Writing about Writing


New Project – First or Third Person?

For the past few months, I’ve been planning a new writing project. I say project instead of novel because this idea is more than one novel, more than two or even three. I’m envisioning something more akin to a Dresden Files or Walking Dead type series.

But there is one thing that I’ve gotten hung up on, and that’s the decision on what perspective to write from.

The vast majority of fiction writing I’ve done has been third person. Because that’s what I grew up reading. On the rare occasions I read a book with a first person perspective it felt like a jarring transition, like I was being forced into something unnatural and certainly not comfortable. It would take me several chapters to get past it, and then I always ran back to third person for the next book.

Nowadays, I read a better mix, and I’ve gotten comfortable with the perspective changes. But I still have a compulsion to write in third person. And I’m forced to ask myself, do I want this because it suits the narrative? Or because it suits me?

I wrote a few chapters for my new project, as a test to see how the concept felt. I wrote it in first person. The whole time I kept asking myself, “Is this right? Should I switch?’ Will it work for future novels?”

I enjoyed the test chapters and definitely think the idea is worth exploring. But as I ready myself to restart from scratch, I’m stuck facing two doors. Do I go with the first person concept I originally based the idea on? Or go to what I’m comfortable with?

The reason I originally decided on first person is because I was partially inspired by Dresden Files. For those not familiar, Dresden Files is a series of first person novels written from the perspective of a wizard named Harry Dresden. I like that the novels are relatively small, fast-paced, and offer a consistent perspective. By not switching between characters all the time, the novels are able to keep a good pace and the story lines are small enough to not get boring. A bonus of it being an ongoing series is the ability to introduce serialized elements as well. There’s a lot to like structurally about this series, and hence my attraction.

Also, I’ve noticed what seems to be a bias toward first person in a lot of writers I’ve come across recently. A writing course I did a few years ago was run by a published author that insisted first person is the only way to go, and anything else was a sign of a weak writer. I’ve seen similar opinions on various writing blogs I’ve perused, as well. The main argument seems to be the immediacy offered by telling the story from the mouth of the protagonist. Descriptions of events, feelings, and more all benefit from not having the extra layer of separation third person creates.

While I understand the arguments, I don’t necessarily agree with them all the time. I did, after all, write What Dark Passages in third person.

For me, a huge benefit of third person is the freedom it offers. There are types of third person where the narrator makes his own thoughts known, and speaks with a voice that seems to know what’s coming. IE: “It would be the last time they ever spoke.”. Or there is the style I like to use, where even though the writing is third person, the perspective and thoughts still belong to the character, not the narrator. In this way, the ‘outside’ narrator is meant to become basically non-existent, making it much closer to a first person style in terms of immediacy and connection to the characters actual thoughts and feelings.

When I look at my next project, I need to ask myself, what does the story demand? Am I going to start with one character and run with that character’s perspective only for the entire series? If that’s the case, I should probably go first person.

Do I plan on introducing multiple characters and switch scenes between them? Then third person.

But maybe there is a third option, one I grew to love while reading the Drizzt Do’Urden books by RA Salvatore. Third person, but with first person added in specific sections. In them, the bulk of the novel is written in third person. But where it differs is the first person introductions (like a diary) at the beginning of each major section of narrative. This is a technique that I’ve always loved because it offers the freedom of third person while giving the extra benefit of first person where it can impact the story the most.

And truthfully, the more I think about it, the more I’m leaning towards that style for my project.

l free to leave me your thoughts on what style you prefer and why.


Getting Out There

I haven’t written a post here since December, and for that I apologize. I did, however, have an absolutely glorious 5 week holiday that included time in Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

Since coming back though, I’ve been fortunate enough to pull off a few successful promotions for my novel What Dark Passages.

