Saturday, May 28, 2011

On final editing

You should order a proof copy, a printed book to read through before publishing your book. I always do that and see it as a necessity, really, whether you’re self-publishing or doing it through an established publisher.

I have gained a lot of experience, also on this and will claim that I know all the tricks in and outside the book when it comes to catching the last few errors and doing much needed last-minute corrections. Before sending the text-file off to the printer I print out the story on A4 sheets, I change font size, read everything out loud and a dozen other methods, but I still find lots of necessary corrections when I start on the proof copy. Finding the last few errors is, as stated only half of it and hardly even that. Much more important is spotting wrong phrasing, words used wrong, wrong names and just about every fucking mistake in (and outside) the book.

This has once again been aptly demonstrated during my final reading of my upcoming release Dreams Belong to the Night. The last two weeks I’ve banged my head at the wall countless times and cried out in frustration:

HOW COULD I DO THAT???
HOW COULD I DO THAT???
HOW COULD I DO THAT???
HOW COULD I DO THAT???
HOW COULD I DO THAT???

I told myself I would take my time with this, no matter how long it would take, and I’m glad I did and do.

I sit there with the book, making notes on paper, mostly with my computer turned off. The first time I did that and learned its vast advantages was during a sixteen-hour cross-Atlantic flight to Las Vegas nine years ago. I was stunned to find 240 bigger and smaller «faults» in a 400-page book. Now, I know better.

Five others, btw read through that book several times, helping me catch wrongdoings. I lost count of how many times I read it. In my opinion and experience you can do a read-through a thousand times and still be found wanting.

I and I believe all writers tend to see the book, fiction or non-fiction as done, as ready for publication before receiving that much mentioned Proof Copy, but that just isn’t so. I will probably have nightmares for weeks about what would have happened if I hadn’t had that proof copy to read through. Doing it is an ordeal, really, since you are confronted with what seems like massive amounts of sloppy work, but the base necessity to end all necessities remains…

This is btw yet another reason why you shouldn’t use editors and proof-readers. Only you and you alone can know what feels right, what is right for your story. I have some good experience with using skilled honest friends that know me and my motivations and are somewhat familiar with my work as early proof readers, but that is as far as I go.

If you only publish ebooks you will miss out on the crucial final attempt at getting it right and that is certainly one reason why ebooks in general contain more errors than printed books. A printed book is quite simply the single superior tool for catching everything wrong (or not quite right) with your text. Computer screens and even printing it on A4 sheets and all the other available and necessary steps are just that, steps on your path to «near perfection» (there is no perfection).

It is hard looking through your work, your beloved baby scanning with an eagle eye for what shouldn’t be there, and for what isn’t there and should be there. If you scan for such beasts you will find them. It is a dirty job, but someone (and that someone is you) must do it.

Let me stress that most last-minute changes aren’t grammar mistakes (even though you will always find the most frustrating, idiotic blunders), but rather a given writer’s final touch on the story. No major changes are made. You learn yet again that reality is in the details.

Most readers could probably read the proof copy and not spot much, or not care. He or she isn’t the obsessive perfectionist. You are.

A final word of comfort (or not): You will never catch everything. No one will, ever. When Neil Gaiman says that there will always be work left undone in a given book, I agree completely with him. It doesn’t matter whether or not you do everything yourself or you’re outsourcing some of it or most of it to a guy being paid a million bucks for reading through your masterpiece. No one, absolutely no one will catch it all.

And it isn’t a tragedy either. Polishing too much is as bad as doing it too little. We humans, happily enough are creatures of imperfection.

That somewhat comforting thought won’t stop the upcoming nightmares or current blazing neurosis, though…


PS: I just had to return from the forest and write this down while it was still fresh in my head. I am very pleased with how it turned out. It’s funny and deadly serious and crazy and everything between and also well composed. The end result feels even better than I envisioned it, there in the dark and inspiring forest. It’s longer, more detailed and more concerns and angles are included. Once I started rolling most of it came to me without hassle or the need for (much) pondering. Amazing! I was clearly on a roll.

You have just read one result, one side-effect of weeks of meticulous, self-imposed doubt.

For some reason it reminds me of the story in issues #334 to #336 of the comic book Fantastic Four. If you have read it and it is somewhat fresh in your mind you will probably know what I mean, at least if you have a sense of gallows humor, my humor of choice.

Proof Copy = a gathering of pages and cover exactly like the published book, deprived of the final, nightmarish process of correction. :)

That’s it (I think). Constructive comments on this will be very welcome.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Germs

She stood by the window, looking out.

