Sunday, 25 January 2015

Reviews & Why I won't rewrite any early works

Dear all, 

I will be releasing a new short story at the end of the month and it reminded me of a blog post I meant to write a long time ago. If you have been following my blog recently you will know that I am trying to write a novel this year, my first, but I also want to self publish a short story every month too as over the last few years I have produced many drafts but not got around to finishing them. As with all things in life, time seems to disappear and I have not kept up to the schedule I originally aimed for three years ago when I set up my company.

When I now look at the last short story I self published my eyebrows rise up to the top of my head as I see it was in early 2012…

I am not saying I am a good writer now, you must be sick of me saying in practically every post I make how I am an amateur learning the ropes, but in three years you would hope I have improved somewhat and as those first stories were a tiny bit rushed (I really wanted to not give myself any excuses by delaying setting up the company so I didn’t revise the works as much as I should have - although I am very happy that I got them online because it did indeed give me the impetus I needed to get going) I initially thought that one day I will re-visit them and rewrite them. I have changed my mind. I am not going to do that, I am perfectly happy to leave them as they are, error filled as they may be in many different ways – although I will update the ebooks as digital files to include the latest links, information and formats to make sure they look and work as part of the company’s range of ebooks, just not the content of the story itself – and I thought I would share with you why.

Allow me to interrupt myself first because there is an important factor in this decision that you should know my thoughts on before continuing. It concerns reviews.

Reviews

Because I have been honest from the start and never claimed to be the next new sensation or the greatest undiscovered writer of our generation I have never felt guilty about the conflict of selling amateur goods. That is not to say they are faulty goods! Let me attempt an explanation by way of an example:

There is a show in the UK called Strictly Come Dancing and it’s syndicated all over the world under various names so you may know it. It is the program where celebrities are teamed up with professional dancers and learn different dances every week and perform them live on television. It is a competition, so they are judged and the public has a vote on who they want to keep. The two couples with the least votes then have a ‘dance off’ where they perform their routine again and the judges then decide who they want to keep on the show and the other couple are kicked off with great emotion, tears and gushing platitudes. I make no bones about it… I’m addicted… but that is beside the point, my reality TV viewing habits aside what I wanted to draw a comparison to is how the judges mark the celebrities. On week one we all know they are going to be terrible. There are always a few exceptions, one or two couples usually stand out as having some natural talent and look pretty damn good for just a few weeks training and then… well, then there are those that look like they never learned how to put one foot in front of the other. What is interesting though is that as an audience we never expect them to be fantastic immediately, we are very tolerant of people messing up (and it makes great TV come on) and in a way value those who are struggling because we enjoy seeing progress and people work their way up. It’s an entertainment show after all so we want to see them grow (and fail) and develop (and fail) as we feel part of the journey with them.

You can probably see where I am going with this. In the early weeks of the show the judges mark with mercy. They are not judging as they would competitively in the real world. Hence at week one they judge differently to week ten. And that is the link I want to make. If a celebrity waltzed out there on the first show claiming to be the new prima ballerina then you can bet they would be judged harshly because they are attempting what they cannot possibly reach. In week one however, it is possible (although unlikely, granted) for someone to get a ten out of ten because they reached the target that was set for them, it won’t be the same target set for the following week, nor the week after and similar performances would see that ten drop fast. In order to keep the ten they need to work harder and perform better every week… more complicated and difficult routines, an arabesque there, a fouette here…  ahem, sorry, getting carried away. The point is, in week nine say, a score of ten is worth so much more than a week one score of ten.

Right, how well did I do there with my twisted parallel? What I am trying to say is that a five out of five star review for my first short story doesn’t not mean a ‘real’ five out of five review against a professional writer. People should understand that. It is marked against what they know I am… but also what I hope to be AND marked against what I am saying about myself. If I dare say I am prima ballerina and then fall flat on my face the second I step out on stage then too right I should be pounced upon... but I'm not.

