For any writer, be it of book, script, article or blog, reviews are not just important, they are vital.
This is especially true of those just setting out along the rocky path of penmanship and who have followed the self-published author route.
However, as much as we’d like every review to be a glowing endorsement of our creativity, the reality is that not everyone is going to like what we produce. Sadly, those readers are increasingly happy to hit the internet and slaughter both a book and its author if they feel disappointed or worse, cheated.
That is their right of course, they are customers after all, but make no mistake, when this happens to you (and it will happen) it hurts. Bad. After all, if you’ve put your heart and soul into a book, having the former ripped from your chest and publicly stamped on is not exactly a barrel of laughs.
Yet the sad fact is that no matter how good a writer you are, bad reviews are an inevitability and dealing with them goes with the territory.
So how do you do it?
Accept them for what they are: an individual opinion. Yes, they’re tough to accept and trust me when I tell you that a bad review can eat away at you forever. However, if you’re happy to wallow in the affirmation of a 5* review, you’re got to learn to take the 1* criticism.
Never respond. Whilst it’s always tempting to rip into a bad reviewer like a rabid dog, leaving aside the fact that it’s bad manners, it’s also inviting trouble. Trolls love a good author spat and if they get hold of you they can do more damage to both your book and your career than you can ever imagine so don’t give them that opening.
Develop a thick skin, and fast. The more books you produce, the more negative reviews you’re going to get. Conversely, you’re also going to get more positive reviews so keep re-reading those to balance things out.
Be honest. Reviews aren’t just feedback, they’re market research so if you’re getting more bad than good, it might well be that there is actually some truth in what’s being said. So whereas good reviews will always tell you what works, bad ones will often tell you the rest. Use both as learning tools and use that information to help you make your next book better.
Enjoy them. Even a bad review means that someone has read your book, YOUR book! Be proud of that and remember, not only does each and every review push your book up the amazon rankings, it also means income. Why do you think authors are so desperate for them? Even bad ones.
Away from books, my next movie, the thriller Three Greens, is moving swiftly toward production with casting of the major roles currently underway. In addition, I am thrilled to announce that another script has been given the green light and with finance in place, is also heading toward casting.
I can’t say much about this new project, but I can guarantee that it’s going to cause quite a stir!
I am a Falklands Veteran. Yes, that’s right, 36 years ago I was one of those brave souls who headed south to drive the invading Argentinean scum from our land.
However, I have a confession to make. You see I wasn’t one of the amazing Para’s who yomped across the Islands carrying a weight akin to a medium sized child on their backs, nor was I one of the sailors who spent their war bobbing up and down on waves which, from the films I’ve seen, gave them a ride like a non-stop trip on the Big One at Blackpool.
No, my war was easy. More importantly, it was fun.
You see as a member of her majesties Royal Air Force, my war was spent on the relative luxury of Wideawake Airfild on Ascension Island which, for those that don’t know, is a pile of volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic. Being close to the Equator, it’s also quite warm. Well, very warm.
Now I won’t go into what my actual job was (I’d have to hunt you all down and kill you) but after a very exciting flight down, most of which was spent in the cockpit of a VC10 talking UFO’s with the crew –well at least those who were awake- it involved a lot of sitting around and waiting. Now this sounds fun and to be honest, as someone who does pretty much that for a living now, it generally is. But when you’re at war and both chaos and uncertainty are all around you, you do kind of get caught up in things and so in an effort to do my bit, I ended up working with the American Fire Crews who, it’s fair to say, pretty much ran the Island. As a result, I would be tasked with all kinds of odd things from dragging extremely stubborn donkeys from the runway with a Landrover through to sorting through the endless pallets of gifts which had been sent down to the Task Force from the fabulous people back home. Gifts which included everything from beer and fags to hard core porn!
And when I wasn’t doing that, I spent my time doing everything from swimming with what I later learned to be sea-water Piranhas (yes, really) and trying to break into the NASA station in the middle of the Island through to being spied on by the SAS. And that really is a tale!
I was also prone to playing practical jokes on people. Jokes which included placing a huge land crab in my bosses sleeping bag which he only found when he climbed into it after a 24 hour shift and scaring the shit out of the intelligence officers by hiding in their porta-loo in the middle of the night and screaming ‘BOO!’ when they pulled the door open. Trust me, the impact that can have when you’ve been told to expect an Argentinean Special Forces attack is quite dramatic!
Of course, things changed dramatically when rumours of the Vulcan raids began to break -and I cannot even begin to describe what it was like to be involved with those- and once our fabulous soldiers had actually landed and the fight to reclaim the Islands began, even those of us thousands of miles away felt like we really were at war. Which of course, we were.
