A Novel

I absolutely do not write this in criticism, I am purely curious, and to be honest, a bit confused.

I have been seeing more and more book covers include the text “A Novel”. Why? What is it for? What is its purpose?

Is this an artistic flair that’s catching on? Is it because the cover art is ambiguous as a work of fiction, so it is labelled with “A Novel” for clarity? Is it the counter-point to a novel in a collective including the book-series name (the So-and-So Trilogy, or the Whatsit Chronicles, and so on)?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the act, though from a personal standpoint, it’s a superfluous line of text on a cover, and I prefer the least amount of text necessary to be on a front cover. But that’s me. The traditional industry likes to include blurbs (as in, a snippet of a quote from someone influential) on the front, or identifying information: “Award winning author of This Other Book”, or “International Best Seller”.

Frankly, I have never cared if an author is an international best seller, or has won awards (except in conversation when I’m trying to drive home the point that an author is kind of a big deal, even though the person I’m talking to has never heard of the writer before). To put that kind of text on a cover just irritates me; it’s wasting space, and often ruins an otherwise well-balanced layout. But that’s kind of off the subject.

I can’t see a reason to have “A Novel” placed right up there on the front. Why did the designer make this obvious statement? The description will indicate that it’s a fictitious narrative. I’ve never bought a novel without reading the description/back cover, so it’s not as though I will misunderstand the book is an invented (or exaggerated) story by the time I’m considering reading it. Also, I’m sure it’s happened, but I don’t recall seeing any which say “A Novella”, or “A Novelette”.

If I write something that’s 300,000 words, can I use “A Hypernovel” on the cover? (The answer to that is no, because if Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke manages to have just “A Novel”, nothing can lay claims to a larger novel classification.)

If anyone has insights, I’d love to know. I may never view “A Novel” as something entirely valid to include, and I probably won’t pass any particular judgement on the book if the label is present, but I certainly notice it. Every time. Thus, I am curious.

~A

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One Hundred

According to my WordPress statistics, this is my 100th post! Hooray, happy one hundred!

I’ll admit, I’m pretty impressed with myself. Blogging and journaling really never struck me as something to do, but that was before I met so many awesome blogging buddies. No, really. It’s people like YOU who have convinced me to go ahead with this all the way back in May 2011. Wow, that also means I’m only three months away from a full year at this.

Thinking back over these hundred posts, I’ve shared with you my first publication acceptance, the death of my cat, Chichiri. Insights into writing and the industry surrounding it, as well as my own take on being an author. I’ve met amazing people and participated in their own blogs, sharing the ups and downs of their life-path. I’ve shown you my yarn crafts and new books from other writers. I’ve written a couple of guest blog posts for others, and followed links to fantastic new places around the internets. Truly, I wouldn’t take back my time blogging; I recognise all too clearly the amazing opportunities it’s presented and the people I’ve come into contact with who mean so much to me.

I know plenty of people blog solely for themselves; as some kind of expression or outlet. For me, this wouldn’t be the same without having people to share it with. I talk to myself enough over the course of writing books (they are character conversations! Honest!), so the part which makes this special is knowing that you’re here, you’re taking part in the journey.

Which is to say, of course, we’re moving forward! And what better blog to announce this than my 100th?

My debut novel, The Damning Moths will be published soon! Oh, yes. It’s happening. My giddiness is barely contained.

I’ve still got a ways to go with finalising the project, so I’m still on the journey. I don’t think you really get off this train unless you either quit writing or move onto the afterlife, so the statement is defeated by the sheer knowledge of work stretching ever onward. This book. Next book. The ones after. Nevertheless, you might recognise the title acronym, TDM, as something I’ve been working on (slaving over!) kind of obsessively. For this single project, there’s the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel to lure me through the final stretch. I’m on the right track. We’re coming up to the next stop. Other such railroad-related metaphors!

Thank you for sharing everything to this point. Thanks for reading, and commenting, and lurking. More than anything, thank you for your friendship and support.

~A

Newcomer

As if Surviving the End was not already awesome enough, there’s been a surprise last-minute addition to get excited about!

News delivered from the Dark Prints Press Facebook Page! The illustrious list of authors in our post-apocalyptic horror anthology will now be joined by a piece from Jonathan Maberry. Still slated for a release this April (goodness, only two months to go!), I’m seriously enthusiastic about reading the full collection.

Every now and then, I will re-read my short story, Harvest. My memory is vague enough that I don’t remember the exact way it was written, the precise pacing, each particular word choice. I enjoy re-reading for that reason – even when it comes to my own work, it would seem! I still like this story, partly for its difference to my other writing. Different character types and interactions. Different motivation for the story itself. It borders on frantic, and I’m still left grinning like a maniac at the end. But maybe that’s just me.

And, of course, I’m looking forward to everyone else getting a chance to read it as well!