I understand the argument that by simply allowing your work to be bought, that immediately places you in the ‘professional’ category, not because you are saying you are but because you are doing what a professional does, sell your work for money. I have sympathy for that way of thinking and it was a concern of mine for a long while. However, the market has changed, the independent ebook (and print as well now) category has to a degree established itself and there is now a clear distinction to be made between published and self published works should you chose to take the time out and investigate the publisher and author name. I accept that isn’t the norm for the average customer, fair enough. And in fact, as you probably know, some self publishing authors outstrip published authors in sales and earnings by a long way so they too should be judged by global professional standards. As a reader you have to know a little bit about the author in order to make a balanced review. 

If I write a story in ten years time and it is no better than that first story then it won’t deserve a five out of five. It will deserve a one and that is right and correct. So I am happy in my understanding that people who may review my work and perhaps give a five out five star rating are not saying that their five out five is the same as the five out of five they gave the latest Booker/Pulitzer/Nobel prize winner. They are also not saying that the three out of five star rating they gave the latest Stephen King or John Grisham means that they are rubbish books. They are rating it compared to a huge body of work that has already reached stratospheric heights and are being critical because they are indeed the prima ballerinas and are being judged by much harsher standards. There is simply no point in trying to use a five star rating system to encompass all the levels and styles of work out there. It is a broad, easy to the eye summative way of expressing a view. The real rating should be in the critical review you leave which if you are serious about a work (and have the cheek to give Stephen King or John Grisham three stars) should be the place you give a detailed description about why you felt the book deserved the rating you gave it. If you leave just a one liner then why should anyone take it seriously? If we really wanted to leave it just to a stars rating then we would need a scoring system out of one hundred or maybe one thousand. A review criteria checklist that is so nuanced it would never be workable.


When I look back at my early short stories I know I will be humble enough (I hope I already am) to accept those reviews were my first week reviews. I do not let those nice and generous people who took the time out to read my efforts and support someone at the early stages of their struggle convince me I am better than I am. I know where I currently am and a review system won’t suddenly change that. Nor will a bunch of one out of five starts stop me either. As long as I do not lie about my status on my website, my blog or social media platforms and remain honest with my readers and followers I feel justified in putting myself out there.

Now, getting back to the first point. What I won’t be doing in the years to come is re-writing my early stories to bring them up to the level I will hopefully be at. Here is why.

Why I won’t re-edit or re-write early works.

The way I feel at the moment is you have to keep pushing forward in life. It is all too easy to think of the past, or to dwell on the past and I have suffered from that enough. I have too much to work on to spend time on things from the past. I know they could be improved, there is no doubt of that, but they represent where I was at that point in my life, my skill and ability at that moment and I do not want to change that retrospectively. It maybe unfair to people who at some point in the future may see these works and be disappointed but to me it feels like cheating. If I keep working and cross-fingers keep improving then every story I produce from now on will represent a different person, me at a different stage in my life. I hope to be writing for a long time because I know that the only way to improve is over a long time. If I spend my time now on rewriting and rewriting and rewriting I will never get through the huge number of drafts I have and produce new works. That is the way I need to improve, by writing new material and I don't feel like I have the energy, willpower and desire to rewrite old stuff. A lot of people have suggested this to me because they want anyone who comes across my work to think of all it positively but that's just not realistic to me. I have a long way to go and I like the idea that over the years you can see my improvement just as much as I feel it when writing. So, that's my brief explanation of why I am happy to leave my early works alone. Over the course of this year I hope to get many more short stories out and I am sure there will be issues with every single one of them but I am not going to stand still and spend time going over them again in a couple of years time. Next year there will be more stories and the year after that, more stories again... what is done I am not going to change. My improvement will come by writing the next story.

