Writing tips for the madden arthur

I’m here to help, seriously. While I’m excluded from the madden arthur gang (you all know I mean modern author, right?), I’m still more than happy to offer these exclusive tips for success and happiness. Hey ho, let’s start…

The colour of your protagonist’s eyes is of vital importance; be sure to mention it at least twice during their first scene.

Characters need to smirk frequently in order to gain your readers’ empathy.

Watching YouTube videos about writing will turn your lacklustre manuscript into an entertaining novel.

Avoid being genuinely honest with yourself about your writing, or you might have to go back and waste time rewriting entire sentences.

‘Character agency’ means telling the reader your protagonist is really upset and unsure about the ‘big problem’ they are going to have to overcome.

Build tension for at least a chapter before introducing a rich, attractive, but overtly arrogant character who offers a largely coincidental solution to your protagonist’s problem.

Rather than writing an exciting story, concentrate on the precise timing of the ‘inciting incident’.

Focus on convincing yourself that your debut novel is going to be awesome; this is significantly easier than writing a decent novel.

Build a friendly network with aspiring writers and YouTubers who will be happy to provide you with positive back-cover quotes for your lacklustre debut novel.

‘Write what you know’, including a diverse cast of characters from every race, religion, and sexual orientation.

Have your protagonist swear frequently, as this is the best way to show they are strong, independent, witty and dynamic.

Spending countless hours reading hundreds of books, across many genres, is a waste of your time. The same result can be achieved by watching YouTubers talking about the books they’ve read.

When posting frequently on social media about your writing progress, always use cool ‘madden arthur’ abbreviations such as MC for Main Character and MC for Manuscript.

As soon as possible, start referring to your book title by its initial letters. This will create the impression that you are not just another clueless muppet with a keyboard, churning out sentences like ‘Suddenly she felt a tsunami of terror flooding through her veins’.

As soon as you’ve written a few thousand words, or given your MC a cool name and the unique character trait of saying ‘fuck’ all the time, go onto Teespring and create a whole bunch of that sweet merch.

Always include trigger warnings for your book. You don’t want someone to buy it, read it, and have an emotional reaction to it.

And, finally…

Instead of doing a time-consuming search-and-replace for filler words such as ‘just’, ‘that was’, and ‘literally’, simply delete your whole manuscript.

Arcade Life – release date and pre-order news

The Kindle version of the book Arcade Life: Life versus Video Games will be released on 07 November 2020. You can currently pre-order this on Amazon.

To find the book on Amazon, here are a couple of links (UK Amazon and US Amazon), or you can go into Amazon and search for the book’s unique identifier: B08FBGFDYK

UK Amazon link

US Amazon link

There’s also going to be a paperback version available. Due to the way the release process is set up, I can’t set a pre-order period for the paperback so I’m just going to make it available ‘some time’ ahead of the Kindle version. I’ll let you know when that happens.

More detailed information about the book can be found here, on the Arcade Life page.

AuthorTubers – do they write good books?

AuthorTubers. Heard of them? A bunch of writers, mostly younger than me (but who isn’t?) who make YouTube videos about writing, offering tips and guidance to the YouTube writing community. Some of it is interesting, some of it is entertaining, and some of it sounds like it might actually even be useful, at least as far as any recycled traditional writing advice in any format might be useful.

These YouTube authors live in a friendly little world where they share their extensive writing knowledge with their team of subscribers, and anyone else who stumbles across their channels, covering everything from ‘show, don’t tell’ to the perils of handing over money to unscrupulous agents and vanity publishers.

They all have books to promote, either already available or the ever-popular ‘coming really soon’. Some of them are so enthusiastic and prolific with their video-making and merchandising, they don’t have any published books available yet, but their debut novel is on the way, and it’s going to be amazing.

As a means of creating an audience, particularly for a book that isn’t available yet, it’s an effective strategy. If I had the looks, the vocal-fry voice, and a photogenic pet or two, I’d be pumping out writing-tips videos like you wouldn’t believe. But not many books.

The reality, of course, is the YouTube channels are a money-maker, and also a specific marketing tool for the books. That’s not a crime, it’s not even a ‘bad thing’, and it definitely works.

