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I’ve written a piece for The Writing Platform on why I think all self-publishers should control at least one point of sale and sell direct to their readers

The self-publishing process has become pretty well established by now, a received wisdom that shapes every entrepreneurial writer’s secret dreams:

1. Write book

2. ???

3. Profit!

Amazon is the secret sauce that many self-publishers rely on to propel them to the authorial stratosphere, hoping that they will become the next breakout bestseller. But for the other 99.9% of us for whom the lightning doesn’t strike, Amazon turns out to be a double-edged sword. Whilst it gives you access to vast numbers of readers, it cuts you off from them too, divorcing you from your fanbase in a singularly unhelpful way.

Read the rest!

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Want to read Argleton?

by Suw on August 28, 2011

Well, now you can! You can from that page download html, txt or PDF versions, or just read it here on CnV. It’s published under a Creative Commons licence, so feel free to share!

And remember, if you enjoy it, please do consider signing up to my writing and bookbinding newsletter (or sign up in the sidebar there to your right).

Enjoy!

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Proofreading the Public Domain

by Suw on April 1, 2009

For the last few months I’ve been working with Book Oven, a Canadian start-up whose aim is to make it easier to prepare long texts for publishing by making it a simple, collaborative process.

The first thing we’ve focused on is how to proofread a manuscript for typos. The problem with reading a whole book all at once and looking for typos is that you can get so caught up in reading that your brain starts to skip the mistakes, seeing what it thinks should be there instead of what actually is. But what if you were presented with just one sentence at a time? You’d lack some context, it’s true, but you don’t really need a lot of context to know if “teh” is a misspelling of “the” or that “their” should be “there”.

That’s what we’ve built at Book Oven, and we’ve called it “Bite-Size Edits”. It presents you with a random snippet of text, with a sentence above and below for limited context, and if you spot a typo you can suggest a correction by editing the sentence and clicking “Suggest changes” (click on the images for a closer look or visit our complete How To).

You can also tell us that the snippet is OK as it is by clicking “No changes”, or that there’s something confusing about it by clicking “Skip”.

If our calculations are correct, it will take 100 people just 10 minutes to proofread a 100,000 word book, and we want to bring that collaborative power to bear on on the public domain. Thousands of texts have been uploaded to Project Gutenberg, but although they have been very carefully proofread some still have a small number of errors. Michael Hart, Project Gutenberg’s founder, called for help in removing these errors, so we’ve set up a version of Bite-Size Edits, which we’ve called the Gutenberg Rally, to focus just on texts from Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders (Gutenberg’s proofreading site).

If you’d like to pitch in, all you need to do is pick an invitation code from the list below and visit the Book Oven Gutenberg Rally site to create a new account. When you’ve successfully signed up, please leave a comment with the code you used and I’ll cross it off the list.
Now, just a little word of warning. The site is in alpha, which means that you will almost certainly find things that are broken! We have a feedback form that you can use to let us know and a forum to discuss things (which, is itself something that’s not entirely finished, as it’s not yet fully integrated – just sign in with the same username and password that you create when you join the main site). We’d love your feedback, so don’t spare the horses!

If you explore the site, you’ll find that you can start your own projects, upload your own text (.txt files only at the moment) and can send it to Bite-Size for the community to proof. Please feel free to experiment, but be aware we’re still ironing out bugs and that we have a lot more social functionality still to unveil!

So, for the love proof-reading, get cracking! Oh, but be warned. Bite-Size Edits has been described by one usability tester as “evilly addictive”. Don’t say we didn’t tell you…

(I’ve added some more codes, but obviously can’t update the list whilst I’m asleep! If you pick one that doesn’t work, list it in the comments and try another!)

Invite Codes
rP2Yyzap
PQ2zLtD9
Wkk1qoyT
ryVuSyb4
aH0Q2F33
gHSRAlfH
CJ8DeNI3
Z2wf1uQ8
9JQgITFO
4eYgwds
UI6xzP2B
QyTDo91K
xRIW1vzp
lj2k2hGp
nP1rsvGW
POjzub7O
oHNCOT7j
iPSyc1VX
xxGPeC9P
bvzcrrAN
FhtbAfjW
PGyzueaK
xKlqrfiz
w8t3I0dk
w9mIDDzx
I4r8p02p
J35c7VHU
W9RDRlzL
1kcNSiFA

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Two types of progress: wrists and writing

by Suw on November 2, 2008

First, the wrists
After nine days of no serious pins and needles overnight at all, which I thought was terrific progress, the last three nights have been very disappointing. I’ve had very bad bouts of pins and needles, and last night’s just seemed to go on forever. I’m trying to figure out if it’s something I’ve done during the day that has affected what happens overnight, but I really can’t pinpoint a possible cause. Indeed, I’ve done less typing over the last few days than normal, so am totally perplexed. Next physio appointment is on Tuesday, so I’m hoping that the next two nights see an improvement so that I can avoid the steroid injection.

