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About Geoff Smith

I am an English teacher, tutor and aspiring writer

An experiment this week. The diary is a video. I (ramble) talk about editing, covers, instafreebie and wattpad...
I thought it would be quicker. It isn't. P'raps audio next time, like Jon Cronshaw is doing.

I'm not sure whether it comes across but I'm feeling pretty down in the dumps right now. I had hoped to publish at the beginning of November...

And I wonder whether I am wasting my time doing anything except editing.

Well. That makes me cringe. Not sure how long this will be up!

Instafreebie is doing good work. I've got 41 subscribers on Mailerlite from the Instafreebie group promotion. Not great numbers but it is short fiction and numbers are still numbers after all. I'm a bit sceptical too about t

My short stories on Instafreebie

he quality of these leads. But you know, it's all good stuff and I'm happy.

I had a go at recording myself reading the opening of my novel in a girlie voice. I've done this for two reasons. One: I want my book to stand out on WattPad, and I figure that audio might make it 'stickier'. Two: with one eye on the future audiobook narration might be something I'm interested in.

Now this was recorded on my phone in one take so the quality of the recording (and of the performance!) isn't great, but I don't think this is embarrassing as a first attempt. I can always redo them later. Plus reading aloud helps me to spot bits that sound rubbish!

Speaking of WattPad, Jeff Bond (American Jeff) is continuing to read and seems to like it still. ABCtales is still a good testing ground – though pretty much no one is reading it there either. To be fair I am not reading much of people's stuff.

I've got a you comment on mine and I'll read and comment on yours policy, and that seems fair and responsible to me. So if you read my stuff... give us a comment. Go on.

Editing is SLOW! My first draft is terrible. I wonder if next time I might write in the morning and edit at night. So that the first draft is a bit better next time!









 

Hi all.

Well my plan was to launch The Golden Arcade in a month. Well that aint gonna happen. I'll be lucky if I finish the redraft by then. Oh and the cover isn'tdone either. I'm suddenly starting to panic!

Well let's talk covers. I got this cover for 1$ from Canva and I'm using it on ABCTales and WattPad. I like it. I don't feel ashamed of it and it's definitely worth 1$. My concerns are that it's good, but not amazing. Not like the cover of Tom Trott's book which is the kind of cover I dream of.

It's by a guy called Tommy Pocket. I think he's amazing, an incredible designer. But I don't think I can afford him. I've been working on and off on a self-made cover and I'm doing it all wrong. I listened to J.Daniel Sawyer recently talking about the mistake he made of designing book covers from the 1970s, and I think I might be making the same mistake.

I really want a cover like the old Elmore Leonard books but modernised. Here's Leonard and the one I've been working on. Sorry. Mine's a bit shit. Please tell me you think so too, because I can sense myself dying to become deluded about my talent (or lack of it).

Classic Elmore Leonard cover
My 'Elmore' style cover so far...

Every day has been an editing day but it's painfully slow. I'm closing in on the middle of the book, and I haven't written the new email sections  that I need to keep the structure and the Granddad relationship going.  I am looking forward to writing book two, where I will be good with the structure before I start. The good news is that I think it's a pretty good book. And... I've got a reader!

THANK YOU JEFF BOND.

Jeff has been reading my book on WattPad, and so far he seems to like it, and it's made me feel great to find someone who is my target audience – who sees the book as I do.

Feeling very positive about it.

Instafreebie is starting to roll for me. I'm giving away 'The Wild Charge' stories. I've got about 25 contacts from it. I'm in this group giveaway here:

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/RHTd3Byr9HqRNpVzZQcA

And as you can see I am being left for dead by the naughty erotica guys and the saucy erotica girls. I guess that's just how it goes. And the contacts certainly aren't flying in... we'll see. All free so far, so who's complaining?

Finally. I heard about Quu on the Create If Writing podcast. It's a tool that automates your social media for free. It curates content. So far I'm impressed... I just wish I had time to read all the articles I post!

That's all folks.
Geoff.









 

Well first up this week I've decided to move my blog diary day from Monday to Tuesday. This is because I am posting episodes of The Golden Arcade on Wattpad and ABCTales on Mondays and Thursdays, and doing that and this, all on a Monday. Well it was too much.

