Basic mistakes new writers make… IMHO


Okay.
After crawling through FaceBook and other social media sites, I now realise that there are a million writers out there, more than I could ever have imagined.
They sit there, working away like little typing robots, churning out poem after prose after flash fiction after short story after novel…some of them on PCs, some on Macs, some on desktops in studies lined with books, while others tap away in Starbucks or some other coffee house, laptop hooked up to the free Wi-Fi offered and coffee forgotten and cold on the table in front of them.
A million varied and unique writers, a million different imaginations churning out tale after tale…
I should know. I’m one too.
We are all different, but in some ways, we’re all the same.
In the beginning, we all tend towards the same mistakes. I hope to go through and list some of those mistakes, firstly to try and help those of you reading this to NOT make those mistakes, but in the end the real reason is to try and remind myself not to make those mistakes.
When you are first trying to break into professional (or even amateur) writing, there are a million different opinions to listen to and directions to take. Digital publishing has made it easier to get your voice and stories out there, and self-publishing has really taken off in this new decade. Vanity presses abound, ready to tear the last soiled dollar bill from the struggling writer’s desperate grasp. Vultures and snakes, charmers and rascals, vagabonds and outright criminal arseholes litter the virtual landscape, ready to take advantage of the budding writer’s ego and vanity.
There are a million things you and I could do wrong, and in this post I intend to list some of the very basic mistakes a lot are making today. These are my own personal opinions, subject to dispute or able to be cast aside like yesterday’s diapers, so take them with a grain of salt if you take them at all.
NOTE: Purely for the purposes of this article, a writer writes while an author is published.
Here goes…

1) Spamming

Okay. You’ve finished your first short and you think it’s the bomb. Your mum likes it, your girlfriend likes it, and your best friend (a rabid Stephen King fanboy) says it’s rad! You post it up under notes on your FaceBook page and all of a sudden you call yourself an author when in reality you are still a writer.
Of course, you totally disregard the fact that spellcheck nearly implodes when it runs through your piece, and you have no idea if that semi-colon should in fact be a comma or not.
This is fine, as you aren’t bothering anyone but your immediate circle of family and friends.
But then you go the next step.
You start up a fanpage for yourself, stating that you are an author. You search for submission places and you find some obscure internet e-zine that is run by ex-hippie/LSD tragics, and they like your short. That’s good. They too ignore spellcheck and run it as it is. Suddenly you are a ‘published’ author. Technically.
Now you start sending out invites to ‘like’ your fanpage…way too many invites.
Then comes the daily (and sometimes many times a day) messages and status updates and all the rest. All of a sudden, your friends list drops radically and you find yourself blocked by 75% of the Western World.
Oooops.
Don’t spam!
If you want to get a fanbase, then write and submit.
Shorts in magazines can get people reading you.
Getting accepted by a commercial publisher and getting your book out there, giving away review copies (and hopefully receiving good reviews) etc.
That will get you readers.
Begging your 1,347 FaceBook friends over and over to read your stuff will not. All that will achieve is getting 1,341 of those friends to block you in their newsfeed. Six family members don’t count.
It takes time, people. Time and effort, combined with patience, perseverance and a belief in the quality of your work that gives you the drive to keep writing and keep submitting. Keep the faith, and the acceptance letters will come…

