From Narragansett Bay To Writing Today

Wednesday’s post about a writer of “17 books” going on and on about her personal money woes, combined with the end of my “Bastille Day” free promo for Passports, got me thinking more on this subject.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of books.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of books.

We know there are the “sneak peeks” that the likes of Amazon use to drive sales. But that is not always enough. Much as with musicians who do free gigs and artists who display paintings merely to be seen, when you are lesser known as an independent author it is certainly unreasonable to expect readers to part with money for your work until they believe it is worth it.

So making a novel free is often necessary. Still, it does go against the grain to offer complete free books to enable readers to get to know your work when yours aren’t “shorts” produced every few months for quickie consumption. It’s a lot easier psychologically to give away 1 “short” book when you have “16” others out there, than it is to give away a 400 page novel when you have only 2 of them.

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Much is also made of the fact that independent novels, be they shorts or full-length, are imperfect. They may have, for example, typos:

From “War and Remembrance.” Large publishers have typos too. Note: “He cold not….” should be, “He could not.”

“Cold not.” No, “Could not.” Of course large publishers’ books are not always perfect either. I stumbled upon that typo the other day in War And Remembrance, published here in the U.K. by Hodder. Perfection simply is not for this world.

Besides quite possibly a good read, what a reader also gets with a full novel by an independent author is the knowledge that it’s probably an intensely personal and unique effort. Its creator likely put a great deal into it. You have something in your hands, or on your e-reader, that is special.

Yet indie books are also “buyer beware,” of course. Among all of the sincere efforts, there is too much that’s “dodgy” out there. For example, I usually can’t but roll my eyes when I read of some indie author bragging that he/she has written “17 books.”

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but just that I’d also really need to see the actual finished products. I’ve learned a lot since I began Passports in 2012 – especially about how much effort goes into writing a novel. You don’t churn one out in “15 minutes.” (I shared a bit of my initial experience in some detail here, in this post in April 2014.)

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Trivia: the first parts I recall writing – while sitting in front of the television in our old place in Christchurch, sneakily having a go on my laptop while others in the room were watching what was on the tube – were the NY subway and World Trade Center chapters.

Starting Passports, I resolved to write 3 novels, and after a time decided to try to do them within 3 years. Now, in the 3rd year and with the writing of the 3rd novel drawing to a close, I know that I won’t be able to keep up that pace beyond these 3 books. So the idea of writing 14 more novels of the same scale over 14 more years is simply laughable. I’d collapse.

Yes, we do indeed learn. Experience is a great teacher. I understand someone else now far better than I ever did before.

In thirty years’ active writing for large publishers from the early 1980s until the early 2000s, my uncle managed to produce only 8 full novels, none of which are sequels; they are all “stand alone” books. Since his last in 2004, he has taken to teaching college creative writing and focusing on short stories and plays. He no longer really has the energy, he has told me, to tackle a novel; but he has also said he would love to pull himself together and write one more before he leaves this earth forever.

Dining room table, Newport, Rhode Island. [Photo by me, 1991.]
Dining room table, Newport, Rhode Island. [Photo by me, 1991.]
I’d taken that photo above in 1991 at the behest of my mother, who had asked me for photos of my uncle’s then newest rental house. (She didn’t want him to know I was taking them, and I told him that. He thought that was hilarious and told me to take as many as I wanted. We can be, uh, a “strange” family at times.) The next morning, that table area saw a gathering and exchange that would one day inspire this scene in Passports:

Excerpt from “Passports,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

Also, taken about the same time, this photograph….

A view of Narragansett Bay, outside Newport, Rhode Island. [Photo by me, 1991.]
A view of Narragansett Bay, outside Newport, Rhode Island. [Photo by me, 1991.]
….is the bayside backyard view from the home mentioned in this exchange in Passports:

Excerpt from “Passports,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

Writing novels is an infinitely complicated endeavor.

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world 🙂


  1. Something apropos: one of my many daughters is taking up writing but doesn’t like it when I say things like “dear, you do narrative very well but need to work on dialogue” 🙂

    You do narrative and dialogue very well.

    Liked by 1 person

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