Looking blindly at the shades of gray and red. The room was lit by many small lights. The window glass was thick, difficult to see through, like meters of liquid, clouding and clearing her vision in quick succession.

There was no sound. All the windows, all the walls were soundproof. She looked down at the people scurrying back and forth far below. Most of them were coughing, she knew. Occasionally she could clearly see them clutch their throat. They fell and hit the tarmac… with a dump sound.

Hands folded behind her back she returned to the center of the room.. It was a nice room. Pale colored paint on the walls, pale colored furniture. Scarce furniture, a chair, a table, nothing more. A very clean room. She walked to the dinner table, scratching her arm in a distant manner. Shaking hands grabbed the pills on the platter and the glass of water. She swallowed the pills. Good, clean food, a nutritious dinner. No waste of time. During the time it would take to eat an old-fashioned full meal she could do a lot of work, perform several necessary social services. She was a humanitarian, after all. Perhaps she couldn't help those poor beggars below, but she could do a lot beside that.

A flash of light made her turn. She walked to the window once more, knowing fully well she shouldn't. There could never be any point to it. Down below the cleaning crew drove by, their huge, imposing machines sweeping up all who had died the last hour. People yet not sick desperately attempted to escape, to run into the nearest shelter. Many did not make it in time.

The left arm started shaking, shaking slightly. She didn't scratch it. It would stop by itself. It always did.

She looked out the window, looked at the violent eruptions of red and gray.

It stopped. The arm stopped shaking. And she told herself that it hadn't really shaken at all.

She turned abruptly and returned to the relative calm of the room.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The dwellers in the wilderness

"We, the most distant dwellers upon the earth, the last of the free, have been shielded... by our remoteness and by the obscurity which has shrouded our name...

Beyond us lies no nation, nothing but waves and rocks"

- Calgacus, Northern Chieftain of the Picts

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Author's Word - The Defenseless

It is a special pleasure for me to publish this novel. It is my first, and thus it has been rejected most times by established publishers…

This is the very first book of ten (or eleven) in the Janus Clan series:

Ten stories (or so) about the wild man in the modern world, forty years of wandering before the Phoenix is rising from its ashes.

It usually takes me about ten years to complete a book, from start to the final finishing touch. But with The Defenseless it has taken me thirty-seven years. It has been a long, long Journey, from the moment I first glimpsed the story in my fevered dreams when I was twelve.

My first version was about 50 000 words. I quickly grew dissatisfied with that one. My second was about 150 000 words. The main difference between those, written in the late seventies and early eighties, and this, final one is that I know more, now, much more, about everything, and that I’ve learned to write dialogue. The dialogue in the two first versions sucked, quite frankly. I have strived to keep the original mood, though, the fact that the story was originally written by a teenager, which is manifesting in a number of ways. It’s the same story, in spite of the minor and major changes in approach when it comes to telling it. I also remember it all, the context and my state of mind when I wrote it.

This book is very different from all others I’ve written, even different considering that I always strive to make each new book I write different from the previous, to always and passionately seek new ground. I see that in every sentence, every paragraph, perspective and inclination.

Ted isn’t me, even if he is fairly close, at least in some aspects, and all major characters I write or wrote are usually both demonic and idealistic versions of myself. Like any writer and artist I use what I experience and observe, both good and bad.

This novel is me, like every story I tell is me.

1977

1982

2003

One Sherwood Forest 2010-06-16

The Sherwood Forest isn’t a place, but a state of mind.


The book is for sale at Amazon and AmazonUK and Barnes & Noble and basically all over the world.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

True to life

Do you want to read truly different, true to life novels and books filled with vivid dreams? Then you should try a Keppler or five. Then you’ve come to the right place.

If you like boring mainstream stuff you’ll probably not like mine, unless you’re looking to expand your horizon.

«Why don't you just write the same kind of books everyone else writes»? They ask me.

That one, too, is easy to answer. Because I don’t want to, of course. I don’t want to write what everybody else is writing, but keep creating my own, unique «brand» of storytelling.

You will never get any mainstream books from me. Mainstream is Death, both for the artist and Human Being.

Monday, May 02, 2011

For what it is worth

If I happen to see a list of «25 things a writer should know», in a given «advice» article I would probably disagree with every single thing. It’s noticeably outdated, but worse than that still peddling to the established publishers’ cruel hold on most writers.