Sometimes, daft things surprise you. By far the most exciting thing that happened to me this week was that I got mentioned on my absolute favourite Podcast. Yes I got name-dropped by the amazing Mr Paul Teague on this week's Paul's Podcast Diaries. And how did I do it you ask? Just a couple of daft tweets. And here they are:

And twenty minutes later ...

Next time I hope it can be because of something a bit less virtual. And here's Paul.  Thanks so much. It made my day.

Anyway, last week I was praising the feedback I was getting on ABC. Well that seems to have dried up. I'm still getting a few comments but it's not as wonderful as it was to start. And Wattpad? Well I'm not featured. I'm wondering if I can ask. But at the same time I'd quite like to get some 'organic' growth going.

KM Weiland's podcast this week talks about the negative energy of social media. And boy I know what she means. Wattpad does not feel like a level playing field. It's democratic but curated, and for me you get the worst of both worlds. My dad checked my book but couldn't find it even with my name and the title! I'm going to persevere. Perhaps I'll change my mind.

I've signed up to Instafreebie as well. You get thirty days for free, but I am planning to stay on board for a couple of months. I've listened to Jon Cronshaw and I've created a separate mailing list for all the lovely free(down)loaders. And we'll see how responsive they end up being. I don't expect great things, but I do want to find ways to build a list before the big release.

The things I haven't got time for:

- Writing blog posts that I could whack on Medium
- Producing study guides
- Making genre specific quotation graphics
- Reading
- Redesigning my blog graphics
- Sleeping
- All the other stuff I can't remember.

Oh, schools in full flow again right now – and God there's nothing like teaching to make you feel that you're not doing enough, aren't good enough...









 

Clumsy metaphors are meat and drink to all of us - right?

Well I've just finished my first pass of the first act of 'The Golden Arcade'. I've made some pretty big changes. I originally had a bunch of flashbacks through the first half of the novel (before I changed my mind).

So I've changed the structure a bit and put in some epistolary stuff, that I think works and tightens the focus on the main plot as well - I think. Anyway, the result of this is that I have cut some scenes and what I've replaced the scenes with are significantly shorter.

The first act has shrunk from 25,000 to 19,500, and I'm a bit worried I might upset the balance of the novel with a short first act. But I guess only time and a better focus on editing will tell.

I'm going to ask some people to give me some expert advice and feedback on the first act. If you read this and fancy it then drop me a line. Tweet me. @geoffsmithbooks . Though I expect to self-publish, I do plan to send the first act out to a couple of agents and publishers - just to see if there's any interest.

Other stuff. I've stuck some short stories up on Amazon. You can nose at it below. I don't really want anyone to buy it. I've set it up as a giveaway on my website - www.oncewewerefiction.com . I've set the forms up on Mailerlite (thanks to Euan Lawson for that one). I'm going to work on some blog posts that will go up closer to release to hopefully get a little attention.

Finally I've been working on a study guide for 'An Inspector Calls' That I think could be a pretty effective lead magnet for the YA adult Crime Crossover audiece I'm aiming for. But it's proving to be hard work.

Finally, I am thinking about posting this early draft on WattPadd and maybe ABCtales, and possibly Medium (do they allow that?) the former for lead generation and the latter for additional beta advice.

Any thoughts on these strategies readers ? All of these ideas may be terrible.

NEXT DIARY BLOG coming on the 18th of September









 

Well, I've been getting down with the editing of The Golden Arcade and it's slow work. The beginning of the novel needed some real work and I'd like to thank my friend Lizzie Hall for pointing out some of the problems with the first draft. She clued me up on some stuff that I wouldn't have seen if I'd had no feedback at all.

Some of these issues are easy to fix - like character names - others were harder - a whole scene with absolutely necessary content. Lizzie also had a problem with the setting. I haven't changed the setting. I've kept i. It's Margate. I love it and I know it a bit.

What I have done is make it less intrusive - and I think that has solved the problem.

And that's the thing about editing, It's the hardest thing in the world to do, unless you're doing a simple line edit. But hell, solving big problems is also really rewarding. And it's teaching me so much about writing.

