Finish the Damn Book! – a review

Time for another book review in this new style post that’s not on a Thursday. And this was one of the few non-fiction reads planned for 2019. Plans are like rules, of course.

Finish the Damn Book!: An Inspirational Guide to Writing

by

Martin McConnell (Goodreads Author)

This isn’t about grammar or syntax, it’s a wake up call for anyone wanting to write a book, create artwork, or craft lyrics and poetry.

Write faster, improve faster, and create poetic prose through this iterative process.

New writers often struggle at first. Experience enhances writing ability. The only way to improve is to write more, edit more, and iterate. McConnell puts you on the fast track to developing your writing skills and gives you the motivation needed to overcome not only writers block, but to boost your productivity in all aspects of life.

The biggest obstacle to becoming an author is finishing the first draft, and that monster known as ‘writers block’ is usually the scapegoat. This book will show you how to put that monster in the corner while you crank out chapter after chapter.

It’s short, fun to read, and will leave you reaching for an ink pen by the time you’re done. Put away the distractions and excuses and finish that damn book!

Review 3.5 stars

 Finish the Damn book! is a short motivational book that was what I needed to get me back to the keyboard of creativity – well almost. It might be focused on new writers, but writers struggling with monsters like ‘writer’s block’ and ‘prevarication’ will get a kick out of the forthright lessons – a kick in the ass as the author says.

McConnell doesn’t mince his words in delivering his honest message, albeit one that some of us have heard often – and ignored. The book is neatly divided into two parts: ‘The First Draft’ and ‘Post Draft’ with useful appendices for further digging. Getting your first draft down without distractions, excuses, and evasions, is the primary goal in simple suggestions that rang true for me. Only when that first draft is finished can a writer tackle the editing phase – harder but fun.

This isn’t a writing guide with detailed steps on what to do, but a series of motivational kicks to keep you on the path of getting a book finished. Like me, other writers might find that McConnell’s productivity is daunting and some of his suggestions questionable. Yet, he advises taking what we need and discarding things that don’t fit with our approach. But there are warnings of dangers when we wander. Just don’t expect everything claimed on the tin.

This isn’t a desk-bible for me, but when I wander off-piste I will dip back in. Four stars minus 0.5 for irritating editing mistakes – like ‘reigns’ for ‘reins’. Given the author’s editing suggestions, I was surprised.

I won this book in a NaNoWriMo-related competition with no obligation to write anything – but I am grateful to Martin McConnell for sending me a copy. And my NaNo wins prove to me that there is value here.

A great line-up

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On Monday, August 7th I will be surfing the internet to launch ‘Spiral of Hooves’ – the second and improved edition, now available for the first time in paperback.

I will drop by Goodreads throughout the day but be partying over on Facebook where I have gathered a great line-up of talented authors to discuss everything from eventing to highwaymen, from Africa to England, and from inspiration and research to writing tools and marketing.

There will be drinks, cake, biscuits (or cookies) and everyone is welcome from readers, riders, writers, to horses and pets. Please feel free to invite your friends. And have fun. There will be prizes including a signed copy of ‘Spiral of Hooves’.

The novel is available as a paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.

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The Launch Party starts at 0900 MDT (0800 PDT – 1100 EDT – 1600 BST – 1700 CEST) on Facebook and the schedule opens with my welcome to the ‘Spiral of Hooves’ launch and then I will chat about my writing life and horses.

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1000 MDT (1700 BST) – Jane Bwye, has a lifetime of amazing adventures, in Kenya and other countries, and as a dressage judge, horsewoman, and author of ‘Breath of Africa’, ‘Grass Shoots’, and ‘I Lift Up My Eyes’. Visit her at https://jbwye.com/ and learn much more. Jane knows the world behind ‘Spiral of Hooves’, including many of the horse events described, and at the launch party, she will have some fascinating tales to share.

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1100 MDT – Roland Clarke is back to discuss settings and reality, and to introduce his next guest and friend.

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1130 MDT (1930 CEST) – Ailsa Abraham is a lady of many talents and careers, including shaman and author of many books including ‘Shaman’s Drum’, ‘Alchemy, and ‘Attention to Death.’ Visit her at https://ailsaabraham.com/ and delve deeper into her writing and her adventurous life in France and at the Bingerbread Cottage. At the launch party, Ailsa will lead you into her world of mystery and beyond, lifting the veil to other worlds.

