To create the perfect book

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It’s been said that no artist is ever satisfied with their work. And I think that’s just as true for writers.

I know that, once they’re out there in front readers, there is always something that I wish I had done differently with every one of my books.

For my first published book-length fiction, The Bones of the Earth, there are some things that still bother me about it. Even eight years after its release.

I wish I had included more description of the environmental damage done by civilization, even in the sixth century. For example, both Rome and Constantinople had to import most of their grain from Egypt and the province of Africa; bad farming practices and heavy urbanization had rendered the land around the big cities unable to produce enough food for the urban populations.

I did address this more in the sequel to The Bones of the Earth, the imminent The Children of the Seventh Son.

I also wish I written more about griffins. I put one into Part 1 of the story. I intended it to represent celestial or sky powers, as opposed to the chthonic or earthly gods. However, by the time I got deep into parts 2 and 3, somehow I forgot. Also, there are already a lot of fantastical creatures in it.

A griffin from a medieval tapestry now in Basel, Switzerland. Source: Wikipedia.

Also, I wish I had known more about covers for commercial fiction: would have liked my name to be in larger type.

However, Bones was not my first published fiction. That was a story that looks like it’s for children, Sam, the Strawb Part. It’s about a young boy who loves strawberries so much, that he dresses as a pirate and attaches a skull-and-crossbones flag to his bicycle, then uses it to rob local mothers of strawberries.

I just wish, now, that the tone had been a little less acerbic, and the story a little more suitable for children to enjoy.

The good news

That’s the thing about publishing today: you can change your books after they’re written. Re-publishing an e-book means that even the people who bought or downloaded it before the change will get the new version.

And the paperbacks are print-on-demand. There are no great stacks of books in a warehouse somewhere, so producing new versions will not require wasting the original editions.

Dr. Malcolm’s question

Then there’s the question that Jeff Goldblum’s character asked in Jurassic Park: I can go back and change books and stories that are already in readers’ hands—but should I? Will those people have a different reaction? Will a slight improvement bring more readers to the book?

My first job after university was as a book editor for one of the major publishers. On my first day, I asked my boss, the chief editor, if the goal was to produce the perfect book.

He laughed.

To this day, I have not come across a single book that did not have something wrong with it. Some error, at least a typo.

I know that every time I go through a manuscript I have already edited and re-written, I find something to change. A typo that I missed, a reversed quotation mark, an awkward phrase.

If I make a lot of changes and what I think are improvements, will I just find yet more problems or errors? Worse, will I create more problems?

What if what I think as such a huge, glaring problem is something that readers barely notice?

So should I revise old books, or move on and write new and better ones?

What do you think? Leave an answer in the Comments, below.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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When a book idea strikes

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Monday musings on new ideas for books

By M.L. Doyle

It never fails. I usually get hit with the good idea stick when I’m at my desk … at my day job.

Like most indie authors, I don’t make millions writing books (don’t I wish), so I have to earn a living doing something not as fun or as cool or as fulfilling as writing books. Ah well.

That said, it’s at the job where I actually earn a living that I get ideas for the job that isn’t responsible for putting food on the table. I’ve never asked, but I’m guessing my real employer wouldn’t be too happy with me dashing off a chapter or two while I’m supposed to be doing what I get paid to do.

It’s frustrating as hell.

Between having the first two books in my Desert Goddess series made into audio books, I’m sketching out ideas for book three. I’d been rolling a bunch of ideas around but hadn’t really landed on anything that was worthy of a jumping-off point. Until, off course, I got to work.

It felt as if, as soon as I booted up my computer, opened Outlook and started scanning through the piles of emails that would govern my day, that Hester, Gilgamesh, Sarah, Reuben, Quincy, Rashid and everyone else in my made-up world, demanded my attention. The opening scene unfolded. The emotion and atmosphere made themselves real. I could hear Hester in my head and the new character that will make his debut in this book, finally became a solid, fleshed-out human. For the first time, I could see his thoughts, could feel his fatigue, his hunger and confusion. He finally took shape and I knew exactly how I would make him work.

I grabbed a post-it pad, scribbled a quick tease of the ideas, and stuck them in a notebook. Throughout the morning, between meetings, phone calls, discussions with colleagues, I kept scribbling ideas and setting them aside for later. By the end of the day, I had a decent stack.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

At home, I spent some time sticking the post-its to the wall, moved them around, tried to build a bit of a timeline. There is still a lot of work to do plot-wise, but I’m finding the sticky note method works for me.

Once I sat down to write, I flew through the words that tied all of those ideas together. Chapters one and two were done in a flash.

Writing and my day job, for obvious reasons, have to be separate, but I’ve yet to figure out how to tell my brain to stop firing when I get to the office. I’m not even going to try.

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.co

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Why I write—and why I write what I write

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Monday musings from bestselling author

David C. Cassidy

I’m a visual person. A creative person. As a photographer, I’m trained to “see” images before I make them. I’m trained to “create” them.

For me, writing is equally visual. I see words in my head; entire scenes play out like a movie. Some would call me a scatterbrain, and they’d be right. My head is in a state of constant flux. Words and images bombard me all the time, at the same time. Think of it this way. If the human mind was a bowl of Smarties, mine is a bowl that’s been dropped to the floor, those sugar-coated yummies rolling away in every direction. It’s brain bedlam.

So why do I write? It’s the only way I can bring order to chaos. In photography, the chaos comes from standing in front a subject and considering the different ways I can make that killer shot. What lens? How much depth of field? What light will work best? Colour? Black and white? So much chaos. It sounds melodramatic, but you get the idea—making “the shot” brings order. A kind of inner peace, if you will.

When I’m writing, the chaos is all those details that make up a book. Characters. Relationships. Plot. Setting. Conflict. Resolution. Sorting these all out and weaving them into a compelling story brings order for me. It ends the chaos, and, like making that great photo, brings calm. Brings peace.

So why do I write what I write?

I’m known as a horror writer. But it’s not what I write. I write people.

You read that right.

Not, about people. People. Period.

My favorite films and books are all character-based stories. Sure, I love a good shoot-em-up or an episode of Star Trek as well as the next person. But only if it’s got great characters. What happens to them is secondary. If I don’t care for them, can’t relate to them, why shed a tear when little Billy gets his limbs torn off by the Swamp Monster? The reason Titanic works so well is not the special effects or the tragedy, it’s our heartfelt connection to Jack and Rose.

It comes down to this: I write people, because people are what you and I are. It’s not the bad shit that happens to them that we care about, that’s just the glue for a good yarn. It’s their story—their struggle. What it’s like for them, as an individual, to be human. To know sadness and joy. To live and to love. To fear and to die.

And for me, that brings calm … brings peace.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek inside my messed-up mind. To see what really makes me tick—and a wacky little video of what I do—visit www.davidccassidy.com/about.

Happy reading!

David C. Cassidy

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

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