Readability

There are some cool online tools to help check the details of a manuscript, including readability. Here’s how 3 WISE MEN scored (green is good):

PS: When writing a high school textbook for 15 year olds, the readability was set about the same – a target group of 12 year olds. It was heartening to have Allan, my good friend and editor, read a chapter of 3 WISE MEN to his 12 year old granddaughter and learn that she enjoyed it and wanted him to read more! Although this novel has an acceptable readability score, it still contains some complex ideas, as well as a few foreign words – suited to a more mature audience.

3 WISE MEN – the last bookend

Like two solid bookends, the finish for 3 WISE MEN was, for me, as important as the beginning – although, at first, I didn’t give it enough attention! It was during a review of the draft that I felt uneasy about the pace of the final chapter and, in particular, the last paragraph. Here are extracts from two earlier versions:

V1 (from Review #8):

The three men started to walk down the narrow path that led away from xxx to the waiting launch in xxx harbor.

They had not gone far when they all stopped and Jak turned around and looked back. Philippe, Ambroise and Laura all waved.

V2 (from Review #12):

Jak and the others turned to begin their walk from xxx to the launch waiting for them in xxx. Already, a morning glow was bathing a gentle light over a grove of twisted olives – their trunks now in stark relief against the canopy of fine leaves that flanked their path.

They had not gone far when they all stopped and turned back to enjoy one last view of the castle. Philippe, Ambroise and Laura all waved.

There was some laughter before Laura called back – her voice matching the softness of the morning.

Which one did you prefer? The first version is short and winds down the previous tension in the chapter too quickly – at least for me. The second version allows me to breathe after the previous events, and helps me feel the atmosphere of the early morning walk. However, I had to be careful to not overdo it. For example, here are two different versions of the last sentence above:

1. There was some laughter before Laura called back – her voice matching the softness of the fresh morning.
2. There was some laughter before Laura called back – her voice matching the softness of the new morning.

As an author, you get to enjoy the agony of just one word and I kept feeling unhappy about either “fresh” or “new”. In the end, I simply removed the adjective after realising that it wasn’t needed. Why not? Because the preceding word “softness” was a perfect description of the morning, so there was no need to add anything more. This minor change meant that the formatting had to be done again – both for Kindle and Amazon paperback. At least it was an easy fix and improved the bookend.

3. There was some laughter before Laura called back – her voice matching the softness of the morning.

I hope you think so too!

Thanks for reading 3 WISE MEN. All feedback is welcomed.

 

So, what happens when you come to my book launch?

I was chatting to our hostess for the book launch of 3 WISE MEN. She loved the book and is an avid reader and she had visited one of the main locations that features in 3 WISE MEN. I flipped to a paragraph and she loved it. “That’s exactly how I remember it!” she exclaimed. Now, she is enjoying the 3 WISE MEN on her Kindle and looking forward to the attending the launch – being held here:

Here’s a few goodies you can expect:
1. Good company and good food and drink. Why else would you stop off on the way home after a busy day??

2. Meet the author. Though not exciting in itself, it would be nice to meet the author and find out some inside information about 3 WISE MEN. Of course, the author will be working diligently to avoid giving away too much of the plot!

3. Meet the author’s wife. This is much more important, because she has endured month after month of reading the book, listening to fresh ideas and reading final drafts. Therefore, she is highly likely to give away something important in the plot without you having to purchase a copy to find out yourself. Then again, she may not, or may forget which bits got left out in the revisions!

4. See pictures of places and characters that were captured on camera by the author (who is also an accomplished photographer) during his research into 3 WISE MEN. While doing so, you will hear a few small extracts from the book that dovetail into the photographs to provide a seamless narrative. Well, I hope so!

5. Have the chance to win a few nifty and attractive giveaways (and not just books)! Yes, there will be some door prizes. To prepare for this here are a few suggested questions that could be asked:

* How many people loose their lives in 3 WISE MEN – one, or more than one?
* Is 3 WISE MEN really a Dan Brown book on steroids? (No, delete this vain suggestion)
* Which of these events does not happen in 3 WISE MEN – a kidnapping, a drugging, a hallucination, or a suicide?
* What classic English sports car does the protagonist’s sister drive?
* Which of these countries does not figure in 3 WISE MEN – Israel, France, Russia, Italy or New Zealand?
* Name the perfume company that features in 3 WISE MEN (that should be an easy one!)
* Approx. how many words is 3 WISE MEN – 65,000; 75,000; 85,000; or 95,000? (Hint: you would be short-changed to buy a thriller of less than 75,000 words)
* Does 3 WISE MEN mention a ‘white rabbit’, ‘3 witches’, or a ‘talking gnome’?

