Handwriting vs Typing

I came across this video this other day, of author Jon Skovron explaining how he hand writes his entire epic fantasy novels.

This made me so weirdly nostalgic, because I used to write exactly like that!  Here are some of the notebooks I filled cover-to-cover writing just one book:

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That Snow White notebook is way too adorable for the gory scenes I wrote in it.

And here is some idea of how ridiculously thick the book is altogether (excluding the notebooks I didn’t fill all the way/couldn’t find for the photograph):

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I don’t hand write nearly as much anymore, because when I was about seventeen someone told me real authors just type their novels straight up.  Typing is faster and cleaner, and MS Word keeps a word count for you instead of you having to count it out yourself and scribble numbers in the margins.  And with netbooks and iPads becoming popular, typing got more portable too, so when I started my next book I got out my laptop and typed it up from draft one.

This makes me kind of sad now.  People still buy me tonnes of notebooks for my birthday, and instead of filling them on a bi-monthly basis, I hoard them at the bottom of my bookshelf.  They all look so forlorn sitting there, waiting for their turn to be loved.  Soon, my pretties, soon.

Maybe someday, I’ll go back to handwriting all my novels.  For now, though, my notebooks will continue to work as quick places for me to scribble ideas/doodles/short scenes I don’t want to forget rather than full-length manuscripts.

Do you hand write your novels/articles/shopping lists before typing them up, or go straight to typing?  Which do you prefer?  Comment and let me know, because I am lonely and need people to talk to. :p

Blood of the Delphi Book Launch!

I went to the Blood of the Delphi book launch at Waterstones in Winchester yesterday!

I’ve been to book launches before when I worked for P&G Wells bookshop, and they’re always super fun and exciting, but this one was extra special.  Why?  Because the author, M.E. Vaughan (Madeleine) is a great friend of mine – and because I actually edited both of her books.

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Apologies for my potato-quality phone camera, but these are the brand-new paperback editions of both Harmatia Cycle books: Sons of Thestian (the first book, which has been re-published and looks so pretty) and Blood of the Delphi, the sequel.  Blood of the Delphi isn’t officially on sale for another couple of days, so it was super cool to get our copies early at the launch!

After enjoying drinks and nibbles, we sat down to an exclusive reading from Blood of the Delphi by Madeleine herself.  It was a heck of a dramatic scene, and I saw some anxious faces in the crowd.  (Of course I was perfectly sympathetic, and didn’t cackle because I’ve read the book and know what happens.  Noooo.)

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Following the reading was an author Q&A, where Madeleine talked about everything from the self-publishing process to crying over killing her characters (I know the feeling, sob).  Madeleine’s humour was brilliant and infectious, and the whole crowd laughed as she described the time she was acting out a fight scene she wanted to write, and caught sight of herself in the mirror – arms stretched goofily over her head to mimic a dragon – and thought how grateful she was no one could see her.  Of course, her dad walked in two seconds later.

The chairs were cleared away quickly after the Q&A, to make space for everyone to grab their own copies of the books for Madeleine to sign.  I already have the first edition of Sons of Thestian from years back, but of course I had to get the new version.  I edited it, after all!

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Again, apologies for my terrible camera – I’ve played with the contrast to make it clearer, but clearly my phone doesn’t like electric lighting!

The book launch was over an hour long, but it went by in a blink.  Spending time with other writerly people is the best feeling, and getting to see Madeleine’s hard work in print was so rewarding.  I left the launch with two beautiful books – both signed of course!

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Unfortunately, I can only show you Madeleine’s signature in The Sons of Thestian, since she wrote spoilers for my own steampunk novel in Blood of the Delphi (she told me off for killing characters she liked … woops!)  Never mind, Madeleine.  I’m sure you have plans to get your own back in Harmatia Cycle book three.

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Aww.  See this?  This is me dashing away a happy tear.  You’re welcome, Madeleine.  I can’t wait to see the final installment.

Focus and Forest Spirits

I just read an article that says if you want to run a successful blog you need to stay focused. As in, all your posts should be about travelling or geeky stuff or (in my case) writing, since then your posts pop up quicker on a search engine.

A shame, really, that I have the attention span of a golden retriever in a room full of squeaky toys. I just want to play with everything.

So here’s a picture I took last summer and never got around to sharing.

It’s a forest spirit from Princess Mononoke! Geeky graffiti is the best kind of graffiti.

I haven’t been up that hill since the summer, so I don’t know if he’s still there. I like to think he is, watching all the dog walkers with a confused, slightly shocked expression.

Where did Fifty Shades of Grey come from?

When I first heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, I was baffled.  A women’s erotica novel making it to bestseller was not unbelievable – but it seemed to have popped up from nowhere.  How did E.L. James to go from total obscurity to one of the biggest names in writing overnight?

Whether you like Fifty Shades of Grey or not, its journey to publishing is fascinating – and with the Fifty Shades Darker movie in cinemas this month, I thought it’d be fun to delve into the history of these books.  Prepare for a tale of the most shocking kind of drama: Internet Drama.

To set the scene: it’s the early 2000s.  The last Twilight book has been released, and fans on the Internet are busy writing their own, not-for-profit stories about Edward and Bella – fanfic.

Oh yes, did I mention?  Fifty Shades of Grey originated as Twilight fanfic.

The shock!  The horror!  The … okay, you probably knew that already.

After the last Twilight book, it became in-vogue for fans to write alternate-universe fanfic in which vampires didn’t exist: Edward and Bella were just ordinary humans who fell in love, and had a lot of graphic sex (well, fanfic is rather famous for its erotica).  Writers borrowed ideas from each other, shared stories, and worked together.  If one person wrote a fanfic about Edward having tattoos, then four more tattoo-fanfics would crop up, and that was fine.  It wasn’t copying; it was flattering.  The community was collaborative in a way that’s only really possible when money isn’t involved.