Here’s the updated list of stories included in Surviving the End:

Joseph D’Lacey, with a novella titled “The Failing Flesh”;
Jason Nahrung, with “The Last Boat to Eden”;
Martin Livings, with “Unwanted”;
Amanda J Spedding, with “The Long Ago”;
Michael Bailey, with “Hiatus”;
Kathryn Hore, with “The Stuff of Stories”;
my own story, “Harvest”;
and now, Jonathan Maberry, with “The Wind Through the Fence”.
Not forgetting the Story Keeper himself, Craig Bezant, adding in the interludes connecting our various stories and bringing the tales of survival together.

April may be just around the corner, but I’m excited and impatient to see the books arrive!

~A

The right time for writing

I’m quickly discovering, regardless of all good intention, mornings are not the best time for creativity inside this brain of mine. I can do endless research, gather information, type out blog post after blog post, noodle around on other people’s blogs and social networks, but to crack open a WIP shuts the productivity down.

Plenty of people say the direct opposite. They write first thing in the morning, before all the “static” of the day gets in their head and muddles up their creativity. Not so, for me. Not for these past many years.

When I first began writing, over a decade ago, it was an all day adventure. I could fire up the computer at dawn and get right into it. But then, when I was really new to all of this, I didn’t have any sort of direction and I seriously had no idea what I was doing. I can admit that. No harm in accepting that it took all these years of practice to be any good at my craft.

As I adapted and learnt more about writing, so too did I learn about plotting and exploring characters. To do that most effectively, I think about them. A lot. A real lot.

This means the morning and throughout the day is usually reserved for contemplating my work and building up to a point where I will let the words come out. Even if I force myself to write creatively in the morning, it doesn’t have the same cohesive flow as what I put down in the afternoon-evening sessions. I need to get warmed up, or as I always say, the ideas need to percolate. If I try and pour them out in the morning, they’re weak and under-done. Later in the day, they’ve been stewing and building flavour and end up that much easier to release onto the page.

So I will adapt and embrace my limitations. My other duties can be tended in the mornings, leaving me free of obligation in the evening, when writing becomes priority number one!

~A

I had a moment

Sometimes it’s the most obvious things which make a sudden, weird impact on me.

People will be reading my work.

Like I said, obvious. That’s kind of the point to writing and publishing and releasing stories out into the world. So they will be read, and hopefully enjoyed. I had a chance to check in with my publisher for the Surviving the End post-apocalyptic horror anthology, Dark Prints Press. They’re full speed ahead for the release of the crime anthology, The One That Got Away, later this month, and they have some great novellas coming out in the near future which I am really looking forward to reading. We talked preorders a little, which was the point where my odd revelation happened.

People have ordered the book which my story is in. People will, in all likelihood, read that story. People I don’t know! Ooh.

Of course, how is any of that different than this blog? Anyone, any person at all with an internet connection, could come here and read the text I am typing right now. Months of my rambling is a available. Ah, but of course, this isn’t my fiction. I give blog posts a quick look-over before I add them. I don’t spend months or years crafting them.

It’s a nervous situation for no legitimate reason. I want you all to read my stories, I really do! I wonder if experienced novelists still feel things like this, or if they get used to the oddities of being an author. Just wait until I have fiction living entirely in its own book. At least with an anthology, I can sooth myself with, “Other, much bigger name writers are in this.” There’s no hiding if it’s all me.

~A

A little healthy comparison

As artists, there are a lot of reasons why we should never compare our work to everyone else’s. Every person has a unique take, and every creation we bring forth will reflect what is ultimately incomparable.

But I feel like some writers take that notion too far. Instead of holding up their work beside another and seeing where they could strive for improvement, many of them declare their piece finished with no greater judgement. They don’t assess what makes a story good, so they can’t apply that knowledge to their own creation.

We’ve all heard the stories. A writer who’s rejected by every agent and publishing house turns around and says they all missed out on something great. They drop a pile of money on self-publishing, only to prove they had been submitting an unpolished draft. No wonder it wasn’t picked up; the story wasn’t ready for publication.

Instead of being really honest and hard on themselves, these people abandoned reason in a glorious spray of egotism. They might’ve had a real chance at traditional publishing if they’d only been willing to compare and see why their story wasn’t up to snuff.

Criticisms of certain popular teen romance novels are only damaging this mentality more. “If that crap got published, I can too!” Simple fact is, most big books have a specific audience and appeal, and had a professional, experienced editor make it into a very readable piece. The writing is intentionally simpler for the younger market. Hate it all you like, there are no outrageous, book-breaking errors in the vast majority of traditionally published works in the YA range.

As with all “rules”, there needs clarification. Don’t compare yourself to others; they will have a different output, a different situation, a different career. They will sell more than you, or less than you. They will have a bigger fanbase than you, or a much smaller, yet more dedicated one than your own. They will have a larger marketing budget, or a smaller one. There will be differences, and you cannot compare yourself to those; they are outside of your control.

But you can compare your technical skill. What makes other books good? What makes you read your favourites? What stands out, what do they do, what don’t they do? Learn. Learn as much as you possibly can about the technical side, and compare your work in the most vicious, heartless way you can. Tear it down. See what emerges from the rubble. Start again, do it right.

There are also stories of people who were rejected by everyone, self-published a very good book, and are now international best sellers. Because they made sure their work could stand up against the other greats.

~A