Fresh eyes

pubgrubPhil: Last week I mentioned that Candice and I were going to meet up and do some writing, rather than just talk about it. Before we got together, one of the challenges was to re-read our second book to remind us where we are and plot the journey yet to come.

The first shock was that the file name included “30 Dec 2015”. Was it really that long ago that we’d stopped work on it?

Yes it was. Last Christmas we decided to concentrate on launching our first novel and while we did this, other activity ceased.

Not to worry, over three nights I re-read the manuscript from start to finish.

You know what? It’s pretty good.

OK, some of the text is obviously a first draft. The start is particularly lumpy but shouldn’t be difficult to smooth out.

Elsewhere though, the words are already at the stage when I can’t tell who wrote them. That probably means we’ve both had a go at them and the result is much better.

The plot hangs together better than Kate vs The Dirtboffins did at this stage, a tribute to the much greater effort that went into planning before we started writing.

Overall, we were both really pleased with what we found. This thing has potential!

So did we write much? Sadly no. 3 hours, 2 small cakes, 3 delicious chicken strips and a pile of nachos that defeated our combined efforts, all we’d worked through was the marketing plan. Which is brilliant by the way, but will be saved for another blog post.

Those fresh eyes have helped bring back our writing mojo though. We’ve another session in a couple of weeks where words will be laid down!

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In search of our writing mojo

mojoPhil: This Friday, we are going mojo hunting. Candice sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago suggesting “You and I need to do more writing as I think the reason we have lost our mojo is that we have stepped away from the thing that got us excited in the first place”

With this in mind, our plan is to meet up for no more than an hours chat followed by some writing time in either the library or a quiet pub.

That’s writing time on Book 2 with headphones in and no distractions. Not even cake.

You might wonder quite why we can’t just do this as home. In fact why is it that so many writers need to get out of the house to produce their prose? JK Rowling famously gave birth to Harry Potter at cafe tables.

Home might be where we work sometimes, it is for me, but unless you have iron discipline then it’s also full of distractions. Maybe you don’t get gossip around the water cooler, but there is plenty to take you away from whatever it is you are supposed to be doing.

Working in close proximity give us another advantage – it feels like you are working as a team. Plugging away on a novel is soul-destroying some of the time but working together is much more pleasant.

Returning to Book 2 does require one action before Friday though – we’ve both got to go back and re-read it so we know the holes to fill. I wonder if it will be as good as we remember?



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Eat less Spam

SPAMPhil: I’m trying to discuss our new book cover with a designer. All is going well with the design really coming together. Only one thing is causing us problems.

Spam. Or to be precise, Spam filters.

After half a dozen covers had been swapped, suddenly the e-mails stopped.

At first I didn’t think anything of it. The designer isn’t just working on our cover and I assumed that another job had taken precedence. We were both busy and so the lack of progress didn’t get spotted.

Eventually I chased things up and discovered that I’d missed several e-mail’s.  I hadn’t ignored them they’d never arrived.

The new cover was sent over using the WeTransfer service and discussions started again. Until another version was sent and never arrived.

This is now causing a little friction. We’re accidentally the sort of client who is a pain to deal with as the technology is letting us down. Those pesky Spam filters gobble the files which then have to be sent another way. I wouldn’t mind so much except I still see over a hundred Spammy messages a day. Heaven knows what the filters are eating before letting this lot through.

So, today’s handy hint. When collaborating over the web, find a reliable way to swop files. Not e-mail. Candice and I use Dropbox, also a vital part of my proper work as I share files with several different clients using it. No need for filters!

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Change the schedule to take on the world

npworldAlbert Einstein: Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Phil: Which is why we are making a change to our blog posting schedule for a few weeks.

The truth is that we’ve been plugging away posting on this blog since January 2011. Posts have been good and regular, Candice on Tuesday and me on Thursday. That’s an awful lot of words.

Over this period we’ve completed a book and half written another. There has been a literary festival appearance and many sessions in the audience at other people’s events. We’re quite proud of all this.

But, it’s time to move to the next level. What we can’t report is massive sales.

So, the time previously poured into blogging is being shifted to marketing. La Nolan is in charge of developing A Plan. A big plan.

Of course we won’t be abandoning the blog completely. I’m daft and sentimental enough to keep plugging away. We’ll aim for a posting every Wednesday. That way this doesn’t become one of those dead blogs littering the Internet. More importantly, we’ll need a web presence once The Plan goes into action and it will look better if there aren’t holes in the posting history.

So dear blog reader. Don’t go away, we’ll still be here, just not quite as often. If you miss us, did I mention we’ve written a book?

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Brexit. How would Kate vote?