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1200 MDT – Roland Clarke will return to the party and to the mysterious appearances driving our imaginations.

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1400 MDT (1600 EDT) – Donna Beckley Galanti is an author and writing coach. She is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com and then check out her 4 Proven Steps to Connect with Readers Right Now (Before Your Book Even Comes Out!) www.createyourawesomecommunity.com. At the launch party, Donna will chat about her wealth of experiences from writing to inspiring other writers and readers.

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1500 MDT – Roland Clarke will be back – if he has left – and he will discuss how he sculpts his ideas into readable draft novels, what is in his scribbling pipeline and the crafting tools he uses.

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1600 MDT (1500 PDT) – Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery series based on her experience at Panorama Mountain Village, B.C. as the director of human resources, security and guest services. The series comprises Descent, Blaze and Avalanche. Her latest novel, Look the Other Way, is a suspense thriller based on her experience sailing in the Caribbean.  Visit her at https://kristinastanley.com/ and at https://fictionary.co/ an indispensable writer’s tool. At the launch party, Kristina will discuss research and real life inspiration.

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1700 MDT – Roland Clarke will move from this world to an alternate timeline, before introducing his last guest, whose historical novel is his current engrossing read. Yes, Roland reads historical fiction and enjoys escaping to other ages.

Traitor's Knot1800 MDT (2000 EDT) – Cryssa Bazos is published by Endeavour Press, and her debut novel ‘Traitor’s Knot’, is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War. A member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Battle of Worcester Society, her articles and short stories have appeared in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs at https://cryssabazos.com/.  At the launch party, she will talk about combining two of her fascinations: the 17th century and highwaymen.

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Highwaymen must mean horses. So that sets Roland Clarke up for the final fences at 1900 MDT until 2100 MDT – a chance for you to discuss any burning topics and attempt to win a final prize.

Don’t miss the ‘Spiral of Hooves Online Re-launch’ Party on Monday, August 7th.

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Launch Minus and Counting

Equestrian thrills return on August 7th with the re-release of my first mystery set in the horse world. (Yes, there is a second in the pile of drafts.)

First published in December 2013 but out of print since I left the publisher, “Spiral of Hooves” returns in a new edition revised to address readers’ comments. For instance, one of the sub-plots was out of character so I have removed it.

Although this is a new edition of the eBook, this is the first paperback edition – by ‘popular demand’. I am preparing for the August 7th launch on social media and I am looking for some input and assistance beforehand and in the week of the launch.

  • BLURB: In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

  Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

  Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

  • Genre – Mystery-thriller
  • Tone of the book – serious but not gory
  • Target audience – young adult upwards interested in horses and mysteries

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I plan to write an ‘interview with ‘the author’ that re-lives my past before the stable door closes and I forget all the events that lead to me writing “Spiral of Hooves”. If you have any suggestions as to crucial questions I should ask myself, please ask them in the comments.

During the launch week, I would welcome other bloggers running the interview along with some blurb on the book and the cover image (as above). I can supply the post material beforehand if you let me know, either below or by sending an email via the Contact Me form.

If you would like to read an ARC [advance review copy] of the novel, I can supply one in exchange for an unbiased review. The more reviews that appear around the launch the wider the impact.

If you are on Goodreads, the Want to Read shelf is also important, so please add “Spiral of Hooves” to your shelf.

On August 7th, I will be on Goodreads to answer questions at https://www.goodreads.com/author/6828334.Roland_Clarke/questions and any asked in advance.

I will also be at https://www.facebook.com/roland.clarke.79 where I am hosting a Launch Party. If anyone is willing to co-host that event, then I would be grateful for a stand-in while I take a break on what will be a busy day.

Do you have any further suggestions that could make this a successful launch on August 7th?

The Candle

There was a single twinkling candle on my chocolate fudge sundae. One candle for another year older, if not a year healthier. Friday August 7th 2015 was a turning point – well it felt that way for my stomach.

It churned and squirmed along with my head as we drove through the lush green Welsh scenery, across the mountains between Harlech and Bodnant. I hadn’t felt so car sick since I was a child – not physically sick, just feeling rotten. Is this because I’m into my second childhood?

But the journey was worthwhile as the food was delicious at the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, which is “set in the heart of the Conwy Valley and surrounded by the stunning scenery of Snowdonia”. Best part was browsing their farm shop, and being tempted to buy some tasty treats from chili chocolate to locally sourced beef sausages. What happened to the vegetarian? Disgraceful – or not?

