Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The death of the book - it's been greatly exaggerated

One of my Saxon warrior friends asked me my thoughts on the Death Of The Book. My first instinct was to say: Never! Then I added a few more thoughts ...
Is the book dead, or dying?

Well, reports of its death have been drastically exaggerated.

It’s true that book sales are generally down – for instance, even with the surge of interest for Game of Thrones, Australian fantasy sales are down roughly 10%.

But there are other reasons for that, including the loss of many specialist bookshops and the general retail slowdown. People are saving their pennies for a rainy day, rather than spending them and that’s true across every retail category.

Secondly, are we talking about physical books or are we including eBooks? Because if we include eBooks then the numbers are certainly not down. People are downloading free eBooks in huge numbers – and buying eBooks in respectable numbers as well.

Certainly there will be a degree of migration across to eBooks from the traditional format. As well as being cheaper, the available range of eBooks is much greater. Stores cannot carry the massive number of titles released each year, let alone those previously published. With the collapse of Borders and Angus & Robertson, the day of the massive bookshop is over.

So, albeit in a different format, the book will never die.

But there is plenty of hope for the traditional book as well. Retail will recover – it is the cyclical nature of things. People will begin making more discretionary purchases again, rather than essentials.

Above all, there is a hunger for reading. Whether it is fantasy, autobiography, fiction or high literature, people enjoy losing themselves in a book. I go out to stores and find people excited to meet an author and eager to talk about books.

The emphasis on children reading is, if anything, even stronger than before. And there are more children’s books being released, encouraging boys and other reluctant readers to keep reading for pleasure.

As these children get older, they will see reading as less of a leisure activity and more of an essential.

Reading opens our eyes and expands our minds and the emphasis placed on it in schools will only help the industry.

For the next 10-20 years they will be doing that mainly with real books but, no matter what format they are reading, no matter what eReader or tablet or device not yet invented they choose, the book will go on.

The Gutenberg Press is widely credited with helping inspire the Renaissance and dragging Europe out of the dark ages.

If the book ever died, that is where we would return.

My top 10 tips for rewriting and editing your book

As I finish off the copy edit for Wall of Spears, I was asked if I had any advice for budding authors who are trying to get their work ready for submission.
As sending in your book far too early is a crime that every author is guilty of, here's my top 10 tips for rewiring and editing.
1)      Re-read until you are absolutely sick of reading your work and feel you must hurl something out of a window. Then do it once more.

2)      Try to add layers each time you go through the book. One rewrite can be totally from the perspective of a particular main character. Then go back and rewrite from all the other characters’ perspectives, taking into account the changes you have made.

3)      Isolate the minor characters. Pull out all the sections featuring one of them and copy into a separate document. Read that and see if they are consistent/interesting/important to the story. Makes changes if you have to.

4)      Try and write over your word limit. Put in everything you can. It doesn’t matter if not all of it works, you can trim it out later. But working through a manuscript you know is 10-20,000 words over the limit forces you to be ruthless with every sentence.

5)      Use CTRL+F to check on repeated words. I fall into the trap of using words such as roared, groaned, grumbled far too much. CRTL+F finds all those instances. It can be surprising and a little horrifying to see how many times you’ve used a certain word. And it highlights times when you’ve used it 2-3 occasions on the same page – another no-no.

6)      Check your chapter spacing. When you’re moving stuff around, you can have very long chapters sometimes. Trim and/or break into two.

7)      Stop and think about plot. Is it logical? Is there another way for the action to move forwards? Have you got internal as well as external conflict?

8)      Stop and think and characters. Are they behaving consistently. Are you forcing them to do things they normally wouldn’t? Or, worse, are they justifying themselves endlessly?

9)      Put the computer away for a fortnight. Keep a pad by your bed instead to make notes as your brain works through things.

10)   Be ruthless with subplots. If they’re not working, ditch them.