Why do we write? This important question has been asked countless of times.
The response is probably as varied as there are people asking it, ranging from the rather vague – I write because I have to, to the more pragmatic – it helps pay the bills.
But writing is such a difficult and lonely activity that I believe there has to be a deeper and more significant reason that explains why we keep returning to our keyboards.
Why is it important to know? Because when we lose our way – and sooner or later we all do, when the muse and market-place glance the other way, when the critics descend upon us like a plague of locusts – we need to grab hold of that reason and use it to help pull ourselves back up to higher ground.
“It pays the bills,” won’t do then. There are other easier ways to pay the bills. Neither will, “I write because I have to,” since during such times it doesn’t feel like you have to at all.
The answer is probably two-fold. The first part is true for most writers: realise that what you’re feeling now will inevitably change. Your strength and self-belief in your abilities will return, prompted by more positive reviews, fresh insights, wonderful new ideas, better sales.
The second part you have to work out for yourself. What is it about the craft of writing, specifically, that brought you to the deep well in the first place? Remember that feeling you had when you wrote that first paragraph, page, chapter, that got you hooked.
“I write because of the magic it affords me.”
For me it was a short story I wrote for a school assignment about the unbounded joy a homeless kid feels when he finds a shiny coin in the street. The idea sprang out of nowhere and practically wrote itself. I remember that last line well. It said: “And in his little black hand, the shiny 50 cent piece was set off even more.” Naive as it was, it had heart and a social conscience beyond my conscious ability to craft it.
The story made it to the school’s end-of-year magazine and proved to me that there was a voice inside me that had something to say if I could just find a way to activate it. It was the start of my journey.
I’m sure you have an equally meaningful memory about the moment when you first realised that you had something to say. Remind yourself of it when the going gets tough. It may just help you get back on track.
If you question why you write try to remember when you first realised you had something to say as a writer.
This post is unashamedly about my latest novelette, The Nostalgia of Time Travel. The novelette represents a new departure from my usual writing, although I’ve tried to keep external events that are at the core of every genre-driven tale a strong feature of this story.
The novelette is part of my ongoing attempt to bring a more authentic, literary approach to my stories while still managing to retain a strong outer journey—something I began exploring in my previous novel, The Land Below.
Here’s a short description of The Nostalgia of Time Travel:
After the accidental death of his wife, Miranda, Benjamin Vlahos, an American theoretical physicist relocates to a remote resort town in Northern Queensland to work on a set of equations to prove that time travel to the past is possible. As he struggles with the math, a deadly cyclone approaches, dragging with it ghosts from an unresolved past.
As always, I’ve worked with nuggets mined from different genres in an attempt to keep the story fresh and unpredictable, but I’ve taken extra care to keep the emotional and psychological dimensions authentic.
Here’s an early indication from the first Amazon.com review. I’d love to hear from others whether you think I’ve succeeded.
It’s a book for people who enjoy exploring the complexities of human nature By hannah on August 8, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A thought provoking novel, that excels at creating a rich, layered world for his characters, with lines you want to read out loud, just to hear them. It’s more of a book for people who enjoy exploring the complexities of human nature, rather then just a waiting for the next plot point.
If you enjoyed this post, kindly share it with others. If you have a suggestion for a future one, please leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the bottom right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.
Margaret Geraghty’s The Novelist’s Guide, offers the pros and cons of using the first person technique in storytelling.
Despite its restrictions, the first person narrative approach has many strengths to commend it.
When The Catcher in the Rye was first published in 1951 readers were so convinced of the actual existence of Holden Caulfield, the story’s fictitious narrator, that they scoured the streets to find him. The author’s use of youthful speech patterns, exaggeration, present tense, and slang imbued the work with a sense of fluency and authenticity that would be hard to create through the more common third person past tense narrative.
The novella, The Nostalgia of Time Travel, relates the struggle of an aging theoretical physicist, Benjamin Vlahos, to unite two grand theories – General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics – in one grand theory of everything.
Additionally, Benjamin is haunted by the loss of his wife that occurred thirty years previously, blaming himself for inadvertently creating the chain of events that led to her death. To make matters worse, one of the most powerful cyclones to ever threaten the coast of Northern Queensland in Australia is closing in.
As these events wind ever closer together, interspersed with fragments of memory, theoretical speculation, and a haunting sense of loss, the narrative becomes increasingly nostalgic, ethereal, and tense.
I chose the first person present tense for the following reasons:
1. The technique lends itself to a colloquial style which encourages a sense of collusion between the reader and Benjamin. We are made privy to Benjamin’s hopes and fears in a more immediate and direct way than is otherwise possible.
2. Because this style uses natural, fluent, speech patterns, it is less likely to descend into pretension, pompousness, and purple prose. It is also a lot easier to read.
“The first person narrative technique transmits intimacy and immediacy.”
3. Since I’m addressing the reader directly, I do not need to use intrusive speech tags. This suits a story of introspection that is driven by emotion and the tension of physical peril caused by the approaching storm.