But, and you must have known this was coming – are their books any good? More to the point, do the books they produce match up with the hours and hours of writing advice they dispense in their videos?

I’ve read the first couple of chapters from one of these ‘coming soon, and it will be amazing’ books from a prolific and popular AuthorTuber, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. I’m not going to give away the book title, or the name of the AuthorTuber, but I will give some examples of the ‘modern-day author’ writing quirks that jumped out at me while I was reading it.

This is all my opinion, of course, and I know without a shred of doubt that this book will outsell anything I ever write by a magnitude of thousands. But see what you think…

One of the female protagonist’s main character traits is saying the word ‘fuck’. This is part of the promotional material for the book posted on social media, and it features on merchandise related to the book. I don’t have any problem at all with a protagonist who swears (see Lana V in Midnight Cocktail and Cheating Sunrise), but I’ve never considered focussing on swearing as a main character trait, let alone using the word ‘fuck’ on promotional merchandise. Not because I’m a prude, but because swearing isn’t a unique or even a very interesting character trait. Unless, well, unless you’re a young, inexperienced author dipping their toe into writing a strong, independent, outspoken character.

Most of the first page is taken up with telling the reader about a life-threatening condition affecting the protagonist. Instead of having this tantalisingly divulged over time through actions and dialogue, the reader is simply told things like [not an exact quote, because copyright] According to the doctor, she had a few months left to live. From that point on, the reader is reminded in almost every other paragraph about the protagonist’s condition. She’s dying, it’s terrible, she feels bad about it. Ho-hum. Who is she again?

The attitudes and traits of some of the other characters are told to the reader in simple statements. [Not an exact quote, because copyright] Fred hadn’t told anyone except Bill. And Bill wasn’t a gossip.

Remember the protagonist is a person who says ‘fuck’ a lot? Barely three pages in, she gets involved with a random stranger for a bit of a spontaneous girl-on-girl grope. The word used to describe a particular part of her anatomy is ‘entrance’. Anyone who is interested in writing sex scenes needs to do a bit of research into how to write sex scenes, so the sex scenes don’t end up feeling awkward and not-at-all sexy. One thing you don’t do is refer to a sexual organ as an ‘entrance’. A few lines later, the word ‘vagina’ is used. The standard advice for writing romantic or erotic sex scenes is to never use the words ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’. Not sexy. Not romantic. I have to assume the AuthorTuber who has made hundreds of videos giving writing advice didn’t do any research into writing good sex scenes. Also, if your protagonist is happy to say ‘fuck’ a lot, and the author is happy to put the word ’fuck’ on promotional merchandise, why does the same author shy away from using a more sexy and entertaining word than ‘entrance’ in a sex scene? Pussy, twat, minge, slit, cludge, clodge, clam, flange, fadge, and bacta (back-to-front, sounds like…) are among those available.

Worth mentioning at this point: three professional editors are credited with working on this book. I have to assume they all gave ‘entrance’ a big green tick of approval. Maybe a pink tick.

One of the essential writing tips the AuthorTubers frequently give is to create serious, long-term obstacles for the protagonist to overcome. What you must not do, they tell us, is give the protagonist a problem, and then quickly resolve it. Within the two very short sample chapters of this book, the protagonist is given a serious medical condition, with a few months to live, and then meets (by some kind of coincidence) a person who offers to fix their life-ending condition. Yes, it’s that simple. There’s no tension in being repeatedly told ‘Character A has a few months to live and is upset about it’, and then ‘Here’s a bloke who can sort it out for her if she works for him doing a technical job on a spaceship.’ Maybe if the illness had been strung out for a few more chapters, and the protagonist had really suffered before being forced to make a difficult choice, I would have cared.

The word ‘suddenly’ is used a few times. Elmore Leonard said it best: Never use the words ‘suddenly’ or ‘all hell broke loose’. I know this is old, established advice, and therefore not something ‘modern-day authors’ will be interested in, but using the word ‘suddenly’ makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

A woman is described as a ‘beautiful woman’ and there are ‘strange-looking guards’. Again, these are new-writer mistakes. What makes the woman beautiful? What looks strange about the guards? These are basic examples of telling rather than showing, and it reads like something from a story a nine-year-old would write.