Ballot boxPhil: Today is the day. We can all toddle off to the polling station and do something democratic.

For what seems like several year, the two sides have been shouting at each other, and anyone else within earshot. Some of us have even tried to take an intelligent interest and concluded that it would be more fun to beat the leaders of both campaigns with a large, wet, fish.

This isn’t helpful though, so with my authorly head on, I wondered how each of the main characters in our book would vote.

Kate – A no-nonsense voter, I suspect Kate instinctively doesn’t like anyone telling her what to do. Sent to Brussels she’d have the EU sorted out in about 20 minutes and several bureaucrats would find their positions altered by the rapid application of a Jimmy Choo to the backside. However, politics doesn’t really interest her unless there is a way for KOD to help out closing down some branch of government. Vote: Probably leave.

Gareth – With Olivia his wife from farming stock, Gareth will have been informed as to his voting intentions fairly early on in the campaign. Like most people in the agricultural world, Olivia is conflicted. On one hand she doesn’t like all those rules and regulations, on the other, once the forms are filled in there is a healthy subsidy to consider. While the leaders of the Leave campaign might say they will continue to pay this, none of them look like the sort who could handle a heifer so they probably can’t be trusted. Besides, Olivia has a sneaking admiration for the good arse of the Belgian Blue which strike her as proper, solidly built livestock, so those Europeans can’t be all bad. Vote: Whatever he hits after shutting his eyes and jabbing the paper with the pencil.

Tracey – Well, Italians are rather nice, but look, there is a handbag sale on at House of Fraiser. Vote: Sorry, better things to do.

Kelvin – Having spent quite some time on the Internet reading up on the pros and cons for each side, Kelvin will have found the tenor of the debate rather more aggressive than he enjoys. Both sides will have enjoyed a meek promise to vote for them as they harangued passers-by from their stalls in the high street on the basis that they would them leave him alone with his steak bake. Vote: Remain for a quiet life.

Doubtless some of you are wondering who these people are. The solution? Vote Dirtboffin and buy our book!

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Rick Astley nails it

Phil: So there I am listening to Dermot O’Leary on Radio 2 last weekend and he’s interviewing Rick Astley about his return to prominence and No.1 album. Suddenly Astley says something profound:

“It’s never been easier to make music that gets ignored.”

By jove, I think he’s got it!

It’s true. Anyone can cut a track (I know all da modern lingo daddy-o) sitting in their bedroom fiddling with a computer. They can even knock together a video and release it to the world on YouTube.

And the world probably won’t even notice.

The same thing is happening in publishing. Whereas writing used to be the preserve of a select band of people, monks mainly, now any numpty can string together some words and stick them up on Amazon for the world to buy.

The trick is to MAKE the world beat a path to your door, or at least the webpage selling your book.

So the skill is no longer making the product, it’s selling it. Marketing people are the new kings. Nolan is going to be insufferable now I’ve worked that out…

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Agents are a good thing. Right?

Agent of ChangePhil: Conventional wisdom is that the path to seeing your book appear on the shelves at Waterstones runs:

  1. Have great book idea.
  2. Write book.
  3. Pitch book to agent.
  4. Agent sells book to publisher.
  5. Publisher prints lots of copies which sell like hot cakes.
  6. Writer buys yacht.

It seems this isn’t the case. Last week’s literary event saw us listen to some horror stories of books that agents loved but ultimately never made it to the shelves.

All of the ladies had snagged literary agents, some more than one, but in each case the response had been along the lines of “I love your book, but I can’t sell it to a publisher.”

The issue seemed to be that they weren’t writing genre fiction. Good as the books were, they didn’t fit within the narrow definitions of the silos publishers like to work in. They want YA fiction with vampires, they don’t want vampires and requited love. That’s chick-lit and a whole different audience. Apparently.

Of course, the Ladies of a Certain Age weren’t having any of this. As one explained, at their age there wasn’t time to leave their book sat in a pile for months on end. I guess that this is one deadline that focussed the mind! More to the point, all had led full lives and weren’t the sort to put up with being messed around. If a door needed kicking it, they were willing to do this to achieve publication.

I suspect this is why co-publishing appealed. Spending money didn’t seem too much of an object, the important thing was to move the project on and they were willing to do what it takes to get things going.

Perhaps this is just another example of how the world is changing. Publishers genre silos are all very well, but maybe they are restricting the books that people can find and enjoy. As we discussed on the trip back home, music has changed with anyone who fancies being in a band able to produce and distribute from their bedroom.

Books take longer to write, and there is much more of a desire for physical product, but as we keep hearing from other authors, the “proper” way is no longer the only way.


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