And then the losses began, and when the injured started to drift back I started to actually understand the realities of war for those who had been on the front line. That really was an experience I will never forget nor is it one I would ever want to repeat. Humbling doesn’t come close.
Victories were of course, celebrated in time-honoured style but oddly, the actual surrender came as something of an anti-climax. But whilst I remember exactly where I was when I heard it, nothing much changed for me, at least not initially. My job, such as it was, continued whilst supplies still had to sorted, planes still took off and landed and donkeys still had to moved!
When troops started making their way back it actually became even busier and in fact one of my most emotional periods of the entire war came when a Hercules full of Harrier lads landed en route back home. Amongst them were lads I knew personally having worked with them on 4 Squadron in Germany only months previous.
Then out of the blue came the news that I was to go home. In fact, I was the first RAF serviceman on Ascension Island to be told that their job had been stood down which is something I’m quite proud of. Within days, I was geared up to head back to the UK, thankfully, on the very plane that the new (and first) Station Warrant Officer arrived on and those of you with experience of the RAF will know what that means!
My arrival back at RAF Brize Norton was unintentionally hilarious as I flew back with a group of those special men from Hereford who had no intention of hanging around for the elaborate ceremony that had been organised to welcome back the other soldiers on the plane (Cue potentially very violent stand-off!). This being followed by a three-hour wait for a car to take me back to Abingdon and a row with the orderly Sergeant who refused to take my rifle off me. Hence my having to sleep with it in my bed.
And that was that. Not for me the civic receptions nor the big parades but I cherish my South Atlantic campaign medal and am as proud of that as I am of anything I have ever done before or since.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. War may be hell for some but for many it’s also where they feel more alive than you can possibly imagine. Even those of us who played only a minor part.
To all those who lost loved ones or who have endured untold suffering since 1982, please do not think for one second that I am trying to belittle what you have gone and are going though. Nothing could be further from the truth as I am, and continue to be, in awe of you all.
All of my books, including the comedy Wings of a Sparrow are available in ebook and paperback format from either Amazon or iTunes.
The audio version of Top Dog is also now available to download and joins the ebook, paperback and movie to make the clean sweep of all platforms! Not too shabby if I say so myself.
Work continues apace on a variety of movie projects including a brand new comedy about a group of very special old ladies. More on this as and when.
And yes, the third book in the The Crew/Top Dog trilogy is almost finished!
armed forces, hooligan, british film, top dog, green street, self publishing, manchester united, liverpool, sex, maggie thatcher, veteran, UKIP, tory Argentina
green street, falklands, top dog, martin kemp, leo gregory, author, writing, screenwriting, script, hooliganism, violence, football, soccer, war, Ukraine, Russia, Crimea, sex, porn, perversion
I won’t go into the medical details other than to say that whilst it wasn’t exactly unexpected, his ultimate demise was quite sudden but it was also very peaceful. I know that, because I was with him when he died.
He was a great man my dad, a legend in fact. I know many people says that about their fathers but in his case, it was true. Indeed, he is cited by many of his peers, including Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott, as being one of the most influential figures on the British folk scene that exploded in the 60’s and 70’s.
However, it wasn’t simply his undoubted abilities as a musician that earned him that accolade, it was as much his skills as a story teller. Oh yes, the old boy could certainly tell a tale. Indeed, a quick search of Facebook will reveal numerous threads containing ‘my favourite Derek Brimstone’ joke.
I mention this now because one of the questions frequently thrown at me is how, and indeed why, I made the transition from humble serviceman to best-selling author and screenwriter.
Usually, my answer is something along the lines of ‘it was the only way I could think of to earn a living sitting at home watching football’ but the truth is, it was because of my father. For he was the one who taught me not only how to to weave a tale, but to construct humour. Be it as a simple one-liner or in a full length novel such as Billy’s Log.
Sadly, I never really acknowledged that until recently and I certainly never thanked him for it. But the truth is that every book and film I’ve ever written has the DNA of my dad running through it and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
Talk to any writer for long enough and they will inevitably tell you that their heads are pretty messed up.
Not in the sense that they/we have some kind of mental issue (well, not all of us), but in the sense that our brains are constantly filtering random thoughts and ideas. Be they for books, characters or even simple scenes.