I did get to glimpse odd bits of the scenery on the way home. I needed to, as the fictional setting for “Fates Maelstrom” is in this locality, about 10 miles south-west of Bodnant and on the edge of Snowdonia. Through the mists of car sickness, I caught sight of some crags like the one above Crag-o-Niwl, my fictional Welsh village.

There's a crag in there somewhere! Craig Bwlch y Moch poking up out of a dense forest of rampant vegetation above Tremadog. Photo: Al Leary

There’s a crag in there somewhere! Craig Bwlch y Moch poking up out of a dense forest of rampant vegetation above Tremadog. Photo: Al Leary ~ http://www.groundupclimbing.com/newsitem.asp?nsid=185

So overall it was a good birthday, despite the childhood throwback, and a day that I won’t forget.

What next then? Well other than a birthday in Idaho on August 7th 2016. That depends on the emigration process to the USA, which entails many hurdles.

That candle also threw a light on one aspect of my writing future: where this Blog goes from here.

At the moment, I manage to blog once a month, in the IWSG monthly post on the first Wednesday. However, I feel that the posts should be more regular, for instance once a week – possibly on Monday or Tuesday.

If I go to that new schedule, then I need a new theme, as my intermittent ramblings don’t come up to scratch or muster.

There are three possibilities:

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  • Inspiring writers – a weekly blog about authors that have inspired me with their writing. The post would include my favourite books by those writers. I envisage choosing a crime/mystery writer one week, such as Dick Francis or Linwood Barclay. Then a SF/Fantasy writer the next. Like Charles de Lint or Roger Zelazny. I could intersperse these posts with interviews with published writers that I am online friends with. This is the simplest option, and more akin to the A to Z Challenge, but much more laid back.
  • Boise Skyline

    Boise Skyline ~ Copyright: http://www.visitidaho.org/photos/

    Moving to the USA – a weekly blog about the process that my wife and I are going through in trying to get to Idaho, USA. It could address the hurdles as well as the breakthroughs, and the prospects that await us. This would be more of a diary with a few suggestion for others undertaking the same expedition. I’m not sure that this would work as a weekly post, but with so many hurdles it could.

  • fd6a0b9306bea4eb33c76f2f4578481b (1)Living with Multiple Sclerosis – a weekly blog that is a chance for me to explain the condition, vent about the MonSter, and perhaps help others. Much more seat-of-the-pants than the other two, and also the disability gives me good days and bad days. Of course, I can’t help mentioning the MonSter in other posts, especially the American ones. Of course, my health is a key reason behind the move.

Of course, I could intersperse these and do one per week, choosing whatever I was inspired to write. Call it Pick-n-Mix.

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So what would you like to see me Blog about? Inspiring Writers, Moving to the USA, Living with Multiple Sclerosis, or ‘Pick-n-Mix’?

Is the Challenge over?

When I woke this morning – Tuesday September 2nd – my body refused to co-operate. I was ready to give up all my writing challenges and escape. Does that make any sense?

Maybe it doesn’t if you read my last post on here… my last Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, when I wrote about the inspiration that keeps me going. However, it’s the first Wednesday of the month again and I have the doubts and the fears that we are meant to have conquered. Seems I am back to the struggle stage.

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Writing over the last month had been more about escaping into research… and into other worlds = MMORPGs – gaming. I had great plans for September: write at least one complete story in the Gossamer Flames series every week of the month. Not a lot in comparison with the 100k in 100 days Challenge that I’m failing at miserably and as usual. But this should be so much easier as it’s over a shorter period – just a month. It’s also less intensive than the A to Z Challenge, although that inspired many of the shorts in Gossamer Flames.

Creating a story a week is one bit of pressure that I have set for myself as part of the MS Challenge that runs in September – my Support Page is at https://www.justgiving.com/ChallengeMS2761/ . And two days in I was thinking of giving up, even if it is a central part of my Life Challenge… fighting the MonSter that wants my Life but mustn’t win.

If I have written four complete tales, and edited them, by the end of the month then I will have reached one goal – although some sponsorship would be a bonus.