Out of this community appeared a new fanfic: Master of the Universe by Snowqueen’s Icedragon.  AKA, the original Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.

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Master of the Universe wasn’t an entirely new concept: sexy stories featuring BDSM already existed in the world of Twilight fanfic.  I don’t mean that to be disparaging – as I said, this community often bounced ideas off one another.  It was normal.  But Master of the Universe quickly became the most popular, for the simple reason that E.L. James was a flipping master of marketing.

The website Master of the Universe was displayed on had two key front pages: one that showed the most recently updated fanfic (as fanfic is usually posted online chapter-by-chapter over a series of days or weeks), and one that showed the fanfic that was getting the most comments.

E.L. James wrote short chapters, and posted them frequently.  This meant she was always at the top of the Recently Updated page, which earned her some interest.  Then, since readers could comment on each chapter separately, she also received a multitude of comments and got to the top of the Most Comments page.  This meant Master of the Universe was always visible, and kept attracting more attention and getting more popular.  Ingenious, really!

But now is when the drama kicks in.

Hmm.  I feel that didn’t have enough dramatic tension.

But now is when the ~*~*~*~DRAMA!!!!!!!~*~*~*~ kicks in.

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There we go.

E.L. James admitted to another person in the Twilight fanfic community that she didn’t enjoy being part of it anymore.  They held a charity drive, and although E.L. James took part, she later complained that she hadn’t wanted to.  However, she made more money that any other writer in the charity drive.  And if she could make money doing that …

Bella and Edward became Ana and Christian.  The other characters’ were changed (often to rather similar names: Carlisle became Carrick, for instance), and the chapters were split neatly from one whopping story to an easily-digestible trilogy.  The plot was mostly untouched.  When E.L. James published Master of the Universe under its new title, Fifty Shades of Grey, she already had an army of readers behind her ready to buy it – fanfic readers desperate to support one of their own.

When thousands of people on Amazon.com buy a new book at once, it hops to the top of the bestseller lists for the day.  Which attracts interest from other people, so they buy it.  Which gets it to the top that week.  Which attracts more interest.  And so it snowballs, Fifty Shades of Grey swiftly gaining a reputation for its human interest aspect (it was self published, three cheers for independence and the wonders of the Internet!) and for … well … all the spanking.

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You’d think Twilight fanficcers were E.L. James’s biggest fans to this day, but alas no.  Many of them now say that James betrayed them, taking the collaborative efforts of the community and using it all for her own gain – and topping it off by blocking many of them on social media, in an effort to distance herself from her roots.  In fact, it’s from these ex-fans that I got much of my information for this post.  You will not believe how tough it was to be unbiased when, righteous or not, my sources were overflowing with salt.  Like a good essayist, I’ll pop links to them in the bottom if anyone wants to check them out.

So now you know.  Yes, E.L. James was a fanficcer.  But more than that, she was a clever fanficcer.  She knew how to entice people to read long before she hoped to make money off her work – and then knew how to use her readers to propel her work to the top when she was making money.

What do you think?  Is E.L. James a genius, or a skeevy backstabber?  Is publishing fanfic a good way to become a ‘real’ writer?  Please comment and let me know!

Links to my sources:

Sorry, John Green

Some time ago, I made this post about why I don’t read John Green’s books.  At the time, I tried to be fair and pointed out that my problem was not with John Green himself – only that my taste in books doesn’t align with his writing.

In hindsight, though, I wrote that post from a position of being … well, peeved.  Mightily peeved.  Not at John Green himself, but at select members of his fanbase who really just wouldn’t accept I didn’t like his books (‘Well have you tried X?  And Y?  You must like one of them!)

I wrote the post with the intention of metaphorically beating them with it, screaming, ‘This is why I don’t read his books!  THIS IS WHY!  LEAVE ME IN PEACE!’  But I didn’t aim the post at them – I aimed it at John Green himself, which was totally unfair.

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Look at his lovely smiling face, I feel so meeeeaaaan.

Reading back, I’ve decided to edit the old post and remove my saltier comments.  They were unnecessary, especially considering my frustration wasn’t aimed at John Green himself at all.  John Green is an amazing man, who makes free educational videos with Crash Course, runs enormous charity drives like The Project for Awesome, and works on a variety of wonderful projects that he really doesn’t have to.  He does it out of the goodness of his heart.

Even though I don’t get on with his books (I mean, contemporary teen drama was never going to be My Thing), they encourage a lot of young people to read, and make a lot of people very happy.  Well, except The Fault in Our Stars.  As I understand it, that one makes a lot of people very sad.

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Basically, all this to say: Sorry, Mr Green.  You’re super, and I was grumpy.  Although your books aren’t my taste, I wish you and them all the luck in the world (not, of course, that you need it).

BOOK LAUNCH: Blood of the Delphi

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My good friend (and, technically, employer) M.E. Vaughan is holding a book launch for the sequel to Sons of Thestian, which I recommended here.  That recommendation was based on the old edition of Sons of Thestian – it’s since had a beautiful revamp with a new cover, better quality materials and editing by yours truly!  And the sequel, Blood of the Delphi, is equally pretty and also edited by me.

I’m planning to attend, because these are awesome books deserving of loving and attention (yes, I know I’m biased but I’m also right), and also because I haven’t got to hold a physical copy of the new editions yet and I need to touch them.

So if you live in the Hampshire area or nearby and you fancy coming to a fun book launch and watching me stroke the covers of sparkly new books like a crazy person, please come along!

 

Source: BOOK LAUNCH – Blood of the Delphi