And for no reason other than I have no images to accompany this post and it seemed a waste not to share this footage I took while travelling through Woolwich on the bus...

video


Don’t forget I am working on a second blog as well now charting the progress of my novel by means of sharing with you the research and notes I take as I travel around parts of London. You can follow it here:


Take care and have a great week,


Regards,

RGR

Please join me on all my social media pages:

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/thinkingplainly 
Google+:         https://plus.google.com/+RGRankine 
LinkedIn:         https://www.linkedin.com/in/rgrankine 
Instagram:       http://instagram.com/rgrankine 
Flickr:              https://www.flickr.com/people/thinkingplainly/ 
YouTube 1:     https://www.youtube.com/thinkingplainly   (Personal Channel)
YouTube 2:     https://www.youtube.com/thinkingplainlyltd  (Company Channel)
Pinterest:         http://www.pinterest.com/thinkingplainly/ 
Blog 2:            http://rgrankine2.blogspot.co.uk

And Author Profile Pages to keep informed of the latest releases:

Amazon UK:  http://amzn.to/IqRZK  (Click 'Add to Favourites’ under profile photo)
Amazon US:   http://amzn.to/1CIEjaf (Click 'Add to Favourites’ under profile photo)
Nook:              http://amzn.to/1CIEjaf 
Google:            http://bit.ly/1yyMhQx 
Scribd:             http://bit.ly/1xVQlLh 
Apple:             Author page not available yet - search R.G Rankine
Kobo:              Author page not available yet - search R.G Rankine

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Thinking Plainly Limited's 3rd Year Anniversary

Dear all,

It’s Thinking Plainly Limited’s third year anniversary! This time last year I was having a meal (on my own…wipe your tears, please) in a beautiful restaurant in the town of Alcudia, Majorca. It was only my second week away (for those who don’t know I spent 2014 living in Spain) so I was partly worried about spending money on a meal out so soon and partly worried about what the hell I was doing moving away at all! A glass or two of red wine calmed me down and as I’ve said many times since coming home it turned out to be a fantastic year and I loved my time there. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that although it is a day to celebrate (we all love anniversary’s don’t we and as much as I am finding it hard to believe a year has passed so quickly, it is nice that I started the company in January because it feels like a good way to kick off the year) I have to be honest and say that because I spent last year away there isn’t a huge amount I can say by way of published achievements for 2014. It was a productive year in terms of getting ideas together though; it was very much a year of thinking (stop it… plainly… couldn’t help yourself could you) and getting my head back into a decent way of working again, and as much as I made a lot of progress with ideas, drafts and notes; the real work starts this year. So instead of talking about last year I am going to take this opportunity to talk about the year ahead.


First of all I am very pleased to announce that Alfred Duff has finished the second book set in his fantasy world of, ‘The Warspite Series’ and we have published it on Amazon this week. ‘The Witch and the Dark Arts’ is available now and is free to download today. A further blog post about the book in more detail will be coming soon. Secondly, Alfred has been busy working on the third book in the series and it won’t be long before you can find out the latest in the world of the ‘Old Globe’. Announcements soon!


Amazon UK: amzn.to/1u0GLDg &
Amazon US: amzn.to/1wRj2GK

I am also pleased to say that Rufus Garlic has been working hard on preparing a whole series of flash fiction that is in the last stages of development and we will be releasing several stories a week on the website Wattpad, soon. Details to be posted on our social media sites. He has also been working on continuing his successful series of short stories on Amazon and new titles will be announced shortly.

So it seems that although I was being a lazy beach bum, my two colleagues kept up a hard working pace!

I have already told you about what I am up to now I am back in previous posts so I won’t go on again here. Suffice to say I will be keeping you up to date on my second blog about the progress of my novel and I will be posting on my social media sites when my new short stories are ready (still aiming for one a month…)

What I will take a minute to share with you is what this three year anniversary means to me in terms of my personal vision. Simply a brief reflection on the time since I started the company and took more seriously the idea of trying to develop my writing skills.

