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maxbantleman

Writing

Welcome

Hello there!

Here are some thoughts on varied topics, i hope some of them will be of interest and will prompt a response.

I’m going to be putting stuff out via Kindle Direct, which you can find by searching Amazon.com / .co.uk  for – ‘Max Bantleman’.

Thanks for reading.

Featured post

Looking For An Agent

I’m looking for a literary agent.

Why?

Because I’d like to get my book (‘SoulDice’) published by a publisher rather than put it out there myself.

Why?

Because I believe the book (‘SoulDice’) has the potential to click with a lot of people and I don’t think I could get to the full potential audience using the tools I’d have if I were to self-publish.

I know what you’re thinking… ‘I really hope he doesn’t keep doing that ‘name of the book in brackets thing’’ (‘SoulDice’)… I won’t.

Off I went and read a lot of stuff on how to find an agent.

Most of what I found made a lot of sense and there is a shed-load of great advice out there.

Find an agent that deals in the genre you are writing in. This saves a lot of wasted time. It also makes you realise you haven’t thought enough about the genre.

Make sure they are seeking submissions. There’s no point annoying people by sending them stuff they don’t want that they haven’t asked for. I think we can all relate to that.

Keep the introduction letter short and cover the basics. Make sure you address is properly and include the information needed for the agent to move on to the synopsis or the first few chapters you’ve enclosed.

Write a synopsis. Big one this. Took me a long while to get a synopsis that is short and to the point, that covers the plot and characters without getting bogged down in too much detail. I hate writing the synopsis. I know that the more I do it the better I’ll get, so there’s that… but yeah, really difficult for me.

Include the first chapters / page count asked for by the specific agent. This is another of those ‘don’t waste time’ things: if they have submission guidelines then follow them!

Knowing that agents make a living by selling what they take on means you have to be clear about the transaction that is taking place. The synopsis / pages you are sending are meant to give the agent enough of a feel so they can tell whether they think your book is worth them investing in.

Individual agents will have different views, different contacts and publishers they favour, there will always be a degree of subjectivity from each agent.

The agent is making a living from books. They are only going to be interested in books they think they can sell. Really important that bit.

When the rejections start coming, I’ll bear that in mind more than anything else.

Feedback will be brilliant, but with the volume of submissions agents receive, I’m not expecting any.

I just have to keep plugging away. Looking for suitable agents and going through the process.

I know it’s a long haul. So the sooner I start, the sooner it’ll get done.

So I’ve started!

 

I’m using ‘Agent Hunter’ to help me look for appropriate agents:

https://www.agenthunter.co.uk/

Why Write?

Why are you writing?

What’s your goal?

What are you hoping to accomplish with your writing?

There are lots of ‘motivational’ quotes out there from lots of famous, erudite, witty people that say things like, “if you’re not writing because you’d just die if you didn’t then don’t bother.”

You get the gist. Of course you have to have a passion for it, feel a need to get it done, but it doesn’t have to be life or death right?

But… why are you writing?

What is the measure of your own success?

If you have a story to share, or information to share on a topic you are well-versed in, then getting it out there means bringing it to the attention of people that may be interested.

Will you sell it or give it away? Are you using sales as a measure of success?

Writing for its own sake is rewarding. Learning the craft, using language, telling stories, uncovering stories, all can be enjoyed by just you.

Are you the sole audience for your writing?

If you want to share what you write then it comes back to bringing it to the attention of people that may be interested in it.

How do you plan to do that?

The answer ‘social media’ is fine, a bit vague, but fine.

You’ll need to construct a social-media presence that can reach the people you want. That takes time and energy, but is ultimately worth it, even if you decide to try and publish with an agent rather than self-publish.

But aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves, we haven’t even written the thing yet!?

Then you realise that your writing, the ‘thing’, will take on a different shape depending upon why you are writing it, what you are going to do with it.

How are you going to judge whether you have succeeded with your writing? Or is that not important? Is it just about getting the piece written?

If you’re anything like me, you have bouts of insanely manic self-confidence (of course it’s worthwhile, have you not understood what I’ve been saying!?) as well as crushing self-doubt (there are so many other good books out there, why is anyone going to give a shit about mine?), but you’ll probably spend most of the time in the middle – the ‘well, I like the story, so someone else might, and I can write a bit’ territory.

The first measure of success I use is getting the thing written. Getting it to a state that it can be rewritten and then self-edited. The second measure of success for me, is getting it read by people who understand what the piece is about, getting feedback and tidying up. Then more rewriting. Then, as far as I’m concerned, it’s down to the angsty stage… getting it professionally edited.

Then I can really address what I want to do with it and how best to achieve that.

More goal-setting and planning.

But that can only happen once I’ve written it.

Why do I write? I have stories to tell and I believe other people will want to read them.