2) Spelling, grammar and punctuation in your writing

You never finished high school, but you know you can write.
You have now retired and have decided to write the greatest novel known to mankind.
You are a trained slaughterhouse worker, but you know you can write.
You fucked up your knee and can no longer play football, so now you know you are going to be a writer.
You can write all you like, and you may be good enough, but don’t take it for granted that you will get published. Ideas and imagination are necessary, but you need the skill to transfer it to paper and from there allow the readers to share your vision.
You need language skills.
It takes some form of training to write successfully. Basics skills such as spelling, grammar and punctuation are not inherent traits, as some seem to believe. Neither are they skills which are ‘optional’ if you want to take writing seriously. Yes, some authors take certain liberties with these things, but you need to know the rules well before you can begin breaking them. Readers are funny creatures. As a rule, they actually like their stuff to make sense to a certain degree.
Be warned, spellcheck is NOT the be-all and end-all. It has been known to make mistakes. Do not trust it. Check over your piece manually, then check again, just to be sure. If you don’t have the formal qualifications in English or creative writing, then read about the craft.
There are plenty of books on structure and style, punctuation and grammar.
Read them…read them carefully, and then read them again.
Many lauded writers have put out books on the process; Stephen King’s On Writing, Richard Laymon’s A Writer’s Tale…there are many, depending on your chosen genre.
Read them…then read them again, as well.
Know your craft.
Editors and slush-readers will always notice grammatical and spelling errors. They most likely won’t be impressed, either.

3) Spelling, grammar and punctuation on your FB page/blog/website

I see this all the time, and it annoys me to no end. People calling themselves authors while making the most basic errors in English on their page/website/blog. There, their and they’re, all mixed up and out of place; your and you’re in blatant disregard for their intended use; too many ‘too’ and not enough ‘to’; commas missing, words misspelt, basic stuff that a quick edit/reread of your piece should pick up.
In my case, semi and full colons are my kryptonite, so any error in the previous sentence is completely my fault…mea culpa.

4) Text talk

In messages and posts on blogs, and in comments on threads at social sites, I see it all the time.
‘Hi thr. How R U. Lov’n ths stuff. Gr8 wrk. Chcek out my blog. THX!’
This is not a good look.
This is more of a pet peeve with me…I’m not sure how others look upon this practice, but it annoys the hell out of me. Language is our tool, people. Do you see tradesmen misusing their tools outside of work? Imagine if soldiers went around drunk and shooting up the place while on leave? If people see you disrespecting your trade’s tools in any way, it probably doesn’t look like you are as qualified or as professional as they would like you to be.

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This is my current list of ‘Things to Avoid’; I’m sure I will think of more and amend this list soon.
Again, these are all just my own personal opinions, but isn’t that what blogs are for?

 

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CHIMERA ~ Teaser Preview

Artwork by Nathan

With only minutes to live, Charles Grevillea lounged on one of the form-fitting leather settees in the break room, trying to relax a bit before he headed back to the labs. Well-decorated and comfortable, the room was nearly full of Cantrell employees on their dinner breaks. Sipping carefully from a hot cup of tea, he looked around at his co-workers and colleagues. Why was it that the most intelligent people really did look like classic nerds from the sitcoms and tele-movies? Sure, there were exceptions, but more often than not looks and intellect didn’t seem to be able to co-exist. Such philosophical waxing was not uncommon for Charles, who considered himself a romantic at heart and often wondered about the human conundrum. Was the lower intellect so often found in beautiful people a result of a subconscious awareness on their part of not having to study to be successful, or was there a definite genetic link? The best looking girls in the entire facility were office workers and bureaucrats; there were three women on the science staff, but all of them were dogs. The only thing he knew from this line of thought was to never marry a scientist.
He’d have a biscuit while his tea cooled, he decided. Leave the abstract thought for his down-time. This was only a short break in what was proving to be a marathon of clinical trials. For now, he needed to work out a way to make sure that after infection, the virion went untroubled by antibodies while travelling to the target cells of the host organism. Charles knew it was just a matter of time and he’d work it out. He was good at his job. That was why Cantrell paid him so much.
What was that racket outside the room?
Muffled thuds and raised voices were barely discernible from out in the corridor. Probably some guys from the security team performing their macho male-bonding routines.
As he reached for the plate of shortbreads on the table, the door to the room flew open with a crash, revealing his worst nightmare come to life. Test subjects, three of them, rushed into the room, grabbing at researchers and admin staff with vicious swipes of their clawed hands. Dry and shrivelled looking, they appeared almost like mummies sans bandages, but moved with devilish speed and aggression. Standing as tall as a man, there was no other resemblance between these horrors and what they had been before the infection had mutated their bodies and removed all sensation except hunger and blood-lust.
How did they escape from the containment area?
As one, the three entities attacked the nearest employees; a few had tried to back away but the majority stood and stared, transfixed as though convincing themselves that their senses were lying and the damned things weren’t even there.
Fat Franny, the haematologist from Brisbane, was seized by rough, clawed hands, killed, and then tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage, internal organs hanging freely from a huge tear right across her abdomen and her blood pumping freely, turning her white lab coat into a scarlet horror; Wenzel Baker, one of the virologists on loan from England, had his right arm torn from his body and tossed across the room, spraying more blood over the walls; Peter Georgiou, the security chief who hosted late night poker parties – he had invited Charles to many of them – was missing his head: the only way Charles knew him was by the fancy magnum pistol holstered at his right side, untouched before the unfortunate guy was eviscerated by claws too sharp and terrible to be natural.
Leaping to his feet, Grevillea turned and moved towards the door at the back of the break room, fast but hopefully not so fast as to attract the attention of the entities. Sweat formed on his brow as fear ate away at him, causing him to tremble from the adrenaline his body was pumping into his system.
Almost there…almost…
As he reached for the keypad to open the portal, a great weight slammed onto his back, propelling him forward to smash his head against the door. As darkness and terrible pain claimed him, Charles’ last thoughts were that this was so unfair. He shouldn’t die like this!

