Today I want to mention some advice I was given about improving my presence online on sites like Goodreads. I discuss this more in my video above and on my YouTube channel but ultimately the first top tip I was given was that if you want to be taken more seriously as a writer then you need to present yourself more seriously as a reader.
Goodreads is a great resource for authors to get involved with but only if you are prepared to use the platform for what it was intended for. It is not enough to just post all YOUR book-related stuff on your profile – you know; your books, their editions, the covers, and any trailers or other related wares – and then expect people to engage with you.
Other members can tell if you are only using Goodreads to try and sell your books. They can tell by the way that all the groups you have joined are about book promotion, or getting reviews. They can also tell by the way that you have no books listed in your reading or to-read sections. This is especially telling if you don’t leave any reviews of the books you have read either.
So I have begun to add books that I have read and am reading. I have started to leave small reviews of the books I have read. I have also started adding some of my favourite books to the list. Authors like Jack Kerouac, Iris Murdoch and Norman Mailer were very important to me when I was younger. They still are now, just in different ways.
When I first left home I moved into a flat near a second-hand bookshop and one of the great pleasures in life I learned from my Dad was to spend hours browsing the shelves of this shop. I can still picture the tight space between the shelves in my head, the heady aroma of old paperbacks, and the profound pleasure of simply reading the spines.
I was young and eager and impressionable and hungry for something; knowledge, culture, experience, something to inform my fledgling ambitions as a writer. I discovered books as wonderful as Under the Net, On the Road and The Deer Park. These are books I still have and though my life has changed beyond recognition from those early days in a drafty flat with a two-bar gas fire and a 50p meter in the hallway, I still fondly recall the first thrill of folding over the corner of these already corner-turned novels after reading a chapter.
So, this revelation of myself as a reader was the first top tip I was given this week. The second top tip is a more playful one but comes directly as a result of the first tip.
Following on from the advice I received regarding how to use Goodreads more responsibly, I reached out and asked an author how hard it was to write their latest fantasy novel. I have always imagined that writing a fantasy novel is really complicated. You need a convincing world, suitably esoteric names and, most importantly, an absolute, rock solid guarantee that no one can ever accuse you of ripping off Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.Or worse still, 1969’s Bored of the Rings.
Just as an experiment I found a fantasy novel random title generator and here are some of its suggestions for novel titles: The Sword of the Fortress, The Hidden Deathgate, The Well of the Alchemist, The Hero of the Wind, The Horse of the Adept, The Alliance of the Dream and my favourite, The Hanged Whale.
If all of this seems a little bit too Foucault’s Pendulum for you then please don’t worry, I am not about to write a book using devices like this – though it would be a fascinating experiment. In fact, and absolutely no disrespect to fantasy authors all around this happy world, I’m not going to ever try to write a fantasy novel ever, my geography is just not that good. To tell you the truth, I never got further than oxbow lakes at school.
In any case,the author I reached out got back to me and gave a very considered and comprehensive overview of how they went about creating the world of a fantasy novel and the characters that are required to inhabit it. I fact, so comprehensive was this overview that it confirmed all of my feelings regarding such a venture and became, for me, the second top tip I (inadvertently) received this week; namely, on no account should I ever try to write a fantasy novel.
That is not to say that I’m not interested in other people’s thoughts and feelings on this subject. Maybe you are writing a fantasy novel even as you read this. Perhaps you might share your thoughts and feelings about such a venture in the comments below?