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Keeping going

One of the hardest things an author faces day to day is actually finding the time and the inclination to write.

When I was lucky enough to meet up with some of the authors from “Killer Women” at the Agatha Christie Festival a few years ago, I was, so far, unpublished, and I asked them, as any aspiring author would – what I needed to do to get an agent and get published, and they said, without missing a beat “You need to finish your book”.

By this point I already had four totally finished novels – so the advice wasn’t quite what I was looking for – but it just goes to show – this is where most aspiring authors fall down.  That initial “ideas to paper” stage.

Getting all the words down onto paper (or rather into word on a PC) is a challenge for most authors.  I’ve got countless works on my computer which only get to chapter three and stall.  This isn’t because they aren’t good stories, but merely because life got in the way, and I just never felt the pull of that particular novel to finish it off.

So how do you cope with this challenge day to day as a writer?  I don’t know whether this is harder for me as I receive regular writing commissions and so, with deadlines looming I simply HAVE to write murder mystery games in my waking hours – and therefore when I get back to my PC at home and look at the book on the go I feel somewhat jaded by the whole writing process, or whether it’s easier – because I’ve already developed the much needed habit of just writing whether I feel like it or not.

Many people would tell you not to wait for the muse – but just to write.  Others will tell you not to spend time writing if you aren’t in the mood as you’ll just delete it all the next day.  The question is – which approach is right?  I think it’s hard to tell.  I think it really boils down to what works best for you – so long as you are aware there will come a point (there will – trust me) where you will get to the middle of your book, where the “fun” of the start, and the “pull” of the end are both missing, and it feels like you are going nowhere.  (It kicks in around 25,000 or 30,000 words – just in case you’re wondering…)

At this point – I would say… write.  You have to write through it.  It might be garbage, but get your ideas on paper.  You have plenty of time to edit later (usually 6 months to 9 months minimum!)

So how do I, personally, get through this particular mental block point?  Well it’s usually at this point I start chapter plotting.  I have the overall plot in my head (or on paper) already, but when I hit this point I start putting short sentences into the chapters.

e.g. “Chapter 12 – Jess and Simon meet”

This gives me a pointer for each chapter, and I just work through the entire “book” to the endgame putting in these one liners, so that I can start feeling the tug of the end.  Sometimes I’ll flesh out a paragraph, or even write a chapter totally out of sequence so I work out where i need to add in plot points earlier in the plot, sometimes as I write I’ll add in another chapter as I realise something else is needed.

It’s also usually a good idea to simple READ everything in your book to date.  Sometimes that’ll give you the impetus for the next chapter.

I will say, it’s usually at this point I also allow myself to get distracted.  I write blogs (yes… you know where I’m at now don’t you…) try out short story competitions, screenplays, anything to get the creative juices flowing again.  Sometimes once you’ve taken your mind off the hook and worked on something else for a bit – the impetus comes back and you’re raring to go again on your original book.

Some authors always have 2 books on the go at once.  So that they can move between books as the muse takes them.  It’s not a bad plan if you can do it without getting confused, and also you don’t hit “mid point” on both at the same time.  I suppose as I write creatively at work – I have that system already in place.

The mind is a wonderful thing, it’ll recconnect to your characters and plot if you give it time, and sometimes the worst thing you can do is focus focus focus on how little you’re writing day to day.  Feel free to give yourself a holiday, a few lie ins.  Read a couple of your favourite authors, meet up with some local writers for a chat.  If you can, and feel able, try giving your part written manuscript to someone who can encourage you.  (IMPORTANT – don’t give it to a critic at this point… as they’ll tell you everything you’ve done wrong and the joy of the writing process will dissappear instantly! – A good constructive critic is always essential to the writing process – but at the END – not when you’ve hit a mental block!)

If you can – try and do something your characters in the book are doing at the point you’ve got stuck.  Obviously not murdering someone… but if they’re going out for coffee / a walk / engaging in some active pursuit / visiting a particular area – see if you can do the same – that may well give you the basis to continue the story.

One last thing to consider… are you stuck because you’ve got bored?  If you’re bored – then ask yourself will your readers be too?  If so – think of something totally out of the blue to throw at your characters at this point.  Shake it up a bit – throw them a curve ball.  It’ll make it spicier for you as a writer – but the readers might also enjoy it – and it might well give you the motivation to keep going.

