Tag Archives: Indie

The Future of Writing

Shades pic

Bright Future

There has never been a better time to be a writer. After years of concern that reading might be on the wane, especially for our attention-challenged teenagers forever bent over their smart phones and computer keyboards, reading is once again becoming cool, supported by the gadget revolution and the e-readers that it has spawned—Kindle, Nook, Kobo and the like.

Additionally, the virtual side of stores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble have provided a shopfront where authors can sell their work directly to the public and let it decide on its merit.

No longer need we plaster our walls with rejection slips from reluctant publishers, nor struggle to find reputable agents willing to take us on. Had that been my only option, I’d probably have fallen by the wayside, never having had the stomach to pursue that route in the first place. My first novel, Scarab, completed some 14 years ago, shelved and quietly forgotten about, might never have reached the No. 1 spot in the science fiction/hard-tech category on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, nor would its follow up, Scarab II: Reawakening, have seen the light of day.

Luckily, I entered the market at a time when Amazon had already provided an alternative to the traditional publishing route through their kindle reader. For me it was a no-brainer. The reading public is, after all, our ultimate judge: It is the public we have to please if we are to succeed as authors—in an economic sense, at least. Of course, now that one’s work rides the best seller lists, traditional publishers no longer seem as reluctant.

Another factor fueling the writing resurgence is the number of new authors the changed landscape had allowed to emerge. People who would never considered trying their hand at writing are now doing so. Although an exponential increase in the democracy of writing has allowed the birth of material that seems below par, it has also allowed amazing new talent to be discovered. Hugh Howey, whose series, Wool has put him on the map, has admitted in a recent interview, that the traditional route would never had garnered him the success his indie status has.

Last, but not least, as indie writing grows into a giant industry, a number of services are springing up to support it. The number of how-to-write and market-yourself books, websites, and story doctors is growing by the day. Editors married to traditional publishing houses are realising that their services have coin with indie writers too—perhaps even more so. Inevitably, this will impact the quality of indie writing, driving it ever upward. Not only will this benefit the reading public, it will also affect the quality of movies that are increasingly drawing from this pool of new talent.

So, my fellow indie writers, put on your shades, for, whichever way we look, the future of writing seems bright indeed.

Summary

The positive outlook for reading and writing seems set to continue, supported by a growing number of hardware innovations and trends.

Invitation

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Photo: M Vegas. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

How to Write Character Descriptions

Painting of man smoking pipe

Character Description:

In a typical screenplay, character descriptions should be written when the characters first appear on the page. These descriptions should be brief and to the point. This post looks at this often misunderstood aspect.

There are only two things to establish about a character from the outset–gender and age. Laborious, pedantic descriptions about specific physical attributes, cars and pets, musical instruments played, should be avoided. If a characteristic is crucial to the story, state this succinctly. If, for example, one of your characters, say, Ben Brandt’s graceful movement somehow ends up saving his life then foreshadow this in your description of him: Ben Brandt was built like an army barracks shithouse but moved with the grace of a ballerina.

Lengthy, unmotivated descriptions slow the forward thrust of the story and betray the writer’s inexperience.

So why do so many writers include them in their screenplays? Because it is far easier to describe a character’s varied physical attributes and traits than to reveal them adroitly through dialogue and action in a scene.

Reference to physical stature, hair colouring, and weight, therefore, are only relevant if they foreshadow aspects of the plot, such as the stutter that causes the murderer to trip up at the end, or the lack of height that motivates a man to over-achieve in other areas.

This extends to emotional traits as well. Indeed, one of the best ways to make emotional and physical traits germane to the story is to interweave them and have them explain some future aspect of the character’s action(s).

This brevity of description extends to the novel and short story too, for much the same reasons. In her wonderful book on the craft of the short story, Inside Stories for Readers and Writers, Trish Nicholson offers us several examples of this skill. In Modus Operandi she describes a character’s physical size: “A big man, too–he had to duck under doorways. His hands were as wide as dinner plates. To see those long fleshy fingers you’d realize the strength in them.” This description is not only germane to the story but it foreshadows menacing aspects of the plot.

Summary

Character descriptions should be brief and germane. Describe only those traits of a character that serve as triggers to the plot, and do so succinctly.

Amazon, Mon Amour!

Glances and hearts

Amazon Love:

In today’s post I want to pay a personal tribute to Amazon. Now, I do realise that it is sometimes unpopular to align one’s self with a large institution such as Amazon, an institution whose operational style might be seen, by some, as predatory. But, with all due respect to contrasting views, I make no apology for this.

No. I don’t own shares in the company, nor do I work for it—although, I do, in a real sense, work with Amazon to achieve my personal goals.

Let me explain.

Some fourteen years ago, whilst working as the resident screenwriter for Elmo De Witt Films in South Africa, I wrote a short novel called Scarab. A fellow South African writer read it, liked it, and recommended it to his publisher at Perscor. The book generated interest with the local branch of the company, but before it could go further, the branch closed down and some of its staff relocated to Cape Town to form a new company. The South African economy was shaky at the time, and businesses were folding one after another. This was during the early days of Nelson Mandela’s Apartheid-free South Africa and the country was excited, nervous and focused on more important things. I was advised to try to find another publisher, failing which, I should contact the Cape Town group and take it from there.

I never did.

I was eyeing Australia at the time, busy with my graphics and animation company, and somehow, I let things slide. I suppose the fear of rejection also played a role.

As time slipped by, I found myself teaching and studying in Australia, while a little device called the Kindle gathered in strength and popularity. The thought occurred to me that there was no harm in updating my novel (the pentium processors mentioned in my old revisions of Scarab were now passé), with the view to publishing it on Amazon.com as a Kindle ebook. And so I did.

I’d love to say that the rest is history, and offer some rags-to-riches story, but, sadly, that wouldn’t quite be the truth. What is true, however, is that since that day, I haven’t looked back. Scarab performed better than I had ever expected, hitting the #1 spot in the bestseller list in High-Tech Scifi, both at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. And some two years later, the novel is still holding a place on the same bestseller list, while its off-spring, Scarab II: Reawakening, has staked its own bestseller claim on amazon.co.uk.

The effect of this small gift of success was to grant me confidence that with enough hard work, output and dedication, I could eventually earn a living solely through my writing. What a rush for any writer!

The truth is that without Amazon’s global reach and innovative vision for the future of books, its research and development, its success in making reading “cool” again for the younger generation through the introduction of its Kindle tablets and software, Scarab would have remained a pile of pages on my shelf, placed in a box, gotten lost, and Scarab II would never have seen the light of day. My dream of being a writer might never have materialised—not for me, and perhaps, not for many other authors who have trodden a similar path to mine. This has been an opportunity for which, I, for one, am deeply grateful.

Invitation

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.