Friday, 15 September 2017

Hunting down repeated words in the WIP

I've blogged about word echoes before. They used to be a particular problem for me, one I like to think I've now mostly got the better of. But when I've nearly finished writing a book, as well as reading it aloud, I put the text chapter by chapter through editing software to catch repeated words.

Initially I used Autocrit, then it got expensive. I switched to ProWritingAid, which was free, but you now have to pay if you want to analyse more than 500 words. I don't object to paying for a service, and it's easy to scout around and find 25% off vouchers, but ProWritingAid offers a wealth of features I wouldn't use. I don't need help with my grammar, style or readability. Their idea of a 'sticky' sentence is not mine. I just want to find repeated words...

The answer is Repetition Detector.  It's simple and does one job really well, highlighting repeated words in two categories, close and distant repetitions, and you choose the definition of close and distant. You can tell it to skip words like he, she, it etc.. It's free for 30 days, then an incredibly bargain $7.40 for life.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Anthology with Time Rats short story

Kindle Press authors have banded together to produce a book of short stories called Summer Solstice, and I'm part of it.

My story is a Time Rats one; it's about what happens when Floss and Jace go back in time to buy half a dozen paintings from Van Gogh for a rich art collector, and then their client gets slightly out of hand...

For the bargain price of 99p, you can read stories in different genres from twenty-five writers (all of whom Amazon thought worth publishing) and maybe discover new favourite authors.

Thanks to fellow KP author Lincoln Cole, who put the book together.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

On tweaking the WIP

I am an inveterate tweaker. I'm currently halfway through Time Rats Book 3. Before starting to write, I reread what I wrote the day before and improve it, adding bits, and altering words and their order. I believe in Holly Lisle's advice that you should never read your work without a pen in your hand. I also at some stage read the whole thing aloud, and put it through editing software (mainly to catch word echoes). By the time my books are published, I've had all my second thoughts, and third, fourth and fifth ones too.

I think writers who press on to the end of their first draft before editing in one go miss out - though they undoubtedly get more books written.

According to Ben Jonson, Shakespeare was not a tweaker:

I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, “Would he had blotted a thousand,” which they thought a malevolent speech. ... His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter, as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him: Cæsar, thou dost me wrong. He replied: Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause; and such like, which were ridiculous.

I think any writer will recognize what we have here; a less successful author carping at a more successful author, complicated by their being friends. I'm also not totally convinced of the truth of his assertion - but alas, we will never know now how Shakespeare wrote. While Googling this, I came across an irresistible anecdote from John Manningham's diary about Shakespeare that I'd forgotten. Here it is - I've modernised the spelling:

Upon a time when Burbidge played Richard III, there was a citizen grown so far in liking with him, that before she went from the play she appointed him to come that night unto her by the name of Richard the Third. Shakespeare overhearing their conclusion went before, was entertained and at his game ere Burbidge came. Then message being brought that Richard the Third was at the door, Shakespeare caused return to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard the Third. Shakespeare’s name William.”

Saturday, 18 March 2017

New developments at Kindle Press

Yesterday several Kindle Press authors had a surprise - they were told their covers were going to be updated, and were sent the new images. No notice was given, or permission asked for that matter. It has to be said that KP covers, provided by the authors and sometimes designed by them, run the full range from fabulous (like this one or this one) to dire - what my mother used to refer to disparagingly as 'loving hands at home'. It's encouraging that Kindle Press is showing itself willing to invest in its books, and we all know that the right cover makes a lot of difference when it comes to attracting readers.

I designed my own covers. Now, while I'd be delighted if KP commissioned substitutes that were clearly better, I'm incredibly picky about anything visual and to satisfy me, they'd have to be brilliant - Deranged Doctor or Damonza at their very best.  Also, I prefer a 2:3 proportion, rather than the skinnier rectangle Amazon favours.

Here are some before and afters. What do you think?

Monday, 6 March 2017

What is it with charts?

Since putting my first Time Rats novel on Kindle Scout, I've continued to nominate other authors' books on there. I'm a bit spasmodic about it, depending how busy I am, but I enjoy guessing from only the cover, blurb and first few chapters of a book whether Kindle Scout editors will select it. At the moment, I have a 20% success rate, which is exactly average (and not terribly impressive, now I consider it). Every now and then I receive a free copy of a book I've nominated which Kindle Press published, and get to find out what the rest of the book is like.

A few months ago, Scout Rankings appeared on the site. You can boost your rank by nominating, reviewing a chosen book, choosing a book that gets selected etc.. There is a Scout Leaderboard, displaying top ranked Scouts. I was at #31 when it opened. Now my rank is #191. The moment KS started a chart, people started caring about their rank and trying to improve it, even though they do not benefit one whit - Amazon, of course, benefits from their increased engagement.

I see the same thing with the Hot & Trending chart, which reflects the number of readers who have nominated each book. I have to admit the graphics on one's book page are beguiling; as you watch, gold bars shoot up, one for each day of the campaign so far, showing the number of hours spent on H & T. There's a graph showing daily views, and a pie chart showing where they came from. And none of this matters a jot. Experience has shown that a book's success or failure to clock up the hours on H & T have nothing whatsoever to do with its chances of being selected. Yet people go to great lengths attempting to stay on it, networking like mad and paying for adverts.

I used this idea, along with China's new Social Credit system, in Time Rats 3, which I'm writing now. Part of it is set in a 2135 where the Global Union runs the world, and everyone has a CCR. In this new timeline, Liam Roth's life is very different. Here's a snippet:

“In the other future you were rich. You had a house in De Beauvoir,” Floss said. “And when –”
“Wait – I was rich? And lived in De Beauvoir? With my own time machine? The alternative me must have had one hell of a CCR.”
“What’s a CCR?”
“Citizen Credit Rating.”
“What’s that?”
“You don’t know? Everyone on the planet has one. They score you for stuff like financial stability, criminal record, behaviour on social media, who your friends are, job performance, neatness of appearance, core values, attitude – hundreds of different areas, and your rankings fluctuate on a daily basis.”
“Bloody hell,” said Floss. “So what’s your CCR, or isn’t it done to ask?”
Liam laughed. “18%. That’s overall. My attitude rank’s probably hovering around zero right now.”