* * *


The stink of death hung heavy in the air of the break-room, the smell of evacuated bowels and pools of urine mixed with offal. The screams and cries of agony that filled the air moments ago had ended, abruptly in a few cases, and all that remained to be heard was the crunch of bones and the tearing of flesh as the creatures attempted to sate their hunger. No-one remained to bear witness to the feast, at least not in person. The closed circuit TV cameras high on the walls continued to whirr, transmitting the devastation to horrified eyes not too far away.
The entities finished tearing meat free from the carcasses; all the flesh had been eaten, along with soft tissue and internal organs. All that remained of the victims were piles of clothes and shoes that had been torn away and mixed with inedible body parts, such as skulls that had been cracked open to reach the gooey bits inside. The creatures lost interest in the room after that, creeping slowly back out into the hallway, searching for more prey. Outside in the corridor they skulked away, senses alert and questing as they shuffled out of sight. The cameras continued to pan the room as though nothing had happened, while unbelieving eyes stared in horror at the visceral mess shown on the screens half a kilometre to the north of the labs.
Hell had descended on the facility, and no-one could hear the screams.

REVIEWS: Rotten Little Animals & Archelon Ranch

ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS by Kevin Shamel
Published 2009 – Eraserhead Press/108p/Trade Paperback
More Information and Purchasing Options HERE
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Synopsis:
Animals are people too! And that is messed up. So they have independent cinema.
See what happens when an animal film crew kidnap a human boy and make a movie of the abduction. Read things about Nature that just aren’t natural. Fear your pets from this day forward. With zombie-cat attacks, gun-blasting massacres, drugged-out puppet shows, exploding car chases, camera-chickens, bat acrobats, wild sex, martini parties and torture, Rotten Little Animals is a crazy ride through the underground animal film scene and on to the Big Time.
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Kevin Shamel is a newcomer to the bizarro genre, this being his first published work of any length. Eraserhead has published this first book of his under the New Bizarro Author Series, an imprint to allow new authors a chance to show their stuff. The catch is that if the book doesn’t sell enough copies (no number specified), then Eraserhead will never again publish that author. This is all fine and good until you read RLA. You then realise that this author is good. Very good. All of a sudden you find yourself wondering how many does he need to sell to make sure he gets another deal? I wondered. And I said to myself I will find this out, and I will do my best to ensure he sells this many copies, because this author is good!
RLA deals with the exploits of a group of animals, talking animals, that are making an animal horror flick. This apparently goes on all the time in the animal world, as they have their own society and their own secret world. The secret is kept by The Law. The Law states that any human that discovers this little factoid is killed.
This group of zombie-film makers are discovered by a boy, and all Hell breaks loose. The boy is captured and then exploited to make a movie about making a movie. This is the story of that boy’s experiences and the ramifications of his discovery. The book with the story of the movie of the making of the movie, if you will…
The twists and turns that eventuate throughout the story take us on a thrilling and degrading journey into the foul and disgusting minds of some very cute little animals.
Now I hate them all. I hate cats, I hate dogs, I especially hate pigs and I most likely hate marsupials, although none featured in RLA.
Thanks, Kevin Shamel. I used to love animals. Now I don’t. At least not the ones you write about.
7.5/10