Second, the writing
Over the last seven days, there’s only been one evening where I haven’t written something, and that was spent carving pumpkins instead (will post photos shortly). I’m now up to nearly 40 handwritten pages, which I estimate comes to about 7000 words. I suspect that the finished first draft is going to come in at about 10,000 words, which will likely increase when I type it up as I keep thinking of additional scenes and descriptions that I want to add in. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up coming in somewhere under 15,000 words, which will put it firmly in that very awkward category of novellette, according to Fiction Factor.

Not that it matters. I’ve already decided that if after a couple of redrafts I think it passes muster I’m just going to chuck it up here under a CC license and whatever happens to it happens to it. If you like it, that’s all to the good. But either way, I’ll just get on with the next one. (Not that I’m sure what the next one will be. Maybe a children’s story about a cat called Llew and his Magic Catflap. I really just want an excuse to write the counterrotating sheep scene…)

The funny thing about writing a short story instead of a novel is that you go through all the stages of writing a novel, only faster. The first six days were the I’m So Excited I’m Writing A New Story phase. Friday was the I’m Too Knackered To Think stage. Saturday I got through the Oh Dear, This Is Shit And No One Is Going To Want To Read It stage in about an hour. Now that I’ve roughly plotted out how I’m going to get from where I am to the end, I feel like I’m about to enter the Last Downhill Push To The Finish stage. Mind you, yesterday I intended to write a lot more than I did, but ended up honing my procrastination skills instead, which I’m happy to say haven’t waned in the years it’s been since I last did any creative writing.

Of course, one stage that I’ve never been through before is the Typing Up Your Hand Written First Draft stage, because I’ve either written stuff directly on the computer, or I’ve not entirely reached the end of whatever it was that I’d written. I already know that I have dashed through some of my scenes far too quickly. I am still slightly surprised that I wrote a one in the grounds of the castle without ever actually describing the castle itself. A travesty!

I think I’m still on target to finish this within my four week deadline, which means finishing the first draft before 22nd November (which also happens to be the day that Kev and I go on holiday to the US for Thanksgiving). Then it’ll go out to various friends for comment, and hopefully I’ll get the final thing up here before Christmas.

I’ve noticed a couple of my friends are doing NaNoWriMo: Nat and Danny. Danny’s even posting his draft up in public, which I think is incredibly brave. I considered doing NaNoWriMo. I never have before, but this year it seemed like maybe it might be a good idea. Then I had a chat with a couple of friends, who independently pointed out that unless one has a novel-length story already in mind it can get a little bit stressful, and I decided that rather than trying to think up a novel on the fly I’d just work with what I’ve got, which definitely doesn’t have enough flesh on its bones to produce 50,000 words.

I’m enjoying myself immensely though. As I mentioned to Vince yesterday, the story continues to surprise me. I didn’t think the cats would have such a big role to play. And I wasn’t expecting a flashback to 1588. Didn’t see that one coming! I have also had to wrestle with my McGuffin, but I think I’ve beaten it into submission now. In fact, I’ve just realised that it might not be a McGuffin at all, but could in fact be a character in its own right. Hm, that’s an interesting thought.

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Valuable advice for writers

by Suw on October 27, 2008

Whether you are taking part in NaNoWriMo or not, Mr Neil has some valuable words of advice. I blog this not just because there may be people out there who need it, but because in a few weeks time, I’m going to need it myself. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, but I am writing again. Which means I am going to hit a crappy patch and am going to need someone’s sage advice to carry me through it.

And, by the way, I’m up to 14 hand written pages in my FOWA journal, which may not sound like much, but it’s enough to feel really very good.

FOWA journal

I’m writing long-hand with my lovely LSE Parker fountain pen and very bad handwriting. I can’t begin to explain how happy this makes me. And it’s not the fleeting happiness of a lolcat, but a deep, abiding, existential happiness that comes from allowing oneself to be who one truly is.

Anyway, enough of that. I have a scene with a kitten to write.

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More thoughts on daydreaming

by Suw on October 25, 2008

I had a conversation on Twitter this morning that segued nicely from my video last night about daydreaming. I hope those that took part won’t mind me replicating some of their Tweets here:

dominiccampbell: Trying to remember what life was like before being online 24/7. I think it was nice.