I am happy with how things have gone that is for sure. I am more than happy, I am very proud and very excited for the future as well. I never thought this would be a quick project. I had no delusions of overnight success or indeed success at all! I knew I would work hard and stick at it and that was enough for me, success was something I didn’t care to think about. I still don’t. There are many reasons why people write and as I have learnt more and more about the business of self publishing over these last few years I have understood my reasons for wanting to write in a clearer and more defined way. Before, it was a hazy theoretical guess. I knew I wanted to write, but recently – and my year away was a big part of this – I have come to terms with the reasons being... well, hazy and theoretical! That’s because my reasons haven’t changed and to be frank they are hazy. What I want for the future is not easily explained but I can tell you what those reasons aren't, and never were - It is not about money, fame, recognition, reputation, media attention or those such things. It is a very simple premise but harder to define: I want to produce a piece of work that I can be really proud of. Such a straightforward idea but when you examine that, and I have I assure you, it is a complex statement. I don’t want to dissect it here and now, today is a day for celebrating and I am looking forward to a pint of beer in my local pub with Alfred and Rufus. What I will say is that to produce a piece of work can take a very long time indeed… after many trials and errors, many false starts, many wrong turns and many poor pieces of work... and that is why I am more than happy to admit, and in fact, I want it to be known, three years is nothing. It is the merest blink of an eye when staring off into the distance of a long, long race. It is only the drawing of breath as you warm up… we haven’t even started yet. There is so much to do and I have so much to learn and so much to develop.

For now I will raise a glass. I may not be where I want to be for another three, thirteen or even thirty years but I’ll keep on going and I hope those of you who stick around with me, with Alfred and Rufus, with Thinking Plainly Limited will enjoy the journey with us.

Enjoy your Sunday everyone J

Take care,

RGR

Please join me on all my social media pages:

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/thinkingplainly 
Google+:         https://plus.google.com/+RGRankine 
LinkedIn:         https://www.linkedin.com/in/rgrankine 
Instagram:       http://instagram.com/rgrankine 
Flickr:              https://www.flickr.com/people/thinkingplainly/ 
YouTube 1:     https://www.youtube.com/thinkingplainly   (Personal Channel)
YouTube 2:     https://www.youtube.com/thinkingplainlyltd  (Company Channel)
Pinterest:         http://www.pinterest.com/thinkingplainly/ 
Blog 2:             https://rgrankine2.blogspot.com

And Author Profile Pages to keep informed of the latest releases:

Amazon UK:  http://amzn.to/IqRZK  (Click 'Add to Favourites’ under profile photo)
Amazon US:   http://amzn.to/1CIEjaf (Click 'Add to Favourites’ under profile photo)
Nook:              http://amzn.to/1CIEjaf 
Google:            http://bit.ly/1yyMhQx 
Scribd:             http://bit.ly/1xVQlLh 
Apple:             Author page not available yet - search R.G Rankine
Kobo:              Author page not available yet - search R.G Rankine

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Saturday, 10 January 2015

2015 New Projects, Social Media & The diary of my novel

Dear all,

I thought a lot last year about how to maximize my time once I returned to London and focused on my writing again and this week was a good test run for the ideas I had. It hasn’t been entirely successful but of course as we all know ‘failure’ is a hurdle you have to jump in order to learn and progress (blurgh) and this blog post is about sharing my first working week’s highs and lows with you. Let me start by saying what I have started.

My Novel

Selfishly, this is of course my most important news. I worked out the bare bones of the story while in Spain and also the outline of the main characters but as of December I had not started to write. The single most important task I set myself over Christmas (which was a fantastic time catching up with all my friends and family, I hadn’t seen a lot of people for nearly a year) was to start writing the story Monday 5th January and then continue to write every day. As I mentioned in a previous post I am working for the first time on Scrivener and if you haven’t used this software before one of the basic features is that it allows you to create folders and sub folders for chapters and work on them individually so for me – as someone who has already worked out the approximate separation of chapters in the story line and scenes within each chapter – I had the first chapter ready to go, I just needed to sit down and write, which I'm happy to say I did and I have completed the first scene of Chapter 1. What I wanted to do as well however was share my journey of writing this novel and I had three main reasons for doing so:
  1. To create a sense of panic within me! Just like making a commitment to a friend to go to the gym with them, or go running with them, etc. once you have agreed to it there is no backing out and you simply have to turn up no matter how much you don’t feel like it. I felt that way about my writing, if I tell people I am doing it and I show them what I am producing then there is no backing out and I cannot fail to produce more content.
  2. To structure my week. I have a schedule in mind for how I need to break down my days to ensure I have research time, writing time (both my novel and separately, my short stories), social media time, reading time and so on. If I intend on sharing my writing life with people then I need to be regimented in doing so. It is unprofessional and unfair to be random in my posts. If I want people to look at my work then I can’t expect them to put up with irregular posts and delays. So by saying I was going to share my work it helped me focus on making sure I stick to a weekly plan which in a very brief outline will be this (Now of course I am doing other things as well but I am just sticking to my novel here!):
a.     Monday: Research day (my novel is set in London and to help me I will photograph and make notes of the different locations I want to write about, therefore every Monday I will travel to a new location.)
b.     Tues-Fri: share some photos on Instagram and Twitter of my research.