This is especially true of those writers who tackle contemporary issues because if we have any intention of injecting reality into our work it is vital to actually get out there and experience a bit of it. In my case, as someone who tends to feature football in most of my work, watching games really is research (which is why my local and most fabulous Watford FC supporting tax officer always tells me to deduct it against my tax!). It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Sometimes of course, an idea will fly in and fly out, other times it’ll hang about for a bit and then be forgotten whilst a few will eventually find their way into a project. But there are others which, by virtue of the fact that they are just too good to ignore, simply wedge themselves into my consciousness like some kind of mental post-it note. And if an idea can survive my Alzheimer like memory, it generally means it is worth taking notice of.
I have a few of those hanging around and hopefully, most will see the light of day at some point in the near future. Indeed one in particular already has me buzzing even though I have two books to write before I can even think about tackling it. And much as I’d like to tell you what it is, I can’t. Or rather I won’t.
Because you see in my warped world, ideas are currency. They are after all, the very basis of my creative output and so I need to not only nurture, but protect them!
I mention this now because my new book, a comedy entitled Wings of a Sparrow, is the result of such a process because it stems from an idea I first had over six years ago. I actually pitched it to my publishers at the time and even though they turned it down, I knew it was a great idea which is why I kept tinkering with it. Now, thanks to the joys of self-publishing, it will very shortly see the light of day. Hopefully as soon as the first week in December.
Full details of what will be my fifteenth book (how did that happen??) can be found on its dedicated website but I have to say that I am genuinely excited about this one, more so in fact than I have been about a project for a long time. It just feels…. well, right, although ultimately of course, that will be for you lot to decide!
And now, having finished Wings, I am already onto the next one which is, as promised, the sequel to Top Dog, the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy.
The plot-line I’ve developed is quite possibly the best I’ve ever come up with and as I’ve been fleshing this out, I’ve been buzzing with ideas including some which will involve characters from the previous books. Indeed, I am almost certain that I’ll be writing this in a way which means it will be quite difficult to read it without having read the previous two. To me, and to others I’ve discussed it with, given the nature of the central character and the world he inhabits, that makes perfect sense but if you have any thoughts, please let me know.
Two things I am certain of are the title and the fact that it will be released as an eBook initially, all being well around late spring.
But in the meantime, I have the release of Wings of a Sparrow to deal with and that should hit the online stores in the first week of December. Test-reads have been universally positive and hopefully, given the subject matter (and the fact that there is no mention of hooliganism!) it should attract some decent press.
As ever… watch this space!!!
I know I seem to say this every month but thanks to everyone who continues to keep The Crew at number one on the free soccer book download charts of both Amazon and iTunes.
That’s into 15 straight months now which is some kind of achievement and something I am incredibly proud of. Top Dog also continues to sell really well (it’s currently at #2) so here’s hoping the new book does just as well.
As a professional writer, I’m often asked what I find most difficult about my job.
Aside from the obvious answer of ‘getting paid’ my usual response isn’t finding an idea, nor is it getting motivated, it’s remaining motivated. Indeed, when a project will inevitably take many months to put together, it takes a special kind of commitment (or madness) to keep the enthusiasm and motivation going long enough to be able to sit down every day and drive it along to completion.
However, it is important to remember that motivation isn’t within us, it’s something we have to provide for ourselves. And having been at it for over twenty year now, I have learned that key to doing that are two things: routine and reward.
WRITING ROUTINE There is no way to write, only ways. Therefore it is vital that you find what works for you and stick with it.
For some, that will mean an office, a quiet corner or even the sofa whilst for others, it will mean Starbucks or even the local beach. Some like to write in silence, others like noise, some in the morning, some late at night. Whatever it is, once you have established a routine, stepping into it will help your creative mindset and you’ll be away.
WRITING REWARD A simple love of writing or a desire to tell a specific story may well be all the reward you need but for others, like me, there have to be two specific and personal incentives. The first when you hit your daily word count can be something as simple as a glass of wine or a Mars bar and the second, when you hand over the finished work, can be something major such as a holiday or even a new motorbike.
Whatever they are, keep them fixed firmly in your mind (maybe even write them as your screensaver) and make sure that when you’ve earned them, you take them and you savour them.
Fairly soon, these, like your routine, will become part and parcel of your writing life and with any luck, the process of writing won’t ever be a chore, it’ll become relatively easy. Which is pretty much what’s happened to me although to be fair, I have been doing it a long time.
So I know what works for me, the question is, what works for you?
A couple of weeks ago, whist sitting at my computer as I do most days, I had one of those gut-wrenching writing related moments when I begrudgingly accepted that what I was working on wasn’t working.
These, as you can imagine, are painful times for a writer because not only do they signify wasted creative effort, but wasted time. Worse than that, they inevitably kick off feelings of frustration and anger and can even signal the start of what some people refer to as writers block (and my feelings on that are well documented).