What’s my goal? To get my stories and ideas in to the hands of people that will be interested in them and not lose money in the process.

What do I hope to accomplish? To get stuff out there to an audience, to broaden what I write and who it appeals to, to explore new topics, to get better at writing as a craft.

Cats or dogs? Cats.

Werewolves or Vampires? Werewolves.

Any more questions? No, I think I’m done…

Write Bad Stuff

Write bad stuff. It’ll be ok, you can fix it later.

Just write. If it’s bad, don’t worry about it, just get stuff out.

That is great advice.

I find it almost impossible to follow.

I keep getting a nagging feeling that I won’t be able to fix it, that I’ll somehow not think it’s bad when I come back to it, that I’m wasting time – shouldn’t I be writing good stuff?

Writing for me is hard. I get distracted easily or I get self-doubt creeping in.

So just getting words out can be hard, and to be told to just get bad words out, just doesn’t sit well with me most of the time.

The thing is, and this really is the thing… the thing is… it really is better to write bad stuff than not to write at all.

I know that. I get it. I just find it hard to do.

Like the advice you can give to others safe in the knowledge it is wisdom hard-earned and keenly given out of a sense of wanting to help.

That advice, and we all have a store of it for those we have around us, that advice is seldom as easy to listen to as to verbalise.

But today I have been writing. And some of it, well ok, most of it, is pretty bad. There are some good ideas there, the odd good phrase and even a really good idea well written in there, but overall, it’s going to need to be chopped and fixed drastically.

I’m going to keep writing. Got a feeling it’s working today. Getting the bad stuff out. So going to keep on keeping on.

Leave it a few days (if I can) then come back and see what’s what: what’s worth keeping and fixing and what’s just got to go.

I’ve heard myself say it to others often enough: just write, get stuff down, get it out, it’s easier to fix stuff than it is to come up with great stuff off the bat.

I hear myself say it!

Well today I’m taking my own advice. I’m doing it. It feels good.

Even if what’s coming out is bad… it can’t all be bad right? There’s more good than bad surely… no! No analysing! Just get it out!

On it.

(‘Free’ – ‘Fire & Water’… what an album! No! Focus!)

Writing to Market

When we write, who are we writing for?

When we send an email we know who’s receiving it, so we know what kind of language to use. We know how to best get our message across because we know how the person getting the mail thinks.

The same is largely true of texts, and mostly tweets.

(Don’t get me started on Twitter! That’s a whole nother piece!)

When we write non-fiction, we are concentrating on getting things right for an audience that we know will know their stuff, will know what we’re writing about as well as we do, if not better. We put the effort in. Do our research, see what’s out there and where our stuff will sit in the market.

Putting effort in to specifically satisfy our audience seems like a natural, sensible thing to do with all of the above.

So what changes when we write fiction?

Some people say they write for themselves. That they imagine they are writing for someone just like them, or they are writing to only please themselves.

There is of course nothing wrong with that at all.

Writing as a creative process is an amazing way to express and experience things without a need for it to go further.

But what about those of us who write to get out stories and our ideas out there?

To maybe even make some money, maybe… just maybe… even a living at it.

We should know who we’re writing for.

How many of us can picture our ‘typical’ or ‘ideal’ reader?

And if we can, how often do we have their satisfaction in mind when we’re writing?

You have to write from the heart, you have to challenge yourself, believe in what you are doing and have a real passion for the story you are telling.

But you also have to realise that getting that story read by others is going to depend on how well you understand who you are writing for. Who is your market for the story?

Are there any other books out there that are similar to yours? Not in exact theme and content, but does your story fit a genre?

If it does, read other books from that genre, get a feel for what the genre is. Read the top three sellers in the genre: get a feel for what the market likes and wants.

Some of us <ahem…me…> don’t read enough. We need to read more. Get to grips with what’s out there in the genre we are currently writing for. It’s time well spent.

If you’re writing away, deeply engaged in the story, the plot, the characters, nailing those prose, spare a thought for where your readers are – what are they reading now, where will your masterpiece fit in that market?

The plan is to get your stuff out there right?  A cunning plan… stick a tail on it… call it a fox… as part of that cunningness, you’ll need to know where ‘there’ is…

Time to Write

How do you find time to write?

When do you write?

Questions I get asked a lot.

People who ask these questions are really asking, ‘how do I find time to write, when should I write?’

Finding time to write is a unique challenge to each of us. Whether we can find any time to write depends on our situation. But the clue is in the phrase ‘find time’, implying there’s time somewhere just lying about and all we have to do is find it…

If we are looking for the right moment to write, if we are hoping to find it by looking at our daily-schedule, by scrutinising what we do with our time to see if there is anywhere we can fit writing in, then we are already looking in the wrong place.

We can’t ‘find’ extra time. All we can do is make time.