The first was an author signing session at Murchies. For those who aren’t familiar, Murchies is a chain of stores that sells tea and coffee and some locations – the one I was at included – have cafe’s in them as well. I worked out a deal with management where we bundled the book with two small boxes of tea – Library and Editor’s Blend – for the package price of $19.99. I was there for 5 hours on a Saturday, normally a busy time. However the weather decided to be stupendously good and the mall ended up being rather dead. That’s ok, though, because I still managed to sell 8 books. Even though I’m not a social person, I did enjoy talking to people about the book and it made me more than a little happy every time someone bought one.

The second was a bit of a surprise. The Mrs has been sending emails out to various local newspapers and morning shows since November and one finally replied. A reporter for the New Westminster NewsLeader emailed back asking for more information. After exchanging a few emails, we set up a meeting.

In a lot of ways, that meeting was a surreal experience. I thought to myself “There is a reporter here. Interviewing me. For the newspaper. About something I did.  Wow!”. I don’t mean this in an egoist way, because I don’t. I mean it in a sort of ‘holy crap someone is interested in a nobody like me’ kind of way.  Just shock and a whole lot of apprehension at putting even a tiny part of myself into a spotlight for others to see.

The end result was this story.

A few notes about the story/picture.

– Yes, those are socks sticking out from my jeans. I really didn’t think my feet would be in the picture so I didn’t bother putting shoes on. Next time (if there is a next time!), I’ll put shoes on regardless.

– He took a few liberties in the article. For example, I knew I was going to self-publish right from the beginning, and never applied to any publishers. I’m pretty sure the ‘sting of rejection’ was added for dramatic flair. But it isn’t factual.

– I wonder about some of my wording. Like editing a book, I wish I could tweak the dialogue to make sure it’s just right. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but I think I could have done better.

Overall I’m really happy with the story and it was super cool to see my face on the cover of our local newspaper! Especially on Wednesday when I sat down on my 5:30am bus, looked over, and saw my face plastered on the page and a guy reading the article about me. One of those moments I’ll remember for a long time.

Where have I been?

I haven’t been able to post to this blog yet in December, and for that I apologize. But I have an excuse!

I bought a Beer Advent Calendar made by two local breweries – Parallel 49 and Central City, and I’ve been blogging every day about the beers I’m finding in the box! If you’re interested in checking it out, head on over to Vanfoodies.com and take a look!

Here’s a quick link to the Craft Beer section where I post my blogs: http://vanfoodies.com/category/craft-beer-series/


Getting an ISBN in Canada

Today I thought I would look back at one of the pre-publishing steps – Getting an ISBN.

Getting an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), is one of the final steps before publishing. Without one, it’s basically impossible to sell the book! For example, Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace will not publish a book without an ISBN (Createspace even gives you an option to get an ISBN directly from them).

Different countries have different processes for getting an ISBN. Being Canadian, I used The Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS), part of Library and Archives Canada.

The first thing I had to do was join CISS. Originally, I thought this would be something akin to creating an account on any website – 5 minutes and Boom, account created. Then I’d have to apply for an ISBN and wait who knows how long for that. But I was wrong.

Instead of just registering as an author, I was registering as a publisher. Then when I was done I received a notification that my account would need 5-10 business days to be validated and approved. Yikes, wasn’t expecting that!

As luck would have it, though, it took approximately 1 business day to validate my account. What? This is a branch of the government we’re talking about? I won’t lie, I thought 5-10 business days was going to be government speak for 1-2 months. So huge props to whoever is running CISS so efficiently! From that point, getting an ISBN was as easy as could be, thanks to some extra help from CISS in the form of a very detailed email.

It turns out the website is going to be overhauled in a few months, drastically streamlining the ISBN application process. This is a really good thing, because that form looked pretty complicated, and I would have had no idea what to put down for half of the questions.

Fortunately, CISS is aware of this, and sent out a helpful email letting me know I could ignore most of the questions and only needed to fill in a select few fields. I must say, I’m really happy they took the extra step to send that info out along with my registration approval because it made the ISBN registration very quick and painless.

