your own luck, don’t give up, focus…etc.  Also, he’s been where I am now, nowhere.  Doesn’t matter where he is now, how many of his contemporaries and peers are still nowhere, he’s someone that has got somewhere by living what he wants to do.

I’m not sure what this post is about.  Maybe it’s a message to say yes I’m an educated, sane, emotionally grounded individual whom could do many things with his life but is throwing it away trying to write something that someone else might like.

Yes, those around me have got careers, earning half decent money, paying off mortgages, going on holidays abroad, decorating bedrooms and topping up their saving accounts, all things I don’t have but I’m not that bothered. All around in magazines, TV, film, online are measures of where you should be and what you should desire.  None of them suggest doing a fairly menial job to support a passion that probably won’t pay and if it does, not very much.

I’m not poor. I’m not complaining.  I don’t need a hug.  This is merely a meditation on my present situation to be sent out into the ether.

The elephant in the room is that it feels right and I’ve never been happier.

I’m in that sweet spot situated between completing the first draft of my second novel and giving it some breathing room before I go back and see if it’s complete jibberish or not for the second draft.

I’m choosing to think positive thoughts at the moment…la, la, la!

In trying to clear my mind of the second novel, I’m drawn back to my first novel.  I’ve been punting it around with the occasional tyre kicker taking an interest but nothing concrete is happening.

I’m still happy with it but I’m wondering if it needs another going over again, especially now I have more experience and more time now.  Although there’s a new pressure, is it as good as the second one?

If not, I should go back to it.

If it is, have I learnt nothing?

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