And 25 things? The sheer quantity of the «advice» is anathema in my eyes. C’mon, why not hundreds or thousands? How detailed, how rigid should the creative process be, in your humble opinion?

The first thought going through my head when I read such shit is usually «what the fuck».


For what it’s worth, here is my much shorter list of advice to writers:


Be independent, even fiercely so. If you aren’t, what’s the point? Then you can just as well be a clerk or languish in some other nine to five job. Being truly independent means self publishing. There is no way you can remain independent if you surrender yourself to the ruthless, oppressing regime of established publishers. If you truly work hard at it, your book will also be better than ninety-nine percent of everything published by those before mentioned established publishers. It will be superior in so many ways, be different, original, interesting and the most important of all: It will be your work, not a carbon copy of virtually anything else on the market. Self publishing doesn’t assure quality in a given publication, but increases the changes of it dramatically.

Supporters of the old system keep spouting the party line that it is the establishment that will encourage quality, of course, but that has never been true and never will be.


I would stair away from editors and agents for the same reasons listed above. Hiring a proof reader, if you can afford one might be a good thing, but I begin to doubt the wisdom in even that, after currently checking the version of the upcoming re-release of my novel Dreams Belong to the Night. It isn’t just about checking for mistakes, but also about making the final changes as you go along. All in all: the clearly defined line between various invented necessities the old system operates with just isn’t very feasible. It has no bearing on the true reality of a creative mind.

«Everybody uses editors», the «established pro» (and/or editor) snorts, and then proceeds to list a long line of famous authors that have done so. I’m not impressed. It’s just more bullshit, of course. Far from everybody has, but everybody caught in the mire of the oppressors has.

Editing, generally speaking is censorship, of free thought and expression. You can excuse it all you want, but that is what it is.


Don’t take any classes, for the same reasons listed above. It makes you predictable, makes you the same as everyone else and teaches you the language of the oppressor. Work with yourself with a passion, do so from the very start and learn the «craft» from the ground up. Surrendering your work for others to review is also a kind of laziness you could and should do without.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advice from people you trust to give you honest counsel, just that you shouldn’t treat it as anything else than what it is and act accordingly, retain your confidence in your Self and your art. If the advice makes sense to you, consider using it. If it doesn’t, reject it and move on.


Take your time, especially after you’ve completed your story. In my opinion a given book should be published years after what some writers call «first draft» is done. It should be reread and pondered several times before you’re done with it. You should aim to not do first drafts, though, learn to edit in your mind before putting anything on paper (or the screen). I’ve never been a fan of completing anything in just a few months and I use about two years of spent time on average on a book or on 175 000 words that has been my approximate, preferred size to this point (I have one at 87 000 and another at 300 000, though). Then add two more years of infrequent checking and pondering. The general «rule», which I actually agree with, is that you get back to it about six months after your previous screening, except just before sending it off to printing. Then you should proofread it both intensely and with detachment at least twice.


Focus on the story. Content is far more important than form and technical prowess. Don’t set out to break all rules of storytelling. Write from your heart, follow your instinct and inner drive and you will break them, will gloriously smash them to pieces.

Don’t write genre. Don’t even accept it as a guideline. It is an industry-imposed and self-imposed limitation that quite simply is completely ridiculous and destructive.

One more crucial, urgent appeal, for your benefit: Don’t set out to copy your favorite writer or do any sort of «homage» to him or her or use lots of quotes. Tell your story, not repeat others. Seek your own, unique «voice»/expression.


That’s it, really. There isn’t much more to it. The rest will come to you, as you search for and discover, little by little your personal approach and preferences. The practical woes and pleasures of self-publishing I’ve covered extensively in other posts listed below.

One final note: Stop watching TV, stop completely. When I did that my creativity exploded from an already high level.

The story so far:

Poet's word

Sites supplementing my books

Making covers

True artistic freedom - Stage 1 to 4

Hysterical and fanatical grammar defenders

Doing it yourself - technical advice for self publishers

Kill the dog one of the very best advices when it comes to writing fiction...

True artistic freedom - stage 4

Author's word - Night on Earth

Author's word - The Slaves

Celebration mighty and true

Real

Author's word - Your Own Fate

True artistic freedom - stage 3

True independence

Independence

Modern slavery

The Storyteller

True Artistic Freedom (II)

Reading it again

The chores of an independent author/artist

My fifty cents

True artistic freedom

Labeling and genre writing

Alarums of reality

The difficulties in describing a complex storyline

Other links:

Firewind - my stories, art and poems on the Web

My writer «CV»

The Janus Clan