An important note for anyone planning to release a book in both paperback and ebook – you need two ISBN’s – one for each version. This is super easy though, you just fill out a form for each one and the only difference is an ebook is “Electronic Book Text” in the Product Form drop down menu instead of “Book”.

And that’s it!  All done! The ISBN’s were generated immediately because I was already assigned an ISBN prefix when my publisher account was approved. As a result the entire process ended up taking far less time than I anticipated, was totally free, and I was able to publish earlier than I’d planned.

Fighting the Urge

Now that What Dark Passages is available on Amazon both in ebook and paperback, I’m afflicted by a powerful compulsion to constantly check the sales graph.

I clearly remember seeing the first ebook sale on the Kindle Direct Publishing reports graph. I knew exactly who bought it, but it still resulted in a rush of excitement. It’s happening, I’m selling my book! Then the second one sold. I knew who that was too, and it still felt just as good. The feeling was addictive.

Now I wake up in the morning – did I sell anything last night? Go on break at work – any new sales? Get home from work – I wonder if I have any sales in the last 3 hours? You get the idea. It’s become one of those ‘a watched pot never boils’ kind of situations.

Taken in context, my overall sales haven’t been bad, but checking every couple hours definitely isn’t healthy. Every time I log in and see no change I feel a small burst of sadness. It’s probably not rational, but it is there all the same. Those small bursts can add up to the point where they overshadow the accomplishment.

So I’m fighting the urge to check. It’s been hard, but I’ve reduced my sales checks from 4 or 5 times a day down to 1 a day. I’m feeling a lot more relaxed about it. The sales will come when they come, regardless how often I look.

1 Year Anniversary and Big Announcement!

For my 1 Year Blogiversary I have something special to say:

I’m happy to announce my novel, What Dark Passages, is now available for purchase worldwide on Amazon. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

It is currently available only as an Ebook, but a paperback edition is forthcoming (and I will be dedicating a blog post to that process).

I’d like to send out a huge thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my little corner of the internet and hey, if you’re so inclined, you can now find me on Amazon.  Go take a look :).

More Book Covers!

I received a lot of great feedback on my last post (Thanks everyone!) and spent the last few days creating some new mock-ups.

Option #4 was the overall winner last time, receiving far and away the most votes. I kept that one, with a few modifications: I darkened the red and changed the font size and adjusted the word locations on the page a bit.

As for the new covers, I made a few using blue as the title cover instead of red. The reason is thematic. Through the novel, depression is a major theme, and depression is often linked to the colour blue. When I did my initial mock-ups a month or two ago, I nixed blue because I didn’t think it jumped from the page enough, but with the changes I’ve made to font, font size, and word location I think I could get away with it now. I still have red as an option as well, it is still easier to see and there are themes of anger in the novel as well, and yes, there is blood. Not a lot, but it’s there.

I also switched my name from the bottom to the top and moved the title to the bottom. I like this idea because my name can fit into that convenient dark spot above the light at the end of the alley and the title and sit on top of the ground. I also tried switching from a sans serif to a serif font. You’ll notice between the last two options my name dramatically decreases in size, yet in spite of that, it stands out better than it did before.

And so, here are the 5 new options.


Revamped winner from last round.

Option 1: Revamped winner from last round.

New Beta Cover 3

Option 2: Swapped name/title and changed title colour.

New Beta Cover 1

Option 3: Blue version of all left oriented design, new fonts top and bottom. Also now all caps.

New Beta Cover 1.5

Option 4: Red font version of the previous cover.

New Beta Cover 4

Option 5: Same fonts as the previous two, title centered on bottom on two lines. I really like these fonts. Is it just me or does the title stand out *slightly* better on the previous option? It’s pretty close.

Remember to let me know what you all think, and thanks for looking!


P.S. I just realized I didn’t cut/paste the images perfectly so there are white lines in some cases. My apologies. I made the files in MS Word and since WordPress won’t upload Word or PDF files as images, I print screen/pasted the images into MS Paint and made jpegs. Feel free to ignore those ugly white lines :).