Anyway, when such a moments occur in Brimson Towers, any one of a number of things will happen:
1. I will make tea before simply dumping everything I’ve written and starting again.
2. I will make tea and settle into a few hours of quiet reflection (sulking) before going back and finding a way to make it work.
3. I will make tea, curse my life and lack of talent and settle into a few days of quiet reflection (sulking) before going back and finding a way to make it work.
4. i will switch on the internet and waste hours of time arguing with someone in the name of research and/or spend loads of money on eBay before going back and finding a way to make it work.
5. I will go out on a motorbike for a few hours and return with not only a way to make it work, but a way to make it better.
Sadly, due to the ravages of time on my knackered back, number 5 is no longer an option which left me with only four choices, or so I thought. Because as I switched on the obligatory kettle, it suddenly struck me that I wasn’t actually enjoying writing. Not just the project I was actually working on, but at all. This light-bulb moment instantly presented me with a fifth option and it was one which, as someone who lists ‘laziness’ as a personal attribute, had an obvious appeal. So much so that right then and there, I grabbed it with both hands. It was retirement.
Yes, that’s right. I didn’t tell anyone about it but early on in November I made the conscious decision to retire from writing altogether. It was bliss, and it lasted approximately two days.
But what dragged me back to my keyboard wasn’t boredom, it was a series of phone calls informing me that two scripts I’d written had taken major steps forward along the development path whilst another idea I’d thrown into the mix had begun to generate some serious excitement.
As motivational tools go, mentions of A-List actors and doubled budgets sit pretty high on the list and so I am happy to announce that my short-lived retirement is now at an end. In fact my writing life is more hectic than it has been in ages.
I’ve received a number of mails recently from people who are keen to write books and need advice on how to go about it.
Invariably, these mails ask about finding an agent and/or a publisher as well as any one of twenty questions relating to the actual process of getting a book from brain to bookshelf. However, whilst I’m always keen to encourage new writers, it’s fair to say that most of the people who contact me need (and receive) a reality check.
The truth is that when you’re starting out on the rocky road of penmanship, you don’t need an agent and unless you are incredibly famous or staggeringly lucky, the chances of you securing a publishing deal are pretty much zero. What you do need however, are words on pages. Lots of them.
So if you want to write a book, the best way to start is to simply sit down and get writing. And once you have a few thousand words on your hard drive, you’ll soon realise any number of things. Not least if you have the imagination and drive to actually see it through. Most don’t, but if you actually reach the point where you can say ‘yes’ to both of those questions, that’s when you need to start thinking about the next stage in the process.
Until then, it’s all about actually doing the graft. And you do know it’s hard graft right?
The other day, someone pointed out that I am one of a very few writers who have enjoyed a degree of success with both books and screenplays. Not only that, but according to them I also hold the dubious honour of covering a range of genre which very few writers anywhere can match.
Whilst I’m not sure about any of that, it is fair to say that in a writing sense I have certainly been about a bit. Mostly, it has to be said, because I get bored easily.
However, whenever the subject of my work comes up it inevitably leads to one particular question and that is ‘which one do you enjoy the most?’
Whilst both have their merits, and leaving aside the simple truth that I’ll write anything for anyone who pays me, the answer is always the same. Because if I have a blank page and am left to my own devices, I will start writing a book. All day, every day. And for five very specific reasons.
It’s easier to write – That might shock a few people but the truth is that I can have far more creative fun constructing a 75,000 word novel than I can working on a 110 pages script. And if I’m having fun, I can promise you that the words will be pouring out of me as opposed to having to be dragged out. Something which not only makes it easy for me to write but which will almost certainly make for a better read once it’s finished.
It’s easier to produce – Working with publishers can be hard work sometimes but if all else fails, I always have the option of self-publishing. It might not see the shelves of Waterstone’s or WH Smiths but let’s face it, it will certainly see Amazon and if it sells and is earning, who cares? Certainly not me.
With a film, the whole process is a nightmare which can fall apart at any moment. That’s if it gets anywhere at all which to be frank, it often doesn’t.
Control – With a book, I have no restrictions on subject matter, genre or even length. Being able to write what I want, when I want and just as importantly, say what I want, is not only liberating, it makes the whole thing both more interesting and enjoyable for me. If you need any more proof of that, have a look at my backlist and you’ll see a book about farting. Case rested.
With a screenplay, once I hand it over I have no control over anything. At all.