The Missing Witness – out now!

The Missing WitnessWell… it’s taken 6 months from final draft to publication – which by the sounds of things isn’t unusual for the publishing industry – but at last my novel is available for purchase at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

As you’ll have noticed… the title of the book has changed (again).  During the first few drafts it was “The Baby, The Dog and Irene”- and then for pitching to agencies and publishers it became “The Impossible Suspect” – and after an extensive edit by endeavour press it was decided the title needed to be different.

Where do you go to find a new title… titles are often the hardest thing to come up with.  Being a game writer, I’m used to fabricating titles at fairly short notice, and I knew what would sell for a game… but what sells books?  I had no idea.  And so rather than settle on just one title, I decided to pitch several to the publisher to see what they thought.

This is the list I sent them – I’d be interested to see, after reading the book yourself, if you prefer any of the other titles…

The Curious Case of the Husband in the Attic
The Friendly Killer
The Silver Sleuther
The baby, the dog, and Irene
The Foundation of Murder
The Forgotten Memory
Nothing Left Behind
The Missing Witness
The Man in the Attic
Missing presumed dead
Loose Ends
A Different Solution
The Murder of Lesley Cooper
Murder on Park Drive
Falsely Accused
A Grim Murder
The Unlikely Detectives
A Suspicious Stabbing
The Kitchen Killer
A Puzzling Pensioner
A Caustic Connection
Too few at the funeral

Oh my goodness! I have a publisher!

Well… it’s been a while since I blogged.  there’s a good reason – I’ve been busy writing.  And not just games either… since the attending the writers retreat in January I’ve been finishing off my novel.

This isn’t my first novel.  I’ve been writing books since I was 14, but it IS the first novel that’s been accepted by a publisher, so it calls for a celebration!

Come 2017 – sooner if I crack on with the edits – The Impossible Suspect – will be digitally published by Endeavour Press, and will be available on Amazon as a kindle or print on demand book.

I’m not expecting this will radically change my life.  If it earns £100 in a year that will be a monumental sum, but it is the first rung on the ladder towards being a recognised “writer”, and I’m hopeful my second or third book may finally net me an agent and a mainstream publisher.

So right now, I’m editing… they felt it had too many ? marks and it seems my ending was a little abrupt so they’ve asked me to slow it down.  I suppose the difficulty there is I’m used to writing for interactive theatre productions and the solution shouldn’t last more than 3 minutes as everyone wants to find out if they were right and get back to drinking.  I’m guessing writing “READ MORE SLOWLY FROM HERE” isn’t a suitable addition to the manuscript, so it make take me a little while to get that ending polished to the level they want – so wish me luck – I have a deadline of the 30th November… but with so much work on at RHG at the moment, I need to get it finished much much sooner… not least because I’m off to Egypt in November to run a murder mystery evening I’ve yet to write!  Eeek!

Periscope – how to make the best of it.

GeographyPeriscope seems to be the “next thing” when it comes to social media, and there’s a whole raft of people joining Periscope every day.

At the moment, the people who seem to know how to use it best are all the social media experts and SM entrepreneurs – but it’s not as hard to get your head around scoping as it might seem.

So… because there is nothing more dull than watching persicope on replay to find out where you are going wrong or what you need to do, I thought I’d offer a few tips of my own.  I’ve been using Periscope around a month now, and while there are no real “no nos” there are some really good tips to make the most of it for you and your business.

DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME!

Periscope can easily become yet another time waster.  Unlike Twitter or Facebook, it’s really easy to get sucked into conversations and watching videos with periscope and soon your whole day is gone!  Let’s face it, we live in a world of TV addicts, and turn on a flickering screen anywhere in the room and you’re naturally drawn to it!

Don’t make the same mistake with Periscope.

The first thing you should do when creating your periscope account is SWITCH OFF your notifications!  All of them!  It’ll save you getting suckered into watching things when you’re not free.

FIND WHO IS ON WHEN YOU ARE

Secondly you’re home screen will be devoid of video streams initially.  So it’s tempting to jump straight on the web feeds and watch whoever’s there.  So the first thing you need to do is identify the people you’d most like to see on periscope and follow them so they’re always on your home stream section.

