The psychology of writers

Dan Brown – numbskull or pioneer?

The English language is always evolving, despite our attempts to make it stand still.

As authors, we try to stick to the accepted rules of what is ‘good’ writing and we admonish those who disobey these rules.  Us older folks use the rules of grammar and punctuation that we were taught when we where young and to us, that’s the ‘right’ way to write.  Many of the younger writers are bending those rules, either due to a lack of education or a determined effort to change things.

Oh my god, they’re trying to modernise us..!

I don’t want to be modernised.  I don’t want to be forced to use an exclamation mark and a question mark together, just because Dan Brown does it in Inferno.  I like my old fashioned rules; they’re familiar and comforting and I know what I’m doing with them.  I like knowing I’ve been observant enough to remove ninety percent of the hads, thats and gots in my WIP and I positively beam with delight at the pile of adverbs I’ve scraped into the trashcan.  It’s hard work obeying the old fashioned rules of good writing; it means you have to know about writing structure.

I secretly reckon that this rush for modernisation has little to do with a desire for creative freedom and more to do with a lack of desire for getting some real education about how to build your work.  My mother is even more old fashioned than me, because her education was gained thirty years before I gained mine.  She stills puts full stops after a prefix – Dr. Smith, Mr. Smith etc and no matter how I argue with her about it, she insists on leaving them in.

I admit that my education as to how to structure ‘good’ writing was severely lacking, so when I began writing novels, I educated myself by reading articles on the internet about how to it.  I learned how to punctuate dialogue properly, the universal hatred of adverbs, hads and thats, the unwritten rule that you never, ever, use comic sans unless you want to lose your kneecaps along with your credibility and all manner of other stuff I never learned at school because I went to a comprehensive rather than a grammar.

I don’t mind moving with the times but there is no way on this Earth I’ll be using an exclamation mark and a question mark together.  I couldn’t give a rat’s arse what Dan Brown does.

The new ad-free me

I’ve come to a momentous decision today.  Thanks to the general public’s total lack of interest in my work, I shall no longer be doing any advertising of my books.

I’m not the world’s greatest saleswoman, I’m the first to admit that, and I don’t have a rich husband/parents/boyfriend/wife;/girlfriend/son/daughter etc to pay for one of the many over priced ‘advertise your book here’ websites or a publicist to do the work for me.  All I have is me.

I’ve said many times that authors are a selfish and competitive breed of creature.  They don’t give real help without a fight and they happily use bribery and outright fraud to jemmy their book’s way up the ladder of apparent success.  From getting other writer chums to write glowing reviews, to giving away kindles and amazon gift cards in return for reviews, anything and everything is fair in the book game.

You can’t just do a giveaway anymore, that doesn’t work.  Without the promise of a brand new kindle or $50 in amazon money, no one is interested in actually reading a good book these days.  It doesn’t matter how badly written the book is, how atrocious the spelling or how lackluster the grammar, so long as that kindle or gift card is in the post, they’ll give a glowing 5 star review.

I’ve just run a giveaway event for my latest novel and I’m not offering kindles or money.  I don’t need to bribe anyone, the book is good enough on its own to more than compensate for the time involved in reading.  The trouble is that people don’t actually read books anymore, even their buddies’ ones that they review.  They just skim without taking anything in.

I set an easy and fun competition and was offering ten free e-copies of my latest novel as the prize.  All I was asking was that people write a little story of 300 words about a celebrity and I would read and pick ten winners.  Guess how many signed up for the event.  Go on, guess.  Thirty eight.  Now guess how many actually did a story.  Two.

Officially the event runs until Friday but I’m confident no one else will bother to enter and, as per the rules set by me, if less than twenty enter, the whole shebang will be cancelled.

One thing that people really should try to get into their brains is that all those who are offering kindles and money as bribes to you for reading and reviewing their books, are doing it because they need to.  Think about it for a second; why would someone who has written a brilliant book need to give expensive gifts away to people to tempt them to read it?  Answer – because they probably wouldn’t go within a mile of it if they didn’t.

I recently watched a hilarious conversation on facebook where an female author was moaning loudly to her chums about someone who had given her latest tome a bad review.  Her little buddies jumped in and commiserated with her, called the reviewer all sorts of a obscene names and some even threatened violence if they ever met the person.  I went to Amazon and read the free preview and was appalled at the spelling and grammar, the punctuation mistakes and continuity errors I saw in the just the few pages the preview offered.

The standard of writing has fallen through the floor since the advent of self publishing and most people now have so little real knowledge of how to use their own language correctly, that their work often isn’t fit to read.

I’m not going to start offering kindles and amazon gift cards to bribe folks to read my books.  In fact I’m not going to actively advertise them at all anymore.  I shall do my usual post when I publish a new novel and continue with my weekly tweet/excerpt group as that helps out others, a couple of whom are very nice people.  I write because my soul aches to write.  I write because the universe demands I write.  I write because it’s the only thing I can do well.  I shall continue to write books of quality and publish them.  Whether you read them is up to you, but I won’t be offering you anything for doing it.

Seeds of Inspiration

A friend on facebook asked me not long ago, “where do you get all your ideas from?”  A simple question indeed but one that is almost impossible to answer in a way people who aren’t ‘like me’ will understand.