And thanks to a comment, I’m re-inspired. The words made me visit a fascinating blogsite, where I read a wonderful article on Spirals http://jazzfeathersjewellery.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/spirals/. Following the trail to its creative conclusion, I bought my long-suffering wife a well-deserved present.

Steampunk Heart from JazzFeathers

Steampunk Heart from JazzFeathers

In case you hadn’t realised, this is my monthly post in IWSG and the awesome co-hosts for the September 3 posting of the IWSG will be Laura at My Baffling Brain, mark Koopmans, Shah Wharton, and Sheena-Kay Graham. And it’s IWSG’s three year anniversary of posting!

Oh you were expecting something else. Were you thinking I meant the Ice Bucket Challenge when I said Challenge in the title?

Yes that has dominated the media and is a worthy cause for ALS alias motor neurone disease, another neurological nightmare. Ice Water is also meant to be good for MS, except something cold like water sends me into spasms. If challenged I would sign the cheque and be inspired by Patrick Stewart’s Ice Bucket Challenge, jst as the Huffington Post were http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/22/patrick-stewart-ice-bucket-challenge-video_n_5701036.html.

There is also a link on the Huffington Post report to Benedict Cumberbatch who showed another way to NOT evade the Ice Bucket Challenge. How to douse a dragon?

 

Would You Trade Your Writer’s Block?

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I promise that it was there… until I woke up. Didn’t you see it when you arrived? Maybe it departed on wings of… well take your pick, on Gossamer, feather, metal, wood or leather.

Time to be honest. I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Maybe I have an antigen in my makeup, or my muse works overtime.  Whichever it is, I have too many ideas, therefore too many first drafts that need editing.  I just need to find the one idea that fits the moment.

However, I admit with Multiple Sclerosis that I am always losing thoughts as I write. This post is a typical example as I lost my train of thought many times. Whether the thought ever came back, I don’t remember. Yes, it’s that bad.

As for my block it’s over editing, but more of that later.

Let’s continue with my primary antigens to Writer’s Block. Not all of them work all of the time, but at least one might yield something that I can use. Maybe even something that helps you.

  1. DREAMS: We all dream, although we often forget most of them. I don’t always have inspiring dreams, but there are a few that offer something of worth. When I wake up, I either write the dream down or work through the idea that it inspires, for later use as either a scene, a short story, or a novel.

 

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

  1. PHOTOS: Although I used to take photographs as an equestrian journalist, it tends to be other people’s photos that yield the best inspiration. On Pinterest I have gradually collated images to inspire new ideas. See my Pinterest file here.

 

  1. OUTDOORS: When I was more mobile, I found that getting out into natural surroundings would inspire me. That included observing people in the street or park. I once got the idea for a Haiku about a kite from a summer wander – or was it a Senyru? Nowadays I have to rely more on my immediate surroundings for inspiration – like “Black with Secrets, Adorned with Silver”, my Blog Post on Monday, which was inspired by dawn sounds that woke me up. One advantage is gazing at Snowdon every day.

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  1. GAMING: Okay playing online games – MMORPGs – is one of my ways to chill… a reward like chocolate, but gaming is a source of inspiration. I have two draft novels set against a gaming world, in fact a fictional gaming world based on my short story saga “Gossamer Flames”. I’m not sure what the inspiration for the first novella that became “Gossamer Flames” was, but gaming has built more of the world. Ironically, the novella –Weave of the Sister Skein – appeared while I was recovering from my first MS attack in 1999.

I’m sure that you can suggest other sources of inspiration, and you are welcome to add them in your comments.

So to My Block and Insecurity – Editing. I am churning out first drafts faster than I can edit them. My mind can no longer deal with focusing on finding the faults. Yes I can trudge through the manuscript – not MS, please, as I live with a MonSter already. Trawling word by word, I aim for perfection. I search for plot holes and character flaws. But I need months, even years. Time is not on my side.

Perhaps I need an editor partner. Maybe someone that can take my words then polish the idea into something worth reading. All offers considered.

Maybe that’s another Writing Unblock antigen. Anyone want to trade?

***

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, when we talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs, perhaps offering a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

This is my monthly IWSG post and there are many more words of wisdom out in cyber-space. I’m only a single blip among 290 other amazing bloggers rocking the neurotic writing world. If you click here there are links to all of them and you can visit as many as you want.

All thanks to Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh and his awesome co-hosts Sarah Foster, Joylene Nowell Butler, Lily Eva, and Rhonda Albom!