Suw: @dominiccampbell it was nice. was talking to @sniffles last night about how all-consuming connectedness might be stiffling my writing

dominiccampbell: @suw so true. my reading of truly interesting thoughtful pieces and ability to write much in-depth and meaningful has definitely declined.

Suw: @dominiccampbell i’m wondering about how to recreate daydreaming time. perhaps turning the net off completely for a while each day?

dominiccampbell: @suw its why I swim so much. its the only place where my head gets the chance to meander. now just need waterproof pen and paper…

anniemole: @suw You don’t travel on the Tube a lot. I get some of my best thinking done on it, whenever I get a seat. Armpits aren’t too inspiring ;-)

rachelclarke: @suw i do that. Close computer, tv/music on low for white noise, close eyes and think

Suw: @dominiccampbell i go to the gym, but tend to find myself watching TV there instead. :/ @anniemole bizarre that i would miss the tube, eh?

stephtara: @Suw I like going out for short walks without my mobile phone, and just stare at what’s around me — or lie down for a while and meditate

Suw: @rachelclarke that’s a good idea. @stephtara walks here not that nice. need to do my AT lying down exercises tho’, so should do that daily

bru: @Suw sounds like a plan. hard to commit to it though #daydreaming

Suw: @bru like “daily writing” plans, very hard to commit to. but i am supposed to lie down in a specific way for my back, so i can do it then.

vanderwal: @Suw I often step away from the compuer & turn on stereo & sit before it to unfocus

Sometimes I feel a bit like my life is the tail that wags the dog, and despite a number of attempts to take charge of wagging my own tail, life still seems to be something that happens at me. Partly this is project proliferation. There are so many exciting and interesting ideas out there in the world, and I just can’t resist saying yes to them. And, of course, there’s the whole “focusing on getting some work in” thing, which does rather tend to preoccupy.

But my conversation with Mr Neil last night, and the exchange above in Twitter, made me think about is how to find daydreaming time in my life. I’m not about to start suddenly commuting, but I remember recently talking to someone (I forget who) who also works from home and starts the work day with a walk around the block and ends it with same.

That’s a valuable ritual that demarcates work time from leisure time. It would also provide an opportunity for my mind to zone out a bit. The drawback is that where I live isn’t particularly lovely to walk through and we’re coming in to winter and I really can’t imagine myself having the desire to go out in the cold rain if I don’t absolutely have to.

A more likely possibility is to do the one exercise that my Alexander Technique teacher gave me, which is to lie down on the floor, knees crooked, head resting on a book (pillow verboten, apparently), for 20 minutes. It’s not supposed to be a mediation, it’s about allowing my body to release tension. Sounds to me like a good opportunity for me to daydream a bit, if I can mange to keep my mind focused on fiction, rather than planning emails, solving work problems or worrying about the economy.

Hopefully this will then brew up a bit of passion and fire. The big problem I have with writing schedules is that they are rather putting the cart before the horse. If I have a story in my head then it will force me to write, and I will find the time because the story won’t let me get away with not expressing it. Sitting down at a prescribed time to write without a story already in mind just emphasises the lack, and results in self-doubt.

I had a great time walking up Offa’s Dyke, because the stories sprang to mind very easily. I feel frustrated that I haven’t had the time since then to really work on them. That’s something I need to change, and I’m going to focus on that over the next few weeks. I have a couple of short stories that I want to write, and I am going to get at least one done and up on this site before the end of November.

I was thinking about NaNoWriMo, but if I’m honest, I don’t have the wherewithall right now to commit to writing a couple of thousand words a day, and it would be pretty awful to try and fail. Instead, I’m going to commit to working on one short story over the next four weeks, currently entitled The Revenge of the Books of Hay.

(And yes, I will look after my wrists whilst I write! I’m not sure dictation will work – I just find that I think through my fingers much better. I’ll just have to cut out something else instead.)

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Hello world!

by Suw on November 3, 2007

Time to import old posts… the excitement!

One slip

by Suw on May 9, 2005

Funny how sometimes the soundtrack to a phase of your life appears from what's current, and sometimes your unconscious demands something else. I have suddenly started listening to Pink Floyd on heavy rotation. Not all of it, just some of it. A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Wish You Were Here and Dark Side of the Moon, to be precise. It somehow fits.

Was it love, or was it the idea of being in love?
Or was it the hand of fate, that seemed to fit just like a glove?

- — -

I have always been here
I have always looked out from behind the eyes
It feels like more than a lifetime
Feels like more than a lifetime
Sometimes I get tired of the waiting
Sometimes I get tired of being in here
Is this the way it has always been?
Could it ever have been different?
Do you ever get tired of the waiting?
Do you ever get tired of being in there?
Don't worry, nobody lives forever,
Nobody lives forever

- — -

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

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