There is a lot of repetition, mostly attempts to remind the reader of things they read a page or two earlier. Again, the AuthorTuber videos frequently cover this and tell us not to do it.

Here’s a quote, and it’s exact because I can’t imagine I can get into any kind of copyright lawsuit over it: Panic surged through her veins. This wouldn’t happen. Veins take blood TO the heart. Panic is more likely to be felt as breathing difficulty, a pounding heart, a sensation of choking, dizziness, nausea… a lot of things, but it is not something in the blood that would surge through the veins.

In one scene, the police ‘shot pistols‘. You fire a pistol; you shoot at something. Simple error. Three editors. You decide.

Another quote: A headache glanced between her temples. Glanced? Looks like the wrong word to me. You can suffer a glancing blow, but a headache is, by definition, an ‘ache’. It wouldn’t glance anywhere. Again, it’s a new-writer mistake to try to use an unconventional word, or in this case the wrong word, to make the writing look more ‘special’.

A character’s eyes ‘skirted’ from one object to another. I’ve never seen the word ‘skirted’ used to describe someone looking from one thing to another before. You can skirt around a subject, or otherwise avoid something by skirting the issue, but your eyes don’t skirt from one thing to another. Flitted, maybe, or flicked, or even skipped, but not skirted. Again, three editors…

The blunt-force attempts to leave both sample chapters on tense, ‘whatever will happen next?’ closing sentences are a bit too painfully forced.

Overall, I enjoyed spotting the mistakes and clumsy debut-author writing a heck of a lot more than I enjoyed the story. If the rest of the book is the same quality as the sample chapters, it needs to be edited by someone who isn’t scared to tell a big, famous AuthorTuber their writing isn’t great. I’d do it, and I wouldn’t charge them as much as you might think.

Not my style – even more writing tips

First of all, try getting your head around this radical concept: instead of giving “writing advice” or spending time running a YouTube author channel (I don’t have the looks or the vocal-fry voice for it), I decided to try something practical instead, and I decided to publish it on here, no matter how it turned out.

I’m not going to advise you, or anyone else, to try this, but I honestly believe it’s a good way to potentially achieve a number of goals. It could get you past a period of writer’s block, if you’re stuck in the middle of a particular draft. It could start you along the road to a totally different writing destination. It could improve your overall standard of writing. Note – a lot of ‘could’ in all of that.

What am I going to do? Easy, I’m going to write something I don’t particularly want to write, in a style which I would never normally consider using.

I’m not into wolf stories, fairy-tales, fairy-tale parodies, flowery descriptions of, well, anything, and I don’t like the trope of a super-cool, badass (magical or mundane) young woman kicking everything’s ass. I know I wrote a couple of vampire books where there’s a super-cool badass woman kicking everything’s ass, but I had to get that out of my system. Also, she wasn’t young. Also, I really like Buffy so I’m a bit of a hypocrite.

And so I end up here, telling myself I have to write a few chapters about a super-cool, badass young woman kicking everything’s ass. And it has to feel like a fairy-tale parody, with flowery descriptions and wolves. I hate myself already. Brace yourselves, we’re going in…

THIS IS WHERE IT STARTS, IF YOU SKIPPED PAST MY LAME DISCLAIMERS

Night air hissed by, given a sibilant voice by his passing, the sensation akin to hurled handfuls of dusted ice cleaved by his hurtling body. Frigid nocturnal fingers grasped at the slicked-down slate-grey mane, caressing flexing, corded muscles as they rippled in time with the relentless, rhythmic pounding of his fore-legs.

Wide, unblinking eyes, blacker than the emptiest night sky, focussed ahead, locking on each trace of the spoor no matter how insignificant. A crimson smear on a broken stalk of grass. A perfect ruby dewdrop, no larger than a pinhead, clinging to a leaf still trembling with the aftershock of the prey’s urgent, panic-stricken flight.

The scent of terror hung in the air, an intoxicating fragrance of fear without hope, of one who knows the inevitability of its own destruction.

Massive, clawed paws crushed and scattered the detritus of the forest floor. Needles, cones, loose twigs, and the stinking black mulch lying beneath it all.

