Friday, April 28, 2017

Captain's Log

I started this blog back in September 2011 with the intention of it simply being a diary for our own future reference. I was somewhat surprised, then, when 85 people read my first post, and several commented. Nearly six years on, I'm consciously writing for an audience, not just for Grace and me - I suppose I have been for some time - and my readership is counted in the hundreds, not tens.

It's rewarding to know that that so many people enjoy reading this, though I'm disappointed that so few leave comments. When I was a teacher, I wrote a blog called "ICT Grump" under the pen-name of Grumpy Old Teacher. This was about new, innovative ways of using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in schools, right across the curriculum, and I was inundated with comments on that one, comments that turned into conversations, debates. But that blog got over a thousand reads each week, so it was rather different from this humble diary. (Don't go looking for it. I stopped writing it a few months before I left teaching, and I took it down a year later because I couldn't keep it up-to-date, and by its nature it just had to be.)

The thing is, I really enjoy writing. I always have. Mrs Fincham, a gorgeous English teacher I had a crush on in my early teens, told me I'd make a good journalist. But that idea didn't actually appeal to me, and teaching called instead, and teaching didn't really give me the opportunity to write anything outside of lesson plans, worksheets and student reports.

At least, it didn't until I started my ICT Grump blog, and then two things happened. First of all, I got invitations to speak at teachers' conferences, lots of them over the years. And then came several invitations to write for various professional publications, the biggest of which for me was the website of the BETT Show, on which I wrote a blog during the months leading up to the annual exhibitions in London.

I was hooked.

After I retired, I wanted to turn something of  my teaching experience and knowledge into a book. All right, I thought, people used to pay me to write for them, and others paid to come and hear me speak. Why not write a book? So I did.

OK, it was self-published, and I was selling it on lulu.com. Well, I sold eight copies, I think it was. Without my Grumpy Old Teacher blog, and with no more speaking at conferences or the like, I had no way of publicising it. I put it out on Kindle as well, but that was a big mistake. The back cover bears the words, "This is a book to be read, to be scribbled on..." and "Let the student add his or her own notes". Not easy in an e-book.

I withdrew it from sale in both formats. Early copies of "Life with our feet under water" had an advert for it on the final pages. I soon re-published it without.

When we bought Kantara, and started our life of retirement on board, blogging was the obvious way for me to record it all, and when readership of that started to soar, the book idea returned. Many of you will know what happened next.



Partly because of my rather disappointing failure with my revision book, and despite my tendency to be arrogant, I wasn't really expecting either of these to succeed. But I'd greatly enjoyed writing the first one, and, when that sold so well, I had a lot of fun writing the second, too. And now, the next is currently being proof-read and edited.
Beyond that, I have no further plans for writing at the moment. What I've done has been enormously enjoyable and rewarding of itself, regardless of sales, but I'll need something to write about, of course, and I see no more possibilities for boaty books. Grace has suggested I try writing a novel, but I've tried that a few times in the past, and they never came to anything. They sort of fizzled out after six chapters. Better writers than me say that novels "write themselves", but I've never found that to be true for me.

Any ideas for a new book? Please be polite!

And how about you? If  you love to write, and have ever had it in mind to produce a book of any kind, then I encourage you to go ahead and do it. Don't hold back. Just write! Write because you like it, because it gives you pleasure. Write because it's satisfying to be creative. But do it with discipline, too, because it's not fun if you only write for short spells every now and then, and find that you lose the plot, as it were! You need to put aside specific, regular times when you can give it the hours and the attention it deserves.

When you've finished, it's hard to find a publisher to take your book on, because they get bombarded by so many. Self-publishing in paperback is easy, but these books are printed on demand, and the price you have to put on them is ridiculous in my opinion. So e-books are the only way to go. To start with, at least. Kindle's not the only outlet for e-books, but it's the only one I know well, and the whole process of publishing and selling on that platform is simplicity itself.

I do urge would-be writers to get the services of a friend or family member to check your copy very thoroughly before you publish it. Someone who reads a lot, who really knows English and understands punctuation and grammar, And do encourage them to be critical of the content and the way you write, too. Believe me, it's far too easy to miss your own mistakes, and to think that your way of saying something is the best way. If you've chosen the right person for this job, then they'll have your best interests at heart. They'll be on your side. So listen to them. Discuss it with them. You do get the last say, but make sure it's well-informed. I'm very fortunate in having Grace as my reader/editor. What she doesn't know about dangling modifiers isn't worth knowing!

Enjoy your writing! Have fun! 


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