A lot also depends on what circumstance you need to write, what surroundings, conditions you feel you need to be just right, before you can start writing.

Do you have to have some time before you write to ‘get your head straight’? To remind yourself of where you are in the writing? Do you need to reread what you’ve written before you can get started? Do you need a quiet space? Do you need copious amounts of tea or coffee?

At what time of the day, where in your manic schedule, can you find that time, with those circumstances?

Those with partners, kids, jobs or no real ‘space’ of their own where they live, how on earth do they find time, to do anything, never mind write!?

First, you need to identify what you really need to write, in terms of circumstance. Look at that. Is it reasonable, is it even vaguely doable? How long are you looking to write each day, half an hour, an hour, more? Is that doable?

You will probably need to change something in your daily routine to allow you the time and space you need to write. Make sure the time and space are what you really need, be sure that when you are making changes, you are working towards an achievable goal.

When I go through schedules with people and try to identify what they need, environment, time, it mostly comes down to writing at either end of the day. Either getting up earlier and getting an hour in, or staying up later and getting an hour in.

That’s a start.

Then there are looking for opportunities, when people go out, when you know you’re going to have a space to yourself, either at home, work or if you go out to a coffee shop.

You have to train yourself. You have to be ready to write with less perceived prep., to write under less than ideal circumstance.

Be realistic in what you aim for in time to write. Utilise that time. Writing is hard, so go easy on yourself when it doesn’t all come together as you’d hope, but keep trying, be persistent, allocate the time and do it.

To do all of this you have to really want to write.

Really want it.

Because if you don’t, then it’ll be easy to see the obstacles as stoppers rather than to look for a way round them.

Grammar’s Apple Pie

I wasn’t very good at school.

Neither academically nor behaviourally.

During my early teen years I got in to role-playing games via wargaming, mostly through Dungeons & Dragons, then Runequest and Chivalry & Sorcery and then on to Call of Cthulhu. (None of that ‘computer gaming’ nonsense!)

I read a lot of books that the gaming worlds seemed to be based on and the games seemed like a natural extension of that interest and imagining.

What’s that got to do with the opener?

I soon found myself, through gaming, writing a lot of stuff. Writing adventures, developing the background, the game-worlds and telling lots of stories through the games.

I liked writing! Who knew!?

Time passed, I continued to game and write, and expanded my writing in to hobby magazines and fanzines, as well as in to game-supplements for games produced by other people.

All more writing.

What soon became apparent was that people assumed I had a higher degree of education than I actually had.

As I branched out in to fiction not based on games, I started to realise that the majority of people that were writing fiction were a lot better educated than wot I was.

I had to start taking a lot more notice of the ‘rules of writing’ and that included grammar.

It seemed like there were a lot of rules.

It’s here that I’ll remind you of the ‘neither academically nor behaviourally’ opener.

Rules!? I didn’t need no stinkin’ rules!

But of course I did. There were hard lessons ahead of me and I’ve failed to learn some of them to this day.

Sentence construction is a huge weakness of mine. Not my only weakness, I’ll point out before you do. But probably my biggest.

Developing a ‘voice’ as a writer seemed to be a matter of not just mastering the grammar lessons, but learning where to ignore them.

‘Interesting stuff’ thought I.

And I still do.

I’ve had and continue to have, contact with a lot of writers, which is brilliant. It’s great to be able to talk about stuff to do with writing and know that there are those out there that both feel my pain and share my stubbornness at not learning some lessons.

Editors not so much.

What I’m trying to say is this: if you’re struggling to learn the basics of what writing is, if you feel like there are too many rules and restrictions, that a lot of smart-arses seem determined to keep telling you that you’re not a proper writer until you master all the rules, just remember – tell your story.

Tell your story. Write it out. Get it down on paper, on screen, whatever, just get it out.

That’s the most important thing.

The other stuff, the rules and regulations: that will come with time, practice and exposure to supportive people.

Get writing and keep writing. Tell stories. Learn as you go.

You’ll never stop learning as long as you’re writing.

Not Writing

Writers spend a lot of time not writing.

They may be researching, mulling over what they already have or thinking about the next thing to write.

They can also be pulled away from a project by many different callings.

There are many reasons why a writer may not be writing.

A writer may be feeling flat creatively. They may be finding it hard to get the time to actually write.

Sometimes writers are writing, but not on the project that is their next passion, their next ‘thing’, that piece that is going to scratch all their creative itches.

It can be hard to come to terms with the amount of time you’re not writing.

The question is, what can you do about it?

Firstly, don’t worry about it. Don’t let any element of stress creep in to thinking about it, don’t judge yourself as failing if you’re not writing, or not writing as much as you think you ‘should be’. Accept that not writing is part of the writing process.

Secondly, put the energy that you need to put in to the other things, in to the other things. Don’t hold back thinking you’ll need some reserve for writing. When you get back to writing, you’ll be back on track really quickly: the energy will be there.