My novel has quite a complex structure - which I like. Initially I began with flashbacks as a means of adding backstory and theme, but these petered out in the second half of the novel. So I'm replacing and rewriting these flashbacks with email correspondences. These are so much BETTER!

I am conveying character, values, relationships and backstory all in a way that links to the main plot arc.

I just wish it wasn't so damned hard. So damned slow.









 

Get those An Inspector Calls quotes fixed in your head!

 
An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley is a classic GCSE text. And if you do the AQA qualification, you'll get a choice of two questions. On of these is likely to be character based and the other character based. What follows is a quiz based on the sixteen quotes I use with my GCSE classes.

It's not a perfect list. It's not comprehensive. But I am pretty convinced that it will allow you to answer one of the two questions whatever comes up.

Question #1: What does Mr. Birling want himself and Gerald to work for?

Both Birling and Gerald Croft look to combine their companies to make money without considering the effect this will have on their workers.

Question #2: What does Mr. Birling say during his long speech to his children in Act One?

Mr. Birling says the Titanic is unsinkable. This shows that he does not understand the world as well as he thinks he does.

Question #3: Birling laughs at the socialists by saying that they think people are…

Birling's image actually shows how working together like bees can make things better for everyone.

Question #4: How did Eva Smith commit suicide?

The disinfectant is symbolic. Eva has to cleanse the infection of the capitalism that has destroyed her.

Question #5: Which of these things does Birling say about Eva Smith?

There is nothing wrong with Eva Smith's work. She is sacked purely because she asked for a small pay rise for her and her fellow workers.

Question #6: What does Shiela realise about young female workers like Eva Smith?

The fundamental error of Birling and his kind is to view people as figures on a balance sheet and not fully human .

Question #7: What does the Inspector say he is interested in?

The Inspector follows one line of inquiry at a time to show that we are all responsible for our own part in society and that we cannot hide behind the excuse that others are also behaving selfishly.

Question #8: What does Shiela say the Inspector is giving them?

Sheila recognises that the Birlings and Gerald are all guilty - the metaphor implies that she recognises that their behaviour is morally unacceptable.

Question #9: What doesn’t Mrs Birling like about Eva Smith?

Mrs Birling has no rational reason to dislike Eva. She believes she has the right to control Eva's future.

Question #10: What do we find out about Eric on the night he spends with Eva?

Eric unwittingly exploits Eva's vulnerability.

Question #11: How many Eva Smiths does the Inspector say there are?

Eva Smith is a symbol for the entire mistreated working class.

Question #12: What does the Inspector threaten those who will not learn their lesson with?

There is a dual threat of revolution and damnation.

Question #13: What does Birling call the Inspector after he leaves?

Birling dismisses the Inspector as a socialist and a crank, but we, the audience can see that he is in the wrong.

Question #14: What does Birling say when he realises that Inspecctor Goole was not a real police inspector?

Mr Birling is delighted that the Inspector was not 'real'. This shows that he has not learned his lesson and feels no remorse.

Question #15: What is Sheila’s reaction to the behaviour of her father and Gerald at the end of the play?

Sheila, like Eric has come to recognise that we are all responsible for each other. She is shocked that her father and Gerald cannot see this.

Question #16: What does Birling say to end the play?

There is a circular structure. The play ends on the word 'questions' , inviting the audience to consider their own lives.

So, how did you do? Keep coming back and you'll have it down in no time and smash that GCSE.

A couple of tips before you go:
1. There really is just one theme.
The play is about social responsibility. It is intended to show us that we have a moral duty to look after each other and to ensure that self-interest is kept in check.

2. The Inspector's final speech.
The Inspector's final speech towards the end of act 2 is soooo important! Here Priestley tells us exactly what the play is about. You can write a paragraph about the Inspector's final speech in almost any theme based question.

Once we were fiction is a blog by writer and teacher, Geoff Smith.







 

We went to Sizewell this week. Camping. It was a lot of fun and I've got to admit I thought the nuclear power station looked really, well, powerful I suppose. And it's big blockiness reminded me of my own little block. And the massive, faceless building made me thing about writing a novel. It's not just a blank page. It's grey. It's huge. It's intimidating. And when you stand looking at the outside you have no idea what there is beneath its grey-blank skin.