Ahead, a glimpse of movement. A dark shape, small and furtive. The prey. The rush of excitement heralding the kill spurred him to even greater speed, barrelling through the underbrush towards his target.

When the huge wolf leaped from the cloying dark of the forest into the moonlit clearing, the girl staggered backwards against the unforgiving bark of an ancient, towering tree.

The wolf landed on all four paws, halting no more than a handful of yards from the cowering prey. It stared down at the girl, taking in everything it saw, hesitating as it savoured the moment when it would deliver the final strike, jaws-wide.

The girl swept her black cloak aside, held up the impaled, twitching body of a young hare. The creature’s front legs jerked uselessly, scrabbling at nothing. The girl’s eyes were bright, clear, no fear in them. Her mouth was set in an indifferent, humourless grin. No scent of terror about her.

Blood dripped steadily from the dying hare to the curved fronds of a fern, ticking in the still of the clearing, ticking like a handmade grandfather clock.

The girl stroked the hare’s ears back, close to its head, hushed it as if calming a babe. She tenderly clasped the skull and twisted. There was a crack of tiny bones, and the hare dangled limp from her hand.

“Your Pappy never tell you not to chase really obvious blood trails, Mister Wolf?” the girl said. She tilted her head to one side. “Oh, but how could he, being all that time dead?”

The wolf had a voice. Not human, yet not entirely brutish. He raised a huge paw, his whole body trembling with anticipation as he studied the girl by the light of the moon.

“I know you.”

“You all know me.” She stepped away from the tree trunk, dropping the dead hare and shedding the cloak to reveal another beneath. A closer fit this one, dark red, the burgundy of drying blood beneath a winter sunset. The hare’s broken carcass lay in the decaying blackness of crushed leaves, needles and rotted moss, but the girl’s hands were not empty.

The wolf saw the knife in the girl’s left hand. No glimmer of a moonlit reflection, the blade forged dull by design. He didn’t yet take a step closer to her, tasting a fresh scent in the air.

“Silver,” the wolf said.

“Goes in nice and slick, slippety-slip, but the bleeding just doesn’t quit. Not even for big ones like you.”

“You can’t stop me with that.”

“Come a little closer.”

The wolf started to circle the girl. Still no scent of fear. He did not know why, and it bothered him.

“All of your kind,” the wolf said, “your time in this place is done.”

The girl’s right hand flicked beneath the cloak for a moment, returning with a new weapon. Shotgun. Black. Pistol grip and sawn-off triple barrels. Two under, one over, with a selector switch set to fire all three barrels on one pull of the single trigger. She raised her arm, aimed the gun at the wolf’s gigantic head.

“How many times have I heard that, Mister Wolf?”

The wolf glared, loops of drool hanging from its jowls between jagged, nine-inch fangs. The bunched muscles of its haunches rippled as it prepared to pounce on the girl, to tear into her with tooth and claw.

“You have no respect for the rightful owners of this land,” the wolf said.

The girl shook her head, dark humour curling her mouth into a sadistic leer.

“Fuck rightful.”

The wolf leaped at the girl, jaws wider than the span of her arms packed with gleaming, bone-white blades.

She pulled the trigger. All three barrels at once.

THERE YOU GO. THAT WAS CHAPTER ONE. 

I enjoyed writing that a heck of a lot more than I wanted to, definitely more than I want to admit. If you liked it, maybe I’m getting everything else wrong and I should ditch my own style and go full…whatever that was.

Maybe.

A few things I liked in 2019

This isn’t a review of the year or a top-ten list of favourites, nothing like that, just some of the things I enjoyed in four basic categories: music, TV, cinema, and video games. The only criteria for consideration – these things were first released in 2019.

If you’re wondering why there are no books in this list of things I liked in 2019, the only books I enjoyed reading in 2019 were first published earlier than last year, and the only books I read that were published last year weren’t good enough to be included in this article. Of course, the book I published last year (Old Scars) is excluded because I’d be a bit of a dick saying I enjoyed reading a book I’d written, although I did enjoy reading it.