And so on.

6. By now, the food and wine (or juice) will have prepared you for the chance to purchase a signed copy of 3 WISE MEN for yourself – and at a great price too!!!

7. With book in hand, you head home to enjoy a great evening of reading!

What makes flaws more valuable in publishing?

Any author will tell you that errors in their final work are the scourge of editing. But, embrace them! Why? Simply because they make your work more valuable! “Really?” you, may ask. “How?” An example from 3 WISE MEN will illustrate this.

When I received the final formatted version and launched it (version 1), I had  the chance to sit and review the Kindle copy in just a few sittings. It may have been the fresh eyes, or the extra coffee, or the fact that I was on holiday, but, to me, there were too many “flaws” to be entirely happy with it; and so I did a few minor, but significant changes – changes that improved the flow and avoided repetitious phrases, etc. These changes should have been picked up during the professional editing phase. However, with the new product in front of me, I was now much more critical of the text, the characters, and the more subtle elements of style. These draft copies are the rarest and most valuable ones and they expose the weakness of self-publishing for all to see. But, they also serve as examples of the hidden power of self-publishing – the ability of an author to have a far better product in front of readers within a day or two! The alterations may have not seemed necessary but, to me, they certainly were. After a short period of rigorous review the book – version 2 – was longer by a few more pages too!

“Are you happy with it now?” asked my wife. “Yes, it is good to go!” I announced proudly as I ordered 10 “Author copies.” A few more Kindle ones were also purchased by others during our low key marketing campaign to family and friends. Then, behold, a keen reader spotted a very minor – and I mean minor – mistake. But, it was unacceptable and it was on page one! It took less than a few hours to have the correction and reformatting done. A day later, it was online ready to purchase. This (version 3 or 4) will be used at the book launch.

So, will there be any further changes? Perhaps, but I would expect them to be too subtle to really matter. For instance, the title on the front cover might move down a few millimetres, and I might alter a small amount of inside text, and perhaps add a short author bio. But don’t expect anything as major as the alterations from version 1 to version 2. The former are now – like really early collectables – super rare versions without any value. But, from a writing viewpoint, they are priceless examples of a major stepping stone in the journey of a flawed author!

First copies of 3 WISE MEN hot off the Amazon Press!

What an exciting moment – to arrive back home and unwrap the draft copies of “3 WISE MEN.” After nearly 20 months of writing, research, travel, editing and copy-editing, proofing, re-doing the manuscript, etc. it is such a privilege and joy to feel the actual book! Someone asked me recently whether I had thought about giving up on finishing this novel and, to be honest, yes – at least once! However, I always wanted to share with others what I thought was an exciting and compelling plot. It was the power of the story – the unusual circumstances that faced the humble protagonist – that kept me going! For his sake (the hapless Jak), the story needed to run its intriguing course.

Thanks again for all who contributed to this moment!!! Perhaps writing a novel is a bit like child-birth, but three times as long and less painful? I am so thankful to Jan – my wife – and to my wonderful family who have endured the long period of gestation, and numerous revisions, that this novel went through. They now share in my overwhelming joy to see it in print. And, what a wonderful cover and layout too!

My advice to wannabee writers? Never write seeking fame or fortune – write because you just have to! And, don’t wait for a literary agent to snaffle your talent – or you could be waiting forever. For example, approx. 0.029 percent of authors get signed up with a literary agent – that is about 3 per 10,000! Not an encouraging statistic, but it reinforces the mantra of most literary agents – “We can’t take a risk on an unknown author.”

While I enjoyed working with an agent on a non-fiction book a few years ago, I would have to say that Literary agents are a dying breed who seem to have little faith that a new author will supply them with the breath of inspiration that they need to stay alive. So, believe in your story, write as best you can, and then improve it to the point where you know that you must self-publish with your head held high!

PS: You can find 3 WISE MEN in Kindle and paperback versions here at Amazon

Update: The local venue for the book launch is now chosen and will be held on July 19.