No, before you ask I am not talking about the film ‘The Notebook,’ a film that every female on the planet has seen at least seventy times over, and cannot help but beg those who haven’t seen it, to go watch it. I prefer horror movies with little to no jump scares, especially psychological horrors that mess with your mind and get into your own psyche. I may one day go into extensive details in a future post, explaining as to why I enjoy viewing horror films more than any other genre currently out there, but for now I think I’ll stick to what I initially had planned for in this article, which is about a certain tool I don’t think any writer can go without. You don’t need an expensive laptop or a top of the range PC or Mac, you do not need a device of any kind. Whether you’re just starting out, if you’re someone who is experienced or even a professional author, I believe this tool is a must. Usually, my posts are quite long, this one I assure you will be the shortest but just as important and hopefully as insightful as my previous two. Apologies for not updating this blog sooner, I’ve not only been working over the weeks in my day job earning money to pay rent and bills, but I’ve also been taking extra shifts else where during nights for a little extra money. In between time I’ve been editing the first Volume of ‘The Utopian Dream’ all by myself, no small task but it needs doing. My overseas editor has been unable to deliver me the edited version of my manuscript due to unforeseeable occurrences. I made it very clear to everyone months ago through a teaser trailer of mine, which can be viewed on YouTube (simply search The Ancestral Odyssey: The Utopian Dream Promotional Trailer, if you would like to view it) that a book would be made available in April, so I’ve decided to go on with the release unedited. Volume Two however, will have been edited professionally, so you have all this to look forward to. Now that little intro is out the way, let’s begin with the article, ‘The Notebook.’
-Buy a pocket-sized notebook.
-Carry it with you everywhere you go.
-Write in it from cover to cover.
-Review it whenever you pause.
-Repeat the process until conclusion.
There you have it, that list is all you really need to know, follow it and your chances of success will increase, I promise you. I could finish the article right now, but I’ve been a bit lazy today so I feel like I need to make up for it by writing something significant, so I’ll go ahead and explain to you why this notebook, the best tool in your inventory besides your brain, is so important to the quality of your work.
The first most obvious thing to point out, is a flaw that exists within every Human being, whether they be as clever as Stephen Hawking, as funny as Bill Bailey or as charismatic as a sink full of cold water, we all forget things. Even those who claim to have a brain superior than that of an elephants, even they still forget things from time to time. So, should you come up with something, an idea that you think deserves to be expanded upon later, when you sit yourself down at your computer, get it down in your notebook as fast as Humanly possible. I am not kidding! One of the most frustrating things for me in my experience during the writing process, is forgetting an idea or forgetting the foundations of an idea I was sure could make me millions of pounds the moment I revealed it to the world. If you are lucky, the idea will return to you pretty quickly after that mad dash to find a pen and paper, if you aren’t so lucky it will reform into something else, this can be beneficial on occasion, perhaps this leap frogs it into another idea just as potent or superior. If you’re out of luck, it’s gone forever and that gem is lost for good. So write anything and everything into those little pages, also include the ones you don’t think will last, why? Because there is a chance they will evolve into something beautifully complex. Without spoiling anything, one of the poorest ideas I’ve ever had, involving something remarkably silly, I am not going to reveal to you the idea in this post, simply because of the risk of turning you off to reading my book entirely, (it takes at least five beers for me to spill the beans) but this ridiculous idea I never thought would ever take off and grow, actually turned into one of my most powerful story-arks in the whole project. It is one I am currently still developing, it is one of the central themes running throughout each book and stems some of the biggest action sequences that will make your jaw drop down to your ankles. So save all those ideas, hang onto them, nurture them for as long as possible until you are absolutely sure they cannot benefit your story.
Remember to review them. As some of you are aware, I traveled Europe for six months in 2015, during this time of wandering forest’s, climbing mountains, sleeping rough, burning to death under the sun and hitch hiking with strangers who could have potentially been serial killers, I always carried a notebook around with me. During times of steady pace, coffee breaks or moments where I wasn’t on my feet, I found myself reading over scribbled notes I had made months prior and during this experience. By the end of the Europe journey, I had filled over four notebooks, travelling will do that, it will change you and your perspective on things, so if you do not believe me with the whole notebook lesson, if you are laughing at everything I am saying to you, believe me when I tell you, you should go travelling, take off at least once in your life for a significant amount of time and do things you never normally would do. Once you have filled say two or three said notebooks, I recommend that when you have a moment, flick through them once in a while, re-educate yourself on what your thoughts have revealed to you, examine some of the diagrams you have drawn, study each line you wrote, you don’t always need to be writing within them, have a think from time to time, preferably with tea or coffee. I see this as exercising the mind, when it comes to writing your actual book, your mind will be sharper, you will find it easier to refer to your themes, the action sequences or those dramatic moments which give your story a kick. You will easily be able to pick out what you were thinking during that time of making a note of it, and if you STILL can’t fathom it off the top of your head while putting it into the context of your story, simply flick through your notebook again, it is really that simple and hugely effective. Typically, what I find during these times of revising, that I have had enough time to think through certain ideas and some of which have evolved, others I feel like they need more time to stew. Never scrap an idea, I repeat, do not tear ideas up and forget them after reviewing them once, this is a bad move. Some ideas you have are going take time to grow, think of each one as an individual seed in the ground, they are all different.
