All posts by Simon Speight

I am a writer who has recently published his first novel, Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bacchus-Sanderson-Deceased-Simon-Speight-ebook/dp/B00O7UIWDQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412671760&sr=8-1&keywords=bacchus+and+sanderson+(Deceased)

Ideas


I’ve recently completed my author page on Goodreads and one of the things that I can do is answer writing related questions that are posed by other readers. That forced me to think about the processes that I have gone through when I wrote Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) or indeed any piece of significant fiction.
The starting point of any work of fiction is the germ of an idea that sparks passion. By passion I mean the desire to invest the time in exploring an idea and deciding if it merits your time and in what format. Is the idea strong enough to be a short story? Flash fiction? Or is it a idea that can be developed into a novel length piece of work.
Take the time to look carefully at your ideas and analyse in which format they would work in and deciding if you are passionate enough about the ideas to move them forward. The majority of ideas that flash into your head as you sit at your desk or commute to work, you will decide are not good enough. The key is spotting the ones in which you can get excited.

The advice in years gone by was; ‘write what you know.’ This intimates that if you are a keen knitter and a housewife, the only fiction you can write with any hope of believability is the adventures of a knitting housewife. Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. In a digital age the majority of us have access to a world of information through the internet. We can write as spies, killers, aliens from a distant universe or should we chose, as knitting housewives. Our options are limitless.
Ideas for our writing are all around us and come from some unexpected places. I am planning and plotting my next novel at the moment and the idea for it came from a flash fiction prompt from WordPress. The point is that ideas are all around us and your spark will be very different to mine.

When I need a starting point I look to my interests. What do you do with your life? Are you a gardener, climber, chef, art lover or bibliophile. Can any of those areas be incorporated into your next piece of work? What genre of books to like reading or listening to? What films do you enjoy and are willing to pay money to watch? These are the important questions that will help unblock your psyche and give you a idea that could be the basis of your next work.

On moving…


We moved house just over a week ago. Not far, about ten miles down the road, but far enough that we rejoined civilisation. We had lived in an old, draughty, damp, cold farmhouse for nearly eleven years and after the very wet winter we had in the South of England last year, enough was enough. The mould had mould and the area around the BT socket sported a growth that was almost and inch deep and colourfully furry.

In the summer the farmhouse was beautiful and a pleasant place to live. The surrounding countryside offered us views that were typical of the beauty of rural England; grass, sheep, cows and trees. As autumn approached and the weather cooled, our single glazed windows began to run with condensation day and night. You felt you were living in a goldfish bowl or the glass sided turtle pool at Sea Life. Once winter began to bite, we would often come downstairs in the morning to find the condensation had frozen on the inside of the glass, adding an extra layer of chilliness to our already brisk start to the day.

We tried, really tried, spending hundreds or perhaps thousands of pounds on paint, filler, brushes and in the end professional decorators in a vain attempt to keep the mould and damp at bay. In one room at the back of the house George, our decorator, who had taken up a semi-permanent place in the family, scraped and repainted one wall five times as the paint fell off as fast as it went on. When the wall paper in the porch area began to fall off the walls as water seeped through the rustic stone; we gave up and registered with every estate agent in a twenty mile radius.

Now we are here. We have double glazing, gas central heating, mould free walls and you can go for a walk without getting covered in poo of one description or another. These things , which to us are remarkable and more gratifying than you can imagine, are to you and your friends, something to which you don’t give a second thought. In time, I am sure, neither will we. For now we go down on bended knees in gratitude.

If the urge overcomes you, have a look at my recently published novel. It really is very good:

Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) – published!


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bacchus-Sanderson-Deceased-Simon-Speight-ebook/dp/B00O7UIWDQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412671760&sr=8-1&keywords=bacchus+and+sanderson+%28Deceased%29

Today is a strangely odd day and also a day in which I feel extremely proud. My first (completed) novel has been published on Amazon as a Kindle download. It isn’t getting the benefit of tweaks by a publisher’s art department or promoted in the national press by an enthusiastic marketing department; it just has me. This book has taken six years to plan, research and write, a year or more of repeatedly rewriting it and then a number of months involved with cover design, proofreading and ultimately publishing my book.

I have learnt so much about the craft of writing, the determination and the sheer bloody mindedness of putting bottom onto chair and typing one word after another, day after day. The whole process has been hugely enjoyable and i have discovered the pleasure that can be gained from creating something from scratch, polishing it and finally presenting it.

The next part of the process; marketing my novel, will involve be another steep learning curve. I hope with the resources of Amazon to assist me and my own determination, I can sell a few copies and discover if my book is the jewel I believe it to be.

