The title of this entry is a bit of a spoiler, so it will be no surprise to you that I have a very low opinion of prologues. In fact, my opinion is so low that I’ve been known to close a book and not read it if it starts with a prologue.
Years ago I came to the conclusion that not a single novel I’d ever read had been improved by the prologue it started with. I later confirmed this by skipping prologues and only reading them after I’d finished the rest of the book and – without exception – I found the prologues to be unnecessary. Since then I haven’t found a single novel that I ruined or rendered unreadable by skipping the prologue.
Later, when I began to write, my relationship with books changed (sadly, in most cases, not for the better – but that’s for a later post). I began to analyse the mechanics of prologues and found, in most cases, the author had included one just to prop up shoddy writing. There seem to be two scenarios that convince an author that a prologue is not actually a hideous wordy pustule but something like a good idea.
One: Apparently, sometimes an author feels it’s so important to state a vital piece of information, up front, that they’ll add a prologue just for that purpose. Such prologues often appear as nothing more than info dumps, which are a kind of literary cancer anyway (so why you’d do this as the first thing anyone would read is beyond me). This either shows poor planning or the author’s lack of faith that their own writing is understandable, or worse, they don’t credit the reader with the gumption to understand what they’ve written in the main text.
Two: More often, an author seems to feel the need to include a prologue simply to make their book begin at a more interesting point in the story. If the author recognises the first half or their book is dull and in need of perking up, then as a potential reader, I’m not going to be fooled by an action filled prologue they’ve just tacked on the front to try and disguise the fact.
Neither gives me any confidence that the writer knows what they’re doing, and that’s why I will close the book and read no further.
However, I have made the odd exception, usually when I’ve been persuaded by a friend, as with the Belgariad series of fantasy books by David Eddings, and the Millennium trilogy by Larson. In both cases I was coerced into reading beyond the prologue and I was glad for it, but I would still maintain that these examples would have been just as enjoyable without the prologues.
There may be good prologues out there, I wouldn’t know because I’ve been avoiding them. I’ve heard that the Harry Potter books have well written prologues, that they serve as abridged summaries to ease the reader into the new book?
But these examples do not convince me to change my opinion, life is too short, and reading time is too precious. Unless I have persuasive evidence to the contrary, if I see a prologue I will automatically assume that the text that follows is not worth reading.
In the future, my reader will no doubt criticise my writing for many things, but my inappropriate use of prologues will not be one of them.
As you might have noticed, I’ve been slowly growing a web presence as a prelude to actually publishing a real book that a real person will want to buy. It might come as a surprise but I have given the matter some thought, and will continue to do so, but much of what I’ve done has evolved naturally from the intent to simply entertain. But I don’t want to get all preachy, these are just my thoughts so far, that you may or may not find useful.
I haven’t figured out Facebook yet, or how to make the best of it, and this website and blog is still developing. However, I’ve found Twitter accessible and I’m having a lot of fun building what I hope is an interesting Twitter personality. I don’t just want to post endless tweets about my new book, or about my latest book reviews. Although, I will post some tweets like that, but hopefully not too many. But why? Isn’t that what social media is