What you will find on few occasions, is that some of your strongest ideas require a little back story. Some cannot just be thought up, written down and boom you have your results, some really do need a steady build up and reason behind them to give them the effect it needs to be as impactful as it can be. Execution of such ideas is determined by your level of skill as a writer. Use your best ideas well, do not rush to get them out in the first chapter, allow them time, allow them thought and spread them out carefully at specific points before you offer your audience your big reveals. Creating a steady guideline as to how events unfold, is always a good idea. Utilise your guidelines in your notebooks and change them if needs be whenever you feel it necessary. The more time and preparation you give yourself, the more times you scratch out poor ideas and executions and return yourself to the drawing board, this may seem counter productive, but trust me, it’s a good thing. Do not be deterred by the amount of times you fail, or feel like you are getting nowhere, the whole point of your notebook is to make sure these errors do not spill over into your final piece, but please be aware that no matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, even after your work has gone through the arduous writing process and come out the other side into print, you will always pick out the odd spelling error or perhaps a small inconsistency. Even for top shot authors who have a team of elite editors and proof readers behind them, never produce the perfect piece of work. A great artist is never happy with their work. With that being said, do not think that you can get away with mistake, after mistake, after mistake because mistakes interrupt the flow and enjoyment of your story. A great story and a selection of wonderful characters can only get you so far before your reader gets sick of errors and puts your book down for the final time. If you love the project you are working on, and are invested in the quality of the story, you will be vigilant in making sure it is as water tight as it can be and as error free as possible before sending the work away to be edited, at least that is what I did and STILL I end up spotting errors, and every time I pick one out I slap myself in the face for it. Readers are not ogres though, readers tend to overlook the odd spelling mistake, the misuse of words or inconsistency in a scene, I know because I am one of them and I do not damn the author because of this, if anything it offers people like me comfort and so it should you as well, comfort to know that even the best of the best get it wrong from time to time, and there is no shame in it, however just be aware that some mistakes ARE unforgivable, and it is these that should be honed in on and taken to town. If you would like a few examples of what I mean, I’ll be happy to list some off. These are errors I find (in my personal opinion) to be red flags and should never make it into the final draft of your book.
-Jayne, in chapter one has a scar down the right side of her face. Chapter four, there is no sign of a scar, but in chapter six it’s now running down the left side.
-Country A, appears in the cold North when later, it is revealed that it’s in the warm South.
-A frozen planet described to be made up entirely of ice, has an active volcano on it.
-Someone who has an allergic reaction to cake has a birthday party, and eats too much cake.
-A cat that cannot use it’s back legs, suddenly leaps up onto a wall.
Such critical errors to my mind are obvious, and if I were to read such examples listed above in a published book, I would beg the question, how serious and dedicated the writer (or publishing house) is about the work? I like to read books that the writer has a passion for, that he or she cares about the story being told, this comes across through the levels of detail and quality of writing. Someone who writes for the money or for the off-chance to score their fifteen minutes of fame, I am less inclined to know about let alone read what they have to say.
I currently live in Oxford, I walk too and from work every day, it takes at least forty minutes in and out. I have no problem with this because my legs are looking mighty healthy and the City of Oxford is truly a magnificent place to live in especially during winter, where it snows often and grows dark early. At times on my way home I wander into coffee shops the quieter the better, just to enjoy a drink and have a peaceful sit down. Well, I noticed something the other day, you have probably noticed it too, but the majority of people are hooked into their laptops, tablets and smartphones. I am not saying there is anything wrong with being out in public with such devices, this equipment is brilliant and I would love to be able to afford such products, but no one seems to be paying attention to the world around them. I love technology, right now I am writing this post on a PC I built myself a year ago, after publishing this I am going to check my HTC ONE A9 and wonder who messaged me ten minutes ago. I have no problem with technological advancements, but I couldn’t help but feel a little sad, how everyone is looking down or into a screen, groups of people sitting together were not talking amongst one another, they were staring into their phones or laptops, tapping away with blank faces to people not in their company, and there was I, writing into a £2.99 notebook I bought from Whsmiths with a black pen that doesn’t seem to be running out and I’ve had it for months, looking up from time to time to try and make eye contact with at least one person, but no one saw me. If this is all I have to complain about I am extremely lucky, to live in such a place, being served coffee with the ability to express myself through technology, I just wish other people would look up from time to time.
Thank you for reading. My next article will be about ‘The Ancestral Odyssey: The Utopian Dream. Volume One. The new fantasy epic you can now purchase or read for free if you are a Kindle Subscriber.