The End Result – A book is mine. All mine. Praise or criticism are therefore personal and either enjoyed or dealt with as appropriate and I’m fine with that. A film however, is only mine if someone slags off the script even though by the time the camera’s roll, my input into the development process will have ended ages ago.
The people – For an author, publishing is a relatively solitary game and as someone who prefers his own company, that’s exactly how I like it. For a screenwriter, the writing process is part solitude, part collaboration, part chaos. This would be great if it were an industry inhabited solely by nice hard-working honest people but sadly, it isn’t. Instead, amongst the many awesome individuals I’ve worked with are far too many arseholes who, if they aren’t simple crooks, are either bullshitters or incapable of making a decision. Or both.
So there you have it. Five reasons why I’d write a book over a movie any day of the week. And with that in mind, I’m happy if not delighted to announce that work is currently well underway on the sequel to my novel Billy’s Log. Indeed, starting work on this has underlined everything I’ve written above and more because I’m loving it.
All being well, it’ll be finished by the time we start moaning about the cold but more as and when. I might even post a teaser or two!
As someone who earns their living by writing, I am often asked what motivates me. Is it for example, a burning desire to create or is it a desperate need to put my thoughts into print? Or is it a hope that I can somehow make a difference or possibly even a yearning to leave behind a legacy of some kind?
Truth is it’s none of those things. I might have written 15 books and a few movies but there are three simple reasons why I write.
I’m a lazy bastard who likes sitting down all day.
I need to make money to facilitate item 1.
I live in desperate hope that one day soon numbers 1 & 2 will combine so successfully that I’ll be able to retire and live out my remaining days watching sport and riding motorbikes.
And to be fair, I reckon that retirement will be well earned. Growing up the son of a comedian was certainly an education but it was hard work and being one of 6 kids (with four brothers!) was certainly instrumental in my leaving home at 16 to begin what turned out to be 18 years as an engineer in the Royal Air Force.
As anyone who has served will know, military life isn’t suited to everyone but I loved every single day of it. Not just for the places it took me to and the people I met, but for the myriad of experiences I enjoyed. From going to war to swearing at royalty and all points in between.
Thankfully, my subsequent career as a writer has added considerably to those experiences but it has also provided me with an excellent way of cleansing my soul. Or to put it another way, telling everyone else. Not just about my life as a football fan but as an average bloke.
Indeed, of all my books, my comedy novel Billy’s Log is the one of which I’m most proud chiefly because it’s the closest to my own persona. It could even be called semi-autobiographical given that so many of my own experiences are included which is one of the reasons why, as my 60th looms ever closer, I have decided to revisit it. In fact the preparation is already underway as I’m gathering anecdotes whilst also working on In The Know and another movie or to.
The plan is to have both books out by the end of the year however I am not walking away from the world of film just yet. In fact the project I’m currently working on will be my biggest to date. Watch this space.
PS: I’ve given a few interviews recently and on a variety of subjects but one I really enjoyed allowed me to vent on the subject of publishing an ‘lad-lit’. Click here to take a look…
Just in case you didn’t know already, all of my books and DVD’s are available from both Amazon and iTunes.
As anyone who does it regularly will tell you, writing is a curious business. It is after all, one of the few activities where you can spend weeks, months or even years baringyour soul only to then throw it out into the public domain where people you don’t know will quite possibly, and often happily, tear you to shreds.
Unattractive a prospect as this might be, writing professionally is even worse. For in addition to the above, you also face the joyous prospect of starving.
Having been doing it for over 20 years now and with a girth which suggests that it might actually do me good to miss a meal or two (OK, three or four), I think it’s safe to say that malnutrition is not something I need worry about any more but that does not mean I don’t face other concerns. Indeed, I have one right now and it’s one I need to address, and fast. It is, quite simply, what book to write next.
The problem is compounded by the fact that whatever decision I take will not be driven by a deadline but will in fact, be a spec project. As such, I get to choose it for myself which is fine until you consider the stark truth that not only do I have to ensure that I’m going to enjoy writing it, but that there is going to be a market for it. Trust me, the two are not necessarily the same thing.
I also face the problem of having three, possibly four distinct projects in mind all of which are totally different from the other. Two of those being sequels which have already been started but which fell victim to the demands of scripts which required urgent attention.
So do I, for example, finish the third book in the The Crew/Top Dog trilogy or do I carry on with the follow on from Billy’s Log?? Or do I venture into new genre, possibly with the supernatural thriller which has recently taken root in my increasingly confused brain?
Whatever it is, I need to make a decision and fast or I face the very real prospect of doing pretty much nothing. Which has its merits, but doesn’t pay the bills.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a tough job being a professional writer. But it’s even tougher being me.