ARCHELON RANCH by Garrett Cook
Published 2009 – LegumeMan Books/ 116p/Trade Paperback
More Information and Purchasing Options HERE
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Synopsis:
In an overgrown, primeval, jungle-city state, Bernard is a test subject for science experiments. His father and Professor Sagramour have been injecting him with hallucinogenic mud and reality affirming drugs so that one day man will be immune to the insanity inducing, zombifying sentient green mud that is choking the suburbs. But Bernard is beginning to display side effects. Experiencing greater and greater levels of Objectivity cause his consciousness to become one with entities as diverse as pterosaurs and martinis. In the mind of the tyrannosaurus he hears the call of Archelon Ranch, a primal paradise like no other. Will Bernard’s unique talents be enough to get him out of the senseless prehistoric cyberpunk city or will dinosaurs, Sagramour’s Standardizers and the desire to lose himself in other entities be too much?

Alternate Synopsis:
My name is Clyde and this is not my story. I’m supposed to be an extra in my brother’s life. In fact if I hadn’t been sneaky enough to assert my existence on the page, I wouldn’t exist at all. I was a ne’erdowell raptor spray salesman, trading bananas and heroin to orangutans and selling my extra raptor gas to school children. Then one day, I discovered Narrativism. I realized that we were all living inside a book, a book by pretentious Bizarro pulp hack and perennial sad-sack, Garrett Cook. And after that, I discovered something else: that my oft-tortured brother, Bernard, was actually the protagonist of this book, Archelon Ranch. So, I help the guy escape and what does he do? He forgets me, that’s what! Well, I’m not going to take it. This is not my story, but my story’s going to eat this story alive. I’ll be the one at Archelon Ranch and Garrett Cook and Bernard and their plans…
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Archelon Ranch is a story within (or should that be without?) a story. On the first level, you have Bernard, a quiet and inoffensive protagonist who is subjected to horrifying bouts of Objectivity due to his father’s insane experiments. And then you have Clyde, the narrator. His story blends seamlessly with Bernard’s, and both don’t so much cross over into the bizarre as begin there and get progressively more strange as they go. Both surreal and strange, AR strikes a nice balance between the two stories intertwined within this slim volume. Bernard’s story is the main drama, with Clyde’s almost being the story of the structure of Bernard’s story. Clyde is concerned with narrative and the finale, with reaching the mythical realm of the title, Archelon Ranch, a place of peace and tranquillity, where raptors and t-rex don’t stalk the streets seeking fodder and validation and where Police Triceratops aren’t needed to protect the populace from the predations of various ravenous carnivores. Clyde discovers a secret early on in the tale, something that causes him to take unforeseen action to determine the fates of both himself and his brother, Bernard.
The self-insertion by the author jumped me out of the flow a little, but it was handled well and wasn’t self-promoting at all, unlike most examples of this technique.
Even though AR comes across as a little pretentious and aimed at the literati, I enjoyed this book immensely once I got my head around the layers of the story and how they all slung together. I think others will enjoy this as much as I did. 7/10
Cook is the author of the ongoing Murderland series, with the first two instalments out now, and the bizarro-noir Jimmy Plush: Teddybear Detective, also available now.
Keep an eye on this writer, he is going places. Let’s just hope it’s not the Sunnybrook Asylum…