If you’re interested in having a look the link to the book is above.

Synopsis and cover letters


Okay, this is the question. How is it possible to condense one hundred and twenty two thousand words down to two double spaced pages of A4? And now for the tricky bit, for it to tell the same story as the longer version so that your reader can glean a flavour of the story? I was amazed at how hard it was.

I had spent a few weeks viewing the task with a degree of trepidation and finding excuses not to begin. I couldn’t avoid it any longer. The book was completed, seven versions, and now I needed to send it out.

Creating a synopsis I discovered takes practice. My first effort was too long and detailed. I had written a chapter by chapter plot line that told the story, but in far to much detail. Attempts two, three, four and five were improvements, but still too long and too much detail. I turned to the internet, our new font of all knowledge and discovered it had the answer, actually many answers.

Reading the thoughts of agents and publishers who are the recipients of our endeavours, they all wanted the same thing. Brilliance, an undiscovered gem that would catapult both the agent and the author to the pinnacle of Sunday Times bestseller list and leave them there. If that were not possible they would settle for a synopsis that showed them that the author could take a story and keep it interesting, coherent and gripping over the course of a hundred thousand words. Could the author continue to deliver beyond the three sample chapters. I have learnt that an agent will read the sample chapters and then the synopsis. If the sample had promise and the synopsis sounded interesting i stood a chance. Oh also nearly every agent wanted us to spell their names correctly…

Now the covering letter. I nailed this in under ten attempts, an improvement of sorts. the essence I gleaned from my font of all knowledge was that the letter was three short paragraphs. The first paragraph was a very edited version of my story, the second an explanation of the genre and what is unusual about the book and finally a brief biography on me and the type of fiction I enjoy.

The samples synopsis and covering letters have been despatched and so I wait in hope of a response, any response.

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield


The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

For a writer, all writers, this book should be required reading. Robert McKee, a screenwriting genius wrote the foreword for the book. Robert McKee said,
‘Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art for me. He undoubtedly wrote it for you too, but I know he did it expressly for me because I hold Olympic records for procrastination.’

Procrastination is the enemy of us all. In his book Steven Pressfield calls this enemy Resistance. Resistance is elicited whenever an activity requires something of us. For instance, the pursuit of writing or painting, education of any kind, diet or health regime. Or as Pressfield say’s, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favour of long term growth.

His book then goes on to characterise the forms that Resistance can take. In part two he talks about combatting Resistance and the difference between an amateur’s approach and a professional’s approach. A lovely quote is from Somerset Maugham. When asked if he wrote to a schedule or only when inspiration struck he replied,
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” He’s a professional.
This book has had a bigger influence on me than any other. It has helped me, forced me, to complete my novel. It keeps me working even though there are a thousand other things I would rather do and most importantly it has allowed me to realise that it is a privilege to do what I do: write, but I have to remember that I have to do my work everyday to keep Resistance at bay.

As always, if you like my post please like me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/worriedofwoolcombe) and leave a comment. If you don’t like my post please let me know why. Thanks

How do I market my book?


The book is finished. The cover is commission and is underway. I’ve sent out queries to three agents, but I’m a realist. They are awash with novels from first time hopefuls of every age group, genre and level of ability. The slush pile is feet deep and growing deeper every day. I think my chances of being plucked from obscurity is slim.

So, this puppy isn’t going to sell itself, but as a person who is at best an inexperienced marketeer, what is the best approach. I have Facebook and have started posting at least daily, (www.facebook.com/worriedofwoolcombe), I’m on twitter, but need to be more tweety than I am at the moment (www.twitter.com/woolcombe1) and I’m on tumblr, but don’t do anything with it other than my blog posts go there automatically (www.tumblr.com/blog/worriedofwoolcombe). I need to build my audience, attract more followers and generate interest so that when the book is ready to go on sale i will have a group who might be happy to spread the word.

Two things i will be doing to encourage people to read the book is firstly, prior to it’s launch, make the first chapter available on this blog for people to read and pique their interest. Secondly, the first week after it’s launch all downloads of the entire book will be free.

If you’ve any ideas of effective marketing strategies please leave a comment.

As always, if you like my post please like me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/worriedofwoolcombe) and leave a comment. If you don’t like my post please let me know why. Thanks

Ghosts – part 1


An odd title for a post you’re probably thinking. I agree, it is. Bear with me. My recently completed first novel, Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased), has a main character who is a ghost. But why did I choose a ghost?