Because of the connection between twitter and persicope this makes this process much easier.  You can search for “scopers” and click on the people on twitter you most interact with usually.  Let’s face it, you’re usually on social media with these buddies anyway, you may as well grow the friendship.

Then watch what happens.

Like all Social media you’ll be allocating certain times to it.  So when you start finding people who are live at the same time as you, then follow the people interacting with them on their scopes (You just click their avatar as they comment and then hit follow).  This will give you a raft of people who are a) interacting with the same people you like to watch (similar interests as you) and b) ON periscope the same time as you and are therefore likely to be available to watch your broadcast when you decide to go live.

BROADCASTING TIPS

1. Don’t Dive in just yet:

Don’t scope immediately, tempting though it may be.  Rather, watch others for a few weeks.  This will give you ideas and you’ll find out a lot, and not only that, if you’re commenting on other’s feeds (strongly encouraged!) then other people will be following you back during this warm up time and will be ready to hear from you when you broadcast.

Your first scope on Periscope is dropped into all the Periscope users feeds, so don’t miss out on that opportunity to make your scope “the best.”

2. Block spammers pre-emptively

This warm up “lurk time” gives you the chance to start blocking the users who are throwing out spam and troll-like comments and “hitting on” people.  As these comments crop up in the scopes you watch, click on that user and block them.  It’s a preemptive strike.  You don’t want them harassing you on your feed!

3. Turn your location settings off.

This also prevents spammers joining you.  I’m not sure why, but it does.  Apparently they sit on the “map” section and jump in on people who are broadcasting their location more than those who aren’t

4. Get a good intro image

The first 2 seconds of your scope will be the image that periscope uses for your video.  SO… make sure you have the camera facing something interesting/pretty and not you pulling a face.  Also,… remember the camera is vertical NOT horisontal.  When you’re setting up to broadcast, it’s easy to forget that as the lower half of your screen is often covered by persicope informaton.  Make sure your camera screen is completely full of something.

You can simply use coloured card, or if stuck, put your finger over the camera lens for the first few seconds so it’s a black or red image that displays.  it looks better.

5.  Don’t start talking immediately.

Persicope cuts the first few and last few seconds of your scope.  It’s a time lag thing.  So start talking after 2 seconds and welcome people then.

6. Ask for questions or feedback, and respond to your comments

Periscope is all about the interaction.  People stay when they think they are being heard.  So respond to people.  Ask simple questions like “Where are you scoping from?”  “What do you do?” to prompt some interaction, and then reply to the comments as they come in. (Blocking spammers as you broadcast).

7. Scope when you’re free

It doesn’t seem to matter where you are or what you are talking about.  I’ve had more people chatting to me while I’m peeling potatoes for tea, than when I sit in the office deciding to show everyone what I do.  Just broadcast when you’re free.  Tell people something interesting and see what comes up in the comments and chat about stuff that your viewers that day want to know.  You rarely stay on topic if you’re scoping well.

8. Don’t be rude

It’s social media.  This means EVERYONE can see it.  Which means your potential next client will see you.  Don’t say anything you will be ashamed of later.

FOLLOWING UP

Katch.me is an essential tool for periscopers.  It enables you to link users who’ve interacted with you on the scope with users on Twitter instantly.

As with any networking, the sales are in the follow up – so follow up.

It’s going to be rare that someone watching your periscope live will immediately go and buy what you sell, but they may know someone who will.  So treat them well, they are your referral sources.  You build up that “know, like and trust” thing with your viewers, they will put work your way eventually.  Don’t alienate people and don’t make them hate you.

ETIQUETTE

1. Comment

Don’t watch in silence.  At least hop onto the comments once and say “Hi”.  It makes all the difference.

2. Send hearts for good content

Viewers can send hearts to support the broadcaster by tapping the screen.  The broadcaster can then look back and see just how many hearts you’ve given them.  Give loads.

3. Don’t be rude!

So many times I see people bad mouthing people on social media. You are making yourself unsellable.  There are many people who will not be getting business from me because I neither like them nor trust them because of things they’ve said to others on social media.  Even if a particular stream of diatribe is not aimed specifically at me… who’s to say the next won’t be?