Lastly, remember that you’re a writer. It’s what you do, what you want to do and it’s important.

I get very twitchy when I’m not able to get what I want with writing done.

It’s taken me a long time to be able to just, queue the singing, let it go.

Whenever I’ve had a lean-spell of writing, it’s always come back. The less I worry about it, the quicker the opportunities, ideas and energy seem to return.

If you’re not writing at the moment, and you feel you need to be, then give yourself a break: it will come back soon.

Finding the time and space to write… there’s a whole nother topic…

Self-confidence and Creativity

Everyone has a creative side to their nature.

We all like to bring something in to the world that wasn’t there before we made it.

That creative drive can express itself in any form, any medium, and can find an outlet in any area of our lives, from work, to home-life, to an artistic medium with fairly clear definitions.

Being creative is not something that is limited to ‘artists’.

We all use our creativity in some way in our lives… so what drives some of us to be creative in a very specific way, a way that could be called ‘art’, and a way that can be judged by other people who are presented with what we create?

Is it that little voice that tells us that what we want to create, what we want to do, is worthwhile and will make the world a better place, will be liked by people and will improve their lives for having come in to contact with it?

That little voice says that we are going to do something of worth, perhaps that no one else can do because they do not have our vision.

We know each of us has a unique vision based on our experience and our personality. We know that even if two of us look at the same thing, we see it slightly differently.

And so it is when we create something.

We bring part of ourselves to it, make it our own, give it our stamp, the world is seeing a bit of us when they experience it.

That little voice tells us this. Tells us that what we want to create has worth because it comes from us.

But then there’s the other little voice… the voice that doubts… the voice that mocks…

What we have to share is of worth? Pft! What a joke! Why would we think that anyone else would be interested in what we do? Really, why would they?

The other little voice tells us to look around us, to compare ourselves to people of *real* worth, with *real* talent, to understand how pathetic our efforts are. That other little voice explains the pointless nature of what we want to do, why it can only be doomed to failure and mockery.

It seems like we all have that conflict within us, we all have those two view-points: we are of worth, what we want to create is of worth and the world will be a better place when what we have created is in it, and we certainly will be better off for ‘getting it out there’, regardless of its ‘commercial success’ or the praise we get – we *have* to do it.

But then it all seems pointless, doomed to failure and we’re just kidding ourselves that anyone will care, or that we will feel any differently for doing it, the only thing we can possibly get is mocked and shown by those who will judge us, how futile our efforts are.

The more we do something the better we get at it.

That includes going with our self-belief, or giving in to our self-doubt.

We should all believe that we have something of worth to bring in to the world, because we all do.

And then we should do it.

(Even if we do worry about it afterwards…)

A Little Bit of Politics

Some topics divide even the best of friends.

Politics, music, comedy, religion, that kind of thing.

We hold beliefs, have opinions, so far removed from some of our friends on some of these things, that the topics themselves often slide in to a no-go area, a lot of the time without even being noticed.

The gathering together of people with vaguely the same opinions in these areas suits the media and most governments: gives them an idea on how to appease (when needed) and rile-up (when needed) each group of associated folk.

And we, it must be said, tend to encourage this behaviour from our media and political leaders as it makes it easy for us to identify the people who hold beliefs that oppose ours: we know who the ‘enemy’ is.

This seems like truly lazy and ridiculous behaviour to me.

And I’m as prone to fall for it as the next person.

It has taken me a very long time to understand that I always, *always* need to question what information I am given by the media and any politicians.

I see the Presidency of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote in the same light – the masterful manipulation of this behaviour by those with a vested interest in getting a more extreme, more polarised population to more easily control.

There is also a genuine element of frustration from both Trump supporters and Brexit voters, who saw themselves as ignored, belittled, marginalised and misunderstood by the opposing forces, and were just desperate for some recognition and change.

Now the Brexit issue has been voted on, the Presidential election done and dusted, a lot of people whose vote was one of desperation are realising that nothing will actually change.

The rich will just get richer, those with power will simply continue to amass power and make it harder to move from their grasping hands and the ‘little people’ will continue to be demeaned, ignored, marginalised and manipulated.

But! And it is a big ‘but’ (jokes later), it has also become apparent that a mass-movement of people can bring about change. What we need to do now is find an effective movement to invest that effort of change in to.

I believe that Brexit has been criminally mismanaged and that Trump is a huge cry for help from millions of US citizens, and that the vast majority of us are going to get screwed as a result of both.

But I do believe some good will come of it. That an awakening will happen through the desperate times that are ahead.

I just hope that someone or some organisation steps up to give us a real alternative to the current slide in to corporate control and madness.

What do you call a man who sleeps behind doors? Matt. Comedy… very divisive…

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