The idea came to me when I was recovering from a serious heart problem. It is at moments like these that you begin to consider your own mortality. I had a lot of thinking time on my hands and I began considering what there was after death. Is there anything after death? I came at these questions initially from a quasi-religious perspective. I’m not overtly religious, but I do believe there must be something rather than just emptiness, but what?

If there is ‘something’, that then leads on to the question, is this ‘something’ a homogenous mix of everyone? Good and bad? Or, as it is generally asserted, there is a division; good people upstairs to heaven, bad people downstairs to hell. What then happens if you weren’t supposed to die? You hadn’t reached your predetermined death date? If you had been expected to remain alive on earth for years longer? Potentially you would have a lot of loose ends that hadn’t been tied up. Unfinished business.

This was where my story began. One of my main characters had been killed before he should have been. Inevitably he had unfinished business, in his case a lot of unfinished business. Therefore as a relatively good man he went to limbo.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionaries definition of limbo is: ‘A region supposed in some beliefs to exist on the border of Hell as the abode of the just who died before Christ’s coming and of unbaptised infants’. As limbo is also viewed as a fictitious place or mythical place and by Roman Catholicism as ‘the place of unbaptized but innocent or righteous souls (such as infants and virtuous individuals)’, I felt vindicated in using limbo in my story as a place that those with unfinished business go to. They remain in limbo until their unfinished business is resolved and then continue to heaven. I have assumed if you’re bad enough for hell you go straight there.

In my next post I will cover how I view limbo in my novel.

If you like my post please like me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/worriedofwoolcombe) and leave a comment. If you don’t like my post please let me know why. Thanks

Rewriting and Rewriting and Rewriting and…


I thought Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) was complete, finished, dealt with, ready to go. It had been edited, typo’s removed (hopefully), grammar checked and now pretty good. So good to send to agents and see if there is any interest or whether I am going to be Indie man. I’m happy either way to be honest and the fact that I have commissioned a cover design perhaps adds credence to the inevitability of following the independent publishing route.

I had found three agents who handle the type of book I have written. Checked there submission criteria, the main one seems to be, spell their names correctly…So I decided a quick reread through the first three chapters to double check for typo’s would be a good idea. Oh shit, I can’t send this out it’s awful, really awful. After the nausea had subsided and I’d stopped hyperventilating, I accepted a little light polishing would be useful and began the buffing. Two day’s and five attempts to improve the first three chapters later, it was better, much better. Tighter, more tension, atmospheric. Excellent.

I began working on the synopsis and covering letter. I’ll come back to those in my next post. Synopsis and letter complete, I’ll read through everything I’m sending and then email it to the agents I’d chosen. Oh shit. Not quite as shocking, but had I thought this was good? This process was in danger of repeating itself for weeks, possibly months.

I’m think I’m suffering from a common writing ailment, obsessive rewriting syndrome. The symptoms are, an inability to see if a piece is good or really does need more work and a reluctance to let go. The reluctance to let go is the hardest to deal with, as will be the inevitable rejection, humiliation, penury, followed by self loathing and…okay, wait a moment. Now I have identified the disease the cure would be self apparent. Never ever send anything to anyone, no that was the alter ego speaking.

If you believe it’s as good as it can be, send it, post it, publish it, get it out there. With feedback comes insight. You never know someone may like it.

Have a look at my Facebook page, Worried of Woolcombe and if you’re in the mood, give me a like. I’m happy to reciprocate.

Punctuation and Grammar


Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss Elements of Style by William Strunk Jnr.

Now that I write for a living, I am increasingly aware of the importance of not making too many mistakes with punctuation and grammar. If you spend months or even years crafting your novel, it would be awful if your prose are let down by clumsy punctuation and poor grammar. I wasn’t bad, not perfect, but not bad. Now that this is what I do full time, I needed to be as close to perfect as possible.

I tried Grammarly, an online punctuation and grammar checker. Initially, it seemed quite good. I would copy and paste my text into the program it would analyse the text and highlight my grammatical errors. Some aspects are better than others. The dictionary they use to compare your text to is awful. It doesn’t recognise many simple words offering ludicrous, or worse, no alternatives. Subscription cancelled.

Two books I have found to be incredibly helpful are: Elements of Style by William Strunk Jnr. and Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Elements of Style is an excellent textbook of correct English grammar and punctuation. A little dry, but it offers a comprehensive explanation of the different areas of grammar and punctuation as well as providing a list of commonly misused words and phrases and commonly misspelled words.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a far lighter introduction to punctuation. It covers all of the common punctuation marks , providing a history of their usage and the correct way to use them.

I hope I have benefitted from having them on my bookshelf.  Any punctuation or grammatical errors in this blog are mine alone!