4. Secondary characters are richer precisely because they are projected from a single viewpoint. When the young Benjamin, thinking back to his youth, says of his uncle, ‘I wished I was bigger so I could pack his bag and shove him out of the house,’ we experience this through the eyes of a six year old child and forgive him his prejudice.
5. On the down side, the protagonist has to be in every scene and the thoughts and feelings of other characters have to be filtered through his viewpoint. But again, because characters are experienced through the heart and mind of our protagonist, we are given more opportunities to explore his soul through his misunderstandings, and through irony, pathos, and humour.
6. Another criticism is that the technique forces the repetitive use of ‘I’. In The Nostalgia of Time Travel, however, the frequent use of the pronoun adds to the sense of pathos, stasis, and introversion of the protagonist, as seen below:
‘I wipe my reading glasses with my handkerchief to ensure they are free of smudges, squeeze them back on my face, and tilt my equations this way and that. I dot my i’s and cross my t’s. I make sure my pluses are not really minuses resulting from a lack of concentration. I sip another cup of coffee and spread more syrup over my waffles before I study the math again.’
Use first person, present tense narration to invoke a powerful sense of authenticity, immediacy and intimacy.
This short post, is, unashamedly, about the release of my new novella, The Level. I started writing it in Brisbane, Australia a couple of years ago, before pausing to complete Scarab II: Reawakening – the follow-up to my successful first novel, Scarab.
Scarab’s amazing popularity on Amazon (it reached the #1 spot both in the US and the UK in the science fiction/high tech category), persuaded me on this course of action. Mission accomplished, I returned to The Level with gusto. Whether this new novella will reach the heights achieved by Scarab, we will just have to wait and see.
Below, is a short press release of The Level, as it appears on my amazon page.
A man, suffering from amnesia, wakes up in a pitch-black room, tied to what feels like a wooden chair. He discovers he is being held captive in a derelict insane asylum haunted by inmates who are determined to kill him. Help comes in the form of a beautiful, mysterious woman dressed in a black burka who offers to show him the way out, if only he can remember who he truly is.
If you enjoy your science fiction spiked with mystery, suspense and thrilling twists…
If you’re fascinated with the pervasive nature of love, consciousness and the limits of personal freedom…
Then scroll to the top of the page and grab this brand new novella, now!
There you have it. Effective? You be the judge of that. Perhaps you can write in and give me your opinion. I’d greatly appreciate it!
Better still, you could grab your own copy of the book and write a short review on amazon!
The Level is a novella in the science Fiction/Psychological/Thriller category, which explores the nature of love, consciousness, and personal freedom in the setting of an abandoned insane asylum.
Cover reveals are an important part of marketing your forthcoming novel, short story collection, or non-fiction book, especially if you are an independent writer publishing on such sites as Amazon.com. Great covers spark interest in your work, and together with a release date (which may vary from days to a couple of weeks), help to create anticipation in your readership.
A well designed book cover seizes one’s immediate attention. At its very best, it captures, in an impactful and compelling way, the essence of your story, its central themes and elements, its chief conflict, and projects a defining emotion.
Opinions vary on specific styles, but obviously, genre and period have a lot to do with informing the look and feel of your cover. These considerations extend to the font used for the title and other text that appear on it.
My own preference is for simple bold images that rip through to the essence of the story. In my first novel, Scarab, a large red scarab, placed against a grey background to set it off, suggests the Egyptian link in the story, while the bright lights behind it variously suggest stars, or even, spacecraft lights, invoking the science fiction elements in the tale.
My follow-up novel, Scarab II: Reawakening, (which is being released on the 20th of June next month through Amazon), is based on roughly the same cast of characters as the first, and continues the established visual pattern, but introduces the images of a spherical object and a computer circuit board behind the now familiar red scarab, to highlight important elements in the tale.
The central thrust of Scarab II: Reawakening concerns a misinterpreted warning from an alien object found in the Drankensberg mountains of Natal, South Africa. A visual display from the orb seems to confirm the coming destruction of the earth by a super solar flare, as prophesised by various doomsday cults across the world, and the protagonist, Jack Wheeler’s, attempt to find and use the quantum computer, introduced in the first book of the series, to try and prevent it.
As illustrated above, a short summary of the story, and information about the author (if none is available elsewhere on the website), ought to accompany the cover reveal.
Once these elements are in place, you are ready to promote your cover reveal through as many mouthpieces as possible: certainly facebook, twitter, your website, fellow bloggers through announcements, author and character interviews, and blog-hops, and, last but not least, through the pre-sales option on sites such as amazon.com.
That done, sit back, have a cappuccino, or some Earl Grey tea, or something stronger if you must, cross your fingers, and wait for those first reviews and sales figures to come in.
And remember to breathe.
A cover reveal is an important part of your book’s marketing campaign. Use it judiciously, together with a release date, to help promote the launch of your book.
If you enjoyed this post, or have a suggestion for a future one, kindly leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.