A photo posted by R.G Rankine (@rgrankine) on

c.     Saturday: Post my normal general literature related blog (this one!)
d.     Sunday: Post my new blog on the site Biosgraphy about the week’s work on the novel.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: 

Have fun!

I want to enjoy the process of writing (as tortuous as it can be) and over the last couple of years as I have learnt more about social media and joined more platforms I have grown to enjoy sharing media. At first I was very nervous about it, very shy and unsure but I am slowly getting used to it and more confident. I now enjoy sharing the images I take and seeing as I will be undertaking these little trips around London I feel it is a nice thing to do to share them in order to give you an insight into my writing inspiration. I will add all of my social media links to the end of each blog post so if you are on sites like Instagram, Flickr and so on please feel free to click on the those links and follow me where you can. It’s been fun trying things out and I admit I don't expect all of them to work but to give you an example I have recently experimented taking Google Photospheres.


These allow someone to take a 360 image and upload it to Google Maps (similar to Google Street View you may have used) and although I am only using my fairly battered iPhone rather than the special 360 cameras or camera attachments you can buy, they still come out okay, unfortunately not perfect, there are odd jumps in the stitching together but it gives you an acceptable image. The reason this is exciting for me is that as well as giving me a real life image I can go back to for my research it is also a new and interesting way for people to examine parts of the world they may never have seen before.

Let me explain to you what I intend on doing on the new site I mentioned above, Biosgraphy.

Biosgraphy: The story of my novel


I was searching for a site that I could blog on because although I considered creating another Blogger site (I find blogger very good) I thought it would be fun to try something new and give me new impetus to work in a different way. I found a few sites but chose this one as it seems very simple to use, allows for multimedia uploads and looks very nice. The idea is that I take all of my notes from my Monday research jolly and share them with you to allow you to get a feel of the places I am writing about, which may or may not be the more familiar London sites people are used to. I will curate these posts to a certain extent but I also wanted to do an additional job with this site...

I wanted to learn myself :) 

Part of the reason I am wandering around every Monday is to educate myself on London. I have lived here my whole life but as you may expect there are parts I have never visited. There are also parts that I regularly go to but only ever see a fraction of. London is a famous city but it is the same no matter where you live, there are parts you never see and certainly histories you never uncover. I wanted to discover more of my home city and explore the literary connections that are all around me. With a city like London you can never learn everything, there is simply too much to work through however that doesn’t mean you can’t try to dig a little bit. There are too many books on different aspects of literary London to attempt to begin to write an overview but the main things I wanted to focus on were the writers, literary histories and literary locations that are within the towns that make up London. One example of something I could look up as I went to a new town were the English Heritage Blue Plaques:


Now, there is no point in just researching every single plaque within London because it is too arbitrary, there is no connection to what I am doing. Yes, it would be interesting but you have to limit yourself somehow otherwise you could take up every single minute of your day researching and never get around to writing. So, instead, when I go to a town that may appear in my book I will find out what plaques are there and look at those specifically. I tried to use a new blog site to chart my progress with this but it became too much work to spend time on a separate project so I decided to include this on my weekly Biosgraphy write up. The site I wanted to use is Niume: https://niume.com and it is a very good site that I recommend, it is just for purely workload reasons I decided against it. It has some interesting articles and blogs there so do check it out if you can. I was also tempted to use another new blog site called Rekordr: http://www.rekordr.com which again is a fantastic site but just not practical for me to spend time on it…yet!