TV
The Boys. I don’t watch much on TV, but this series was recommended for all the right reasons and it didn’t disappoint. It still didn’t topple Banshee off the top spot as my favourite TV show of all time but it was consistently entertaining and that’s always good enough for me.

Cinema
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. The number of times I went to the cinema in 2019 is probably a single figure, and I still managed to walk out feeling let down most of those times. John Wick 3 was one of the few films I saw in the cinema last year that I thoroughly enjoyed. They know what their audience wants, and that’s what they give us. The Halle Berry scenes with the dogs were possibly the best bits, although every set-piece fight scene was either outstanding or at least top quality.

Music
Hands Off Gretel – I Want The World. I found this band fairly late, and I’m guessing there are loads of bands I’d probably like that I’m either never going to find or won’t discover until late in their career. I’m not being uncharitable when I say I like Hands Off Gretel because they sound like a lot of other bands I like. There’s only so much you can do with a four-piece punky grunge band, within the very loose parameters of actually being a four-piece punky grunge band, and if you do it really well, which they do, it’s not going to sound drastically different from what anyone would expect. This is a great album; it spent ages being the only thing I listened to in the car and at the gym.

Video games
Islanders (PC/Steam). Considering how cheap this is, it’s pretty much the definition of value for money. The official description on Steam says it’s “a minimalist strategy game about building cities on colourful islands”, but it’s definitely not a city-building game, at least it’s nothing like what you’d expect if you went in thinking it was going to be like Sim City or Cities:Skylines. It’s actually a high-score chasing puzzle game where you score points for strategically placing buildings and resources on a series of procedurally generated islands. There’s no pressure, no time limit, just an addictive cycle of building, unlocking new islands, and getting a better score. It looks lovely, in a minimalist style, and it absolutely nails the one-more-go gameplay without ever becoming frustrating or tedious. Classic stuff.

Here’s a bonus video for you…

 

Old Scars – Amazon links

Old Scars will be published for Kindle (on Amazon) on 1st July 2019.

It is currently available to pre-order. Here are a couple of Amazon links (UK and US). If your region is neither of those, please just search for the unique ASIN reference B07S6HH1L7 on Amazon.

Amazon links for Old Scars:
UK Amazon (.co.uk)
US Amazon (.com)

Old Scars – release date and pre-order news

Old Scars will be published for Kindle (on Amazon) on 1st July 2019. I submitted the Kindle version for pre-order today; as soon as it’s available to pre-order (it’s not an instantaneous process), I’ll post an update with some Amazon links.

I’m initially pricing Old Scars at 99p/99c for the pre-order period and I’ll increase the price a couple of weeks after the actual release date (1st July). This means you get it cheaper if you buy it during the pre-order period or the first couple of weeks when it’s available. No catch, no weird agenda. As I always tell people, right now I’m in this purely to get readers.

There’s also going to be a paperback version available. Due to the way the release process is set up, I can’t set a pre-order period for the paperback so I’m just going to make it available a month ahead of the Kindle version, which means 1st June 2019 or as close as possible – once again, it’s not an instantaneous process and I can’t just pick a date and guarantee the paperback will be available in every Amazon region on that day. As soon as it’s available on the .co.uk and .com Amazon regions, I’ll add the links to the Old Scars page on this site.

Am I excited about the forthcoming release of my seventh novel? Yes. Am I expecting anything more than single-figure sales? Not really. Do I need to work on my marketing strategy? Yeah.

Old Scars – yet more promo material… and some blurb

I’ll keep this short. Here it is:

Back cover blurb below.

When DI Kath Schrader and DS Dan Blacksmith investigate a multiple murder at a quiet country pub, the carnage of the crime scene is overshadowed by the presence of a survivor.

As they explore the survivor’s connections and uncover his past, Dan and Kath are drawn into the sinister, vicious world of human trafficking and organised crime.

In the relentless summer heat of 1986, faced with unreliable witnesses and an escalating bodycount, Dan Blacksmith will be forced to make the hardest decision of his life.

As is hinted in the promo image, Old Scars is due to be released in time to be your next favourite holiday read, in the summer of 2019. OK, fair enough, it wasn’t a very subtle hint.

Bonus point if you spotted this series now has a name. Well done.