Things have been very busy and I’ve kept meaning to post something here but then time gets away from me.
Since my last update, I’ve been working on a number of books, at different stages, mainly those that were completed years ago, had revisions then and were parked while trying to become traditionally published. Since making the decision at the end of 2014 to go the self-publishing route, I’ve been re-editing all of those multiple times and circulating them to an online crit group, so have been accumulating lots of notes on further updates. I’ve also finally published the first novel under my pen name, in a supernatural/paranormal genre which could be described as dark fantasy. Back in 2020 during lockdown, I thought I should publish it for charitable purposes, probably benefiting the UK National Health Service (NHS). However, I didn’t appreciate how long it would take me to edit, so for business reasons had to adjust my plans and if it does make a profit, which is probably unlikely, I’ll donate 10% to charity.
Anyway, I’m now able to direct more attention to a couple of short novels that I hope won’t pose such a delay in reaching publishable quality. Mageborn is the first in a fantasy series and History’s End is a science fiction dystopia set in the future after an ecological and plague-related collapse of civilisation. As well as getting those ready for publication, I’m going to be working on another fantasy novel, Goddess, which is undergoing a second circulation around my online critique group.
In the last couple of years I’ve been attending a writing group where we do ‘homework’ based on prompts drawn at random for e.g. character, setting, theme. It’s been a lot of fun and has got me back writing short stories which I hadn’t done for years. In the last month or so I’ve joined a similar online group though the brief there is to write to a theme in 600 words or at least well under 1000, so that’s a good discipline too.
Recently, I was greatly shocked to discover that the NaNoWriMo site – the novel writing challenge I’ve participated in every November since 2012 and, apart from the first year, managed to ‘win’ by either writing 50,000 words or putting in at least 50 hours of editing – is in meltdown following very serious allegations about misconduct by certain staff members and one or two of the unpaid moderators, particularly in conjunction with the young people’s writing programme. As a result, the whole forum has been locked down, and the NaNoWriMo Board of Directors have hired a consultant to advise them on how to drastically overhaul the site. I won’t go into the issues any further, but I doubt whether I’ll participate in future. I’ll put the winners badge on my side bar – due to the forum becoming a ghost of its former self after the website update in 2019, I hardly ever went into it any more so was oblivious until near the end of November that anything was wrong – but unless there’s a total clean up (and even then) I won’t want to associate myself with a site where such appalling behaviour has gone on.
AI is the big controversy at present, of course, and as things stand I’ve decided not to use it for writing, editing or having covers done. A few respected cover designers have gone over to using it, but you now have to declare on Amazon if you’ve used AI, and I’m not comfortable with the way at least some of the Large Language Models have been built. There are various lawsuits going through where artists or writers have had their work used without permission or recompense. As I want to support other creative people and don’t want to risk using sites that could have used work without permission, I’m steering clear, though I know there are one or two which apparently have stuck to limited data sets which have been sourced ethically. I might in future be tempted to use it for the marketing side of things, but it would have to be when there’s no risk of infringing the rights of artists or other writers. I know AI-assisted is in a different category, e.g. using ProWriting Aid or similar tools for editing, but I’ve never been tempted by those. I had the opportunity to trial an early version of Grammarly at work back in the day and it was terrible: no doubt it’s a lot better now, but I’m sticking to resources such as Hart’s Rules and the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors.
I am making a change to my writing practice though, because I’ve started using Scrivener for Goddess, which is a lot more manageable with a big book, and I used Atticus to format my pen name production and will be using that going forward. It’s not perfect and I wouldn’t use it for editing since it stores everything on the cloud, and I had severe broadband problems a couple of months ago so wouldn’t risk being sideswiped by that, but it can produce an ebook and a PDF for printing from the same project file. You just have to create alternative versions of certain pages, e.g. copyright page to allow for different ISBNs, which you specify to be used in the appropriate format, plus you set up templates to govern things such as font, justification etc and print-specific items such as page headers for the print version. I did all that manually for The Reluctant Hero, but once you have everything set up it is soooo much quicker when you need to produce yet another version because something was missed out. Having one version of the text is so much better and you can download a Word docx version as a backup so on the whole I’m finding it very useful.
Back in October, I embarked on a free course by Bryan Cohen which he runs every quarter to help authors learn how to do Amazon adverts. I did the first few days’ challenges but fell by the wayside as some of the later challenges took so long to do the research. However I do intend to have another go.
Current list of todos:
- Yet another edit of the next segment of Goddess to go onto online group circulation by tomorrow
- Do homework for writing group meeting (online one done yesterday)
- Start going through the feedback on Mageborn and implementing
- Start blogging regularly again
- Do Bryan Cohen’s Ads for Authors course again and try to get further this time