By ‘like me’ I mean, well like me.  Let me try to explain.  I’m autistic, which means I don’t do the social thing at all well.  I don’t mix with folks effectively and I tend to quickly piss people off and if I do make a friend, I tend to lose it pretty quickly.  This means I’m alone for most of the time, both physically and inside my head.  You know when you have friends but they’re not actually ‘here’ at this moment but you know inside your head that they exist and they’re your friends?  You have an innate knowledge that you’re not emotionally alone don’t you?  Well I don’t have that.  I’m physically alone and alone inside my head too.  Now that’s freaking alone man..!

I also have major emotional baggage left over from an abusive childhood which means I have a trust issue.  Not something you want when you’re trying to make friends.  This also tends to add to my isolation.  I’m also physically unattractive so even if men did happen to overlook my other failings, the sight of me puts them off anway.  This also means I’m destined to remain just as alone as I am now.

All of this isolation takes its toll and not all of the effects are negative, for me as a writer anyhow.  I’ve developed an immense imagination.  Every moment I’m alone I’m living one of my internal fantasies.  People who see me may think I’m just shopping or taking out the trash but really I’m exploring the outer regions of some far flung planet, searching for the ancient truth stone that will save the people and show me my one true love who just happens to be mixed race, hugely muscular, clean shaven and hung like a horse.  I may appear to be driving to the store, or to my day job but really I’m on my way from my Los Angeles mansion to meet with my agent to discuss my latest appearance on the Ellen show and whether we could fit in a spot on Jimmy Kimmel the same day or whether we need to put that one back a week.  I may appear to be doing housework but really I’m searching the cargo bay of the intergalactic freight liner for clues as to the whereabouts of the hand written  notes that would prove that hugely muscular, mixed race, well hung hunk of a prisoner is completely innocent of those murders on Taxos 4.

You see what I’m driving at?  This is me every minute of every day and several hours into each night too as I toss and turn and struggle to switch it all off so I can sleep.  The moment I wake it all starts again.  This is the stuff that fills my mind 24/7 and all of the locations, the conversations and the people are as real to me as anyone I may physically meet.  Being completely alone both physically and emotionally too, allows me to indulge in this fantasy reality to a high degree and I’ve been doing it for so long that I doubt I could stop for long and I couldn’t imagine being able to survive without it.

It’s the easiest thing in the world for me to just write this stuff down.  I’m so tapped in to my creative flow that I can just sit down and switch it on and let the words come tumbling out.  I see it all happening as I write it.  I actually live it as I write it and I feel all of the emotions each time I re read it.  All I have to do is sit down, switch on and step out of the way.  My higher self does the rest, my creativity, my muse, call it what you want.  I always say that I don’t actually write my books; my characters write them and I just take dictation.

Last night I was bored so I sat down and opened a blank word document and then opened my mind.  An hour later I had a full plot synopsis for brand new epic space adventure novel.  No pain, no tears, no agonies of writers block (what the fuck is that anyway?) and no prob laymo.

So in answer to my friend who wanted to know where I get my ideas from.  The answer is, from me.

Facebook Fan Pages – heralding the imminent exodus

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed something troubling going on over at facebook.  I have my own personal page there (doesn’t everyone?) but also a fan page for my books and I’ve taken the trouble to trawl for fans and managed to achieve a none too shabby 447 fans.  Like a lot of people I felt it would be a more professional way to present my books and writing without the personal stuff that goes on at my personal page.

Several weeks ago those of us with facebook fan pages noticed an innocuous little thing at the bottom of everything we posted which at first we ignored until the truth of its function made us sit up and scream WTF..?  At the bottom of each post it says “seen by” and then a number.

This tells you how many of your fans actually saw this post, and it’s never anywhere near the number of fans you actually have.  As I say above, I have 447 fans on my facebook fan page, but my posts usually get “seen by” no more than 30 or 40.  In order to ensure your post is seen by all of your fans you have to – yeah you’ve guessed it – pay..!  Facebook charges $10 to ensure your post is seen by up to 3000 fans and that cost is PER POST, not a once in a lifetime thing.

There is a way around it and it’s very simple to do.  All you have to do is hover your mouse over the ‘Like’ button and wait for the drop down box.  Then click on ‘add to interests lists’ and voila, all of that page’s posts will be visible to you.  I’ve been posting this information for ages now, and so have a lot of other fan page owners but the problem is that no one can be bothered to take the 5 seconds to actually do it.  This is what fucks me off more than anything, more than facebook expecting us to pay.  The simple truth that people are too selfish and lazy to take 5 seconds to ensure they can see your posts, dismays and troubles me but doesn’t surprise me.    People are selfish and book people are notorious in their lack of desire to help out other authors.  They’re violently competitive, which I find, well frankly rather uncouth.

This makes the recent trend for facebook ‘like parties’ rather redundant now.  What’s the use of having thousands of fans if only 50 of them see your posts?  This also makes fan pages themselves almost redundant because there’s no way people are going to be persuaded to actually give those 5 seconds to click on the add to interests button unless you pay them.  With this rather sad realisation comes a decision – I’m giving up my facebook fan page.

I simply cannot see the point in maintaining the page when only 20 to 30 people will see my effort and rest just can’t be fucked.

Yes I’m annoyed.  I’m constantly amazed and annoyed at people’s capacity to be unhelpful, insincere, greedy, snooty and selfish.  So I’ve decided that since people don’t have the intelligence to be led by my example of helpfulness and giving, I’m going to do exactly what they do.

I spent over an hour last night ‘unliking’ every single writer’s fan page I’d taken the time and trouble to like and ‘add to interest lists’ and I shall never ‘like’ a writer’s fan page ever again.

I love writing my books and I’m good at it, better than many others I’ve seen and read and I will always write.  I love writing, it’s writers I hate..!