Archives for the month of: July, 2015

DrinkingFountainCloseUpIMG_0075 copy 2I’ve written, edited and critiqued hundreds of thousands of words first as a journalist, then as community newspaper editor and now as an author and paid facilitator of creative writing circles.

Most recently I’ve taken on writing and videoing book reviews of the work of new, self-published authors.

I’ve written a lot of book reviews, but in this category – new, self-published authors, I’ve so far done sixteen. The average star rating is 2.8, a bit better than I didn’t like it, but not quite as good as I like it.

A couple of these authors were brilliant, but most, though they have potential, are hampered by lack of craft. If they continue writing and reading I know they’ll improve. Writing is like most things – the more you do it the better you get.

New authors most often make the same mistakes, both in story structure and in writing and this has been the case with the majority of ones I’ve reviewed.

I seldom give writing advice, I mean who needs more, but if you’re a new author or an aspiring one here are some simple tips that will get your story off to a good start and some suggestions about how to improve the writing of it.

This is not to say I don’t still make these mistakes. They’re easy to see in other people’s work, but more difficult in your own – isn’t that always the case.

Before you write a single word ask yourself:

– what does your main character want?

– why do they want it?

– what is stopping them from getting it?

Now you can begin writing – by answering these three questions.

These are the basis of every story – Goal, Motivation and Conflict. If you establish these elements right at the beginning, and keep referring to them as you write your novel, your characters and the plot will stay focused.

Remember, the reader wants to know what this story is about so present this information in your first paragraph or at least get it in the first chapter.

Write as simple as you can, which is actually very difficult. Above everything else tell the story as story always trumps writing. I’d suggest you tell it straightforward in simple chronological order. If you want an example of simple, straightforward storytelling read The Lowlands by Jhumpra Lahiri. It’s powerfully simple and unfolds naturally in chronological order. It got short listed for the Man Booker Prize and won her several other accolades.

Here are six things that will label your writing as amateur and should be avoided:

  1. Using too many adverbs. If you have to describe how your dialogue is being delivered it’s weak and should be rewritten.
  2. Over explaining. Action should be explained simply or, in many cases left up to the reader’s imagination. Here again use a strong verb rather than a weak one supported by adverbs
  3. Attaching action to dialogue. It’s dialogue – full stop – then a new sentence for the action.
  4. Using speaker attributions other than “said”.
  5. Too much description. Only minimal character description is necessary and it shouldn’t be dumped, but subtly inserted and only when motivated, ideally as part of some action.
  6. Being over indulgent with your prose. We love our words but if they don’t develop character or advance the plot cut them.

So you’ve adhered to these suggestions and you’ve finished your book. Congratulations. Now it’s time to get it out there, right?

Wrong.

Most of the novels I’m giving two stars to have been rushed into publication. I know you’re excited, but remember – it’s never as good as you think it is, and it can always be better. Yes, always.

Here’s what I do:

– I revise a manuscript a minimum three times or until I feel it’s finished.

– Then I put it away for at least three months or however long it takes to get it out of my system.

– While I’m waiting to be purged, I work on something completely different.

– Once I’ve put some distance between my ego and the book, I’m ready. I take out the manuscript and send it to as many beta readers for comment as I can. If you don’t have a stable of readers who are free from conflict of interest, join a writing group online or otherwise and workshop the novel.

Once you’ve decided it’s time for the final rewrite gather all the comments and criticisms together and once again apply my six suggestions.

If you follow this method I guarantee your final version will be different and better than it was when you deemed it complete.

Keep writing and remember what Nietcszhe said:

The doer alone learneth

30

Video book reviews of self-published authors now at

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and as e-books at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to my Eco-Fi series ECO-WARRIORS, that includes Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

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tallgrasslittleboyEver think about who you really are, who you’d really like to be?

When we start out in life we have a pretty good idea of what we want to be. When I was five I wanted to be a cowboy just like Roy Rodgers (yes, I’m that old). By the time I was thirteen I wanted to be a writer. That stuck.

Life can be a dream killer – sometimes it’s our own fault, sometimes it’s circumstances beyond our control, sometimes the dreams aren’t realistic. Whatever the reason, not too many people I know are living their dreams.

I wanted to explore this in a novel not so much because I thought it would appeal to readers, but more for myself. Where do dreams go when life happens? And, given the opportunity years later, can those dreams be revived?

The Widower, my sixth novel, is about a guy that’s living his dream. At twenty-seven he’s a successful poet lauded by the literary establishment and revered by his contemporaries, the disenfranchised and rebellious youth of the sixties.

Then tragedy strikes and to recover he abandons the dream and chooses a new direction significantly different from the old one.

Thirty-four years later there’s another tragedy that releases him from the life he’s been living. He has one last chance to revive the dream he abandoned.

You can imagine after thirty-four years he’s accumulated a lot of baggage. Will that baggage, in the form of family, friends and financial obligations allow him to walk away to try to revive the dream he was living when he was a young man?

They only recognize him by the roles and responsibilities he’s assumed – a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a neighbour, a mentor, a valued employee and a prospective lover. But do these roles represent the real him and once they’re no longer valid or necessary who will he be?

Are you defined by the roles you assumed? Who are you really?

I had some preconceived notions of where I wanted this to go, but like all my other novels within a short time I was the merely the conduit of the characters, some of whom took on a far greater role than anticipated.

I told my protagonist’s story from other people’s point of view, not his own. I wanted others to comment on his changes and how they affected them. I wanted it to take place in real time, like a commentator telling you what’s happening, in some cases multiple POV’s commenting on the same scene.

It’s time for the story to rest, to purge it from my consciousness and let it ripen in my subconscious. When I resurrect it I’ll be in need of beta readers so if you’re interested send me an email.

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

30

Video book reviews of self-published authors now at

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and as e-books at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to my Eco-Fi series ECO-WARRIORS, that includes Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

Sunset&Smoke44 copyLast month I had a little surprise in my bank account.

Three deposits appeared from Amazon totaling $11.04 for sales of the e-book edition of The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic.

Oh! my! gosh!

Upon investigation I discovered five e-books had been sold, one in March and four in April. Two were in Canada, two in the United States and one in Great Britain. Amazon doesn’t notify you when sales are made, and royalties are paid approximately sixty days following the end of the calendar month in which the applicable sales occur.

Since I’m more or less done with checking the reports and analytics on the sites my books are posted on I really have no idea what prompted these five strangers in three different countries to buy my book. I can’t think of anything I did during that period that might have brought my work to their attention.

Like Manuel, “I know nothing.”

If you’re an author with Amazon you can check your sales ranking. On April 13th, two copies of The BIG PICTURE were purchased which sent that book’s ranking soaring from 2,593,668 to 173,973.

For that day my book sold more than at least 2,419,695 other books on Amazon.

It’s not hard to understand how book promoters can make you an Amazon bestselling author – at least for a day or two. Three months later and coming up to The BIG PICTURE’s for anniversary I’m back down to 2,0008,844

It also gives me pause when I think of how many books are listed on Amazon that have very few sales, like none. Why am I surprised, up to that point I was one of them?

It’s all a mystery to me so I guess it’s still probably best to…

Stay calm, be brave, and watch for the signs (hopefully in my bank account).

30

Video book reviews of self-published authors now at Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and as e-books at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to my Eco-Fi series ECO-WARRIORS, that includes Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

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