A photo posted by R.G Rankine (@rgrankine) on

So I am hoping that although the title of my blog is The Story of My Novel it will be of interest to people who want to see another side of London, possibly learn a new literary gem or two, and understand me more as a writer and as a person by seeing the background that informs my choices with plot and story and why those choices may or may not influence my characters and themes.

Here is the link for the site I am using, Biosgraphy, take a look for yourself:


Here is the link to my individual page where I will be posting every Sunday. My first post will be tomorrow, Sunday 11th January 2015 so please do bookmark it or come back tomorrow and check it out, I hope it will make more sense when you see it and I hope you find it interesting:


What else am I working on?

Okay, so I am now posting on Instagram and Flickr weekly, blogging weekly on my general writing blog, blogging weekly about the London research for my book, tweeting and continuing to grow my literary related image boards on Pinterest – what else am I up to?
  • As well as writing my first novel I am still working on short stories. While I was in Spain I drafted several to a fairly decent stage and I still have several more to move on from idea stage. I will always continue with short stories because I really love them and I feel it is a great method to develop my writing. So, I am hoping that this year I can self publish a short story more or less once a month while I am working on the novel. I will update you regularly about how those are going and it is my intention to get the first of the year out the end of January.
  • I am looking to kick start my YouTube channel back into action. I am really interested in interviewing a range of people who have something to say about the world of independent creativity. I have writers to meet of course but also artists of all genres and forms including people who work in more technical, business and sales related fields that can offer advice and information on what independent people need to do to make themselves heard. I also have another couple of literary related ideas for some video series but they are still in research stage so I am too nervous about telling you about them now in case they never get off the ground. I love the premise of them, it is more about whether they are practical to do. I'll keep you posted...
  • I am happy that my Facebook pages are live again as I didn’t use them while away so I’m looking forward to sharing general news and affairs with you.
  • One last thing I am unsure about is whether or not to release my novel chapter by chapter on Wattpad. I like the idea of it but I am unsure whether it will be up to scratch as I will not be in a position to fully edit each installment. If you don’t know Wattpad then do look it up, especially if you are an active reader. You can find great stories there: http://www.wattpad.com For writers it allows you to upload work and (hopefully) build up an audience. However, the reason I am nervous about doing this is I want to keep to a tight writing schedule as I really, really, really want to get this novel finished this year, and I am unsure as to whether this will help me or hinder me. I will think about this over the next couple of weeks and let you know my decision.
  • Work with Rufus Garlic and Alfred Duff! I’ve missed my two writing colleagues and they have been very busy on their projects while I was away so we have a lot to catch up on. Alfred has new books in the Warspite series on the boil and Rufus has several short stories ready as well as a flash-fiction project ready to go too. This means I have a lot of work to do with my amateur ‘publishers’ head on, which I am very excited to be able to share with you soon.
I will be blogging every Saturday from now on. I have been patchy in the past but 2015 is going to see a change in my approach. I hope you enjoy what I have to show you over the coming months.

Take care,

RGR

Please join me on all my social media pages:

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/thinkingplainly 
Google+:         https://plus.google.com/+RGRankine 
LinkedIn:         https://www.linkedin.com/in/rgrankine 
Instagram:       http://instagram.com/rgrankine 
Flickr:              https://www.flickr.com/people/thinkingplainly/ 
YouTube 1:     https://www.youtube.com/thinkingplainly   (Personal Channel)
YouTube 2:     https://www.youtube.com/thinkingplainlyltd  (Company Channel)
Pinterest:         http://www.pinterest.com/thinkingplainly/ 

And Author Profile Pages to keep informed of the latest releases:

Amazon UK:  http://amzn.to/IqRZK  (Click 'Add to Favourites’ under profile photo)
Amazon US:   http://amzn.to/1CIEjaf (Click 'Add to Favourites’ under profile photo)
Nook:              http://amzn.to/1CIEjaf 
Google:            http://bit.ly/1yyMhQx 
Scribd:             http://bit.ly/1xVQlLh 
Apple:             Author page not available yet - search R.G Rankine
Kobo:              Author page not available yet - search R.G Rankine


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