This week I wrote about 2500 words. I discovered the target feature on Scrivener. I tried the pomodora (no idea how to spell that) with my marking. And I'll try it with my writing when I get up tomorrow morning.

And so I set about conquering my writer's block by paying attention to  the stuff under the skin. Plotting. I came to realise what I think I knew anyway. The barrier was that I hadn't planned my plot enough. So I did some of that. Just a couple of sentences about each scene, and now I can see beyond the towering concrete. And I think I know what to do. I feel more positive about getting back to target. I really want to finish the first draft by the end of the month.

So I've done that and I feel more secure. One lesson that I've learned with this draft is that I really need to plot in as much detail as possible next time. I can 'pants' short stories but for the long haul stuff I really need an extensive scaffold.

I did do some plotting. I've used KM Weiland's plot points and character interviews (which I will definitely do again) and mixed that up with a bit of StoryGrid foolscap. But these aren't enough for me on there own. Next time everything needs to be much more something.

I wrote my bad guy's big speech this week. And as an English teacher I quite like seeing different themes and possible interpretations emerging. I aint saying they work yet, or if they ever will, but I can see the potential.

Anyhoo, onwards and upwards. Time to start cranking out the words.







 

MY WRITING REPORT FOR THIS WEEK
Word Count - it's not complicated; it's practically non-existent.
I've been finding it hard to focus on writing this week and when I do I make little progress. I think this is for a number of reasons:
1 - fear of completing it and it being shit.
2 - being distracted by other ideas.
3 - being exhausted in exam season.
4 - Not having planned the third act properly.
Hmmm - yeah I'm definitely not a free-writer that's the take hoe of this week. When I wrote I wrote nothing and I figure that was because aside from the ending I had little idea about how the third act would go.
Word count aside - a friend of mine read the first half of the first draft. She hates all the names of the characters - which is fixable, and she hates the setting (Margate) which isn't. She also hates a key scene where the antagonist is introduced - there are other problems too, some of which I knew about (introducing protagonist effectively) and she liked my ideas about altering my approach to the flashback scenes.

Come to think of it:
5 - fear of completing the novel while knowing that there will be some major rewriting to undertake.

Anything else?
Honestly... I am worried about my protagonist being too bland.
Oh and you can get some Marvel Comics for 99p on the Kindle. I downloaded the Dr. Doom origin story and started reading it with my four year old - it was on the razor edge of appropriate I admit, but he loved it and they look great electronically.
Every dad ought to take a look - I love The Fantastic Four by the way - It's Clobberin' Time!

Geoff Smith







 

You'll enjoy 'Lock In' if:

  • You are 14 or over.
  • You like sci-fi and social dystopias like 'Noughts and Crosses'.
  • You like a fast pace with plenty of dialogue.

In 'Lock In' a new virus has swept the planet leaving a portion of the population in a comatose state but with a fully operant consciousness. Thanks to technological investment, these Hadens can access society through human like robots called threeps. Some of these Hadens recover with the ability to allow other Hadens to use their bodies. These people are called integrators.

The book begins with a murder involving an integrator, and Chris Shane, a Haden detective living through a threep and new partner a former integrator called Vann set out to solve the crime.

What follows is combination of 'I, Robot' style speculative fiction and 'Maltese Falcon' style crime caper – two genres that I love. And I enjoyed the action scenes. I also liked the way the book tackled themes of ethnicity and of the marginalisation of minorities.

Later the plot did enough to keep me interested, but the book didn't do enough to get me enthralled. There was some sense of character, but I didn't really click with Scalzi's voices. With his heavy focus on dialogue (which I generally like, I didn't feel that the characters' individual voices were sufficiently differentiated, and the book, for me lacked a bit of texture.

I read another review of 'Lock In' that cites a 'Scooby Doo' ending and while I did enjoy the definite resolution, I do feel that this is a pretty astute observation.

Having finished the book,, I did enjoy it, but it's not one that I think a whole lot about. I may read more Scalzi. I may not.

I read this on kindle, and the formatting was pretty, but there were a lot of errors with the paragraphing. These don't bother me massively. But be warned if they're likely to bother you.

OWWF Rating: 6/10