Whoever treats social media like a playground is just plain stupid!  Playground behaviour, bullying other users etc will get you nowhere in business.  If something offends you, just ignore it and don’t watch them again, or block the poster from your feed.  Say nothing else.

DON’T DO THE SAME!

I think it’s a huge mistake to assume Periscope is simply a live You Tube, equally it’s not a TV advertisement.

There are a lot of people adding periscope’s to You Tube, who fail to recognise that the media is completely different.  If you scope something you think might be useful to a wider audience, why not record yourself on a webcam and do a proper You Tube video without distractions or breaks as you respond to users comments?

Periscope’s best feature is it’s interactive nature.  You Tube’s best feature is it’s uncluttered information.  Don’t mix the two if you can avoid it.  if you want to direct people to your replays, that’s where Katch comes in handy.  That’s a collection of your periscope videos, which shows all the comments and hearts, and like You Tube, totally free to use.

Also – don’t forget to adjust your periscope bio.  It’s a different media, so your periscope Bio will need to reflect that.  People connect with people they feel they have some commonality with, so don’t be afraid to “tag yourself” and place yourself into boxes.  Who are you, should be able to be summed up by a few distinct phrases e.g. Mum, chef, entrepreneur.  Use those for Perscope as it gives viewers a hint as to who you are and whether they want to connect with you.  Also it’ll mean you connect with more like minded individuals.

 

IT’S NOT ABOUT QUANTITY IT’S ABOUT QUALITY

Don’t jump on the band wagon and feel the need to get LOADS of followers.  You don’t need loads of followers, you need interaction.

Just the same way as your mailing list could be 27,000 individuals, if you only get 200 people who open your newsletters, then effectively you are only reaching 200 people at a time.  Why not shrink down your mailing list to those 200 and give them more targeted content?

Chasing followers will a) lead you to attract spammers and b) make you look needy and c) you could end up with a periscope comment stream you can’t handle effectively thereby reaching no one well.

Value every connection you make.  Don’t ask them to “swipe and share”.  Make THEM feel important as they’ve joined you.  You want to speak to them, not people they might invite.  If they like your content, they might well suggest other people hop onto your live broadcast, and you can thank them for that, but don’t go out of your way to ask for it.  Equally, don’t ask for hearts.  They’ll give them if they like what you say.

Create quality broadcasts, to a select few individuals and you’ll grow some great referral sources, not just random followers.

Busy year!

Forget busy week, this has been a truly astoundingly busy year.

And because I can never remember the log in codes for my personal blog, it’s been sadly devoid of regular content.  That might change.  Because as you can tell… I’ve found out what they were!!  Sometimes you just need to be in a different location for them to come back to you.  Me?  It’s the office.  Which means… while I type, I really should be hard at work grafting.

I wish you could see me now.  I’m surrounded by boxes.  We’re just about to hit peak seasonal sales with the website, and wholesale orders are dribbling in regularly which is why the office is awash with cardboard.

For those of you who follow me on Periscope you’ll have seen me shrink wrapping on a near daily basis recently. (I’ve just newly made it on this year I’m @redherringgames on there if you wanted to find me.) Even though I’m the MD of the firm, I’m still the one nominated to do the most boring job in the office because… you guessed it… I’m the best at it.  Yeah right.  It’s a job no one else likes.  Which means muggins here has to do it.

Fortunately I’ve just finished a slew of custom written murders, so have the time to stand there while the machine vooms hot air all around me to my intense boredom.

The most exciting custom game this year has been the murder mystery for the International Agatha Christie Festival – which will get it’s first airing on the 18th September.  Details available directly on their website.

However, that’s not the main reason I’ve made it onto the blog at last.  Rather I wanted to tell you that I’ve finally finished the first draft of “The baby the Dog and Irene” which has been in development for over a year now and am back into re-editing.

Being me… I’ve sent the first re-edited three chapters off to an agent while I’m working on the rest, just to see what they say.  As a member of the International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, I’m hoping it’ll get more of a look in than the usual unsolicited manuscript… so watch this space.

As well as finishing off a novel, I’ve also made it onto Amazon Create Space and self-published a short mini guide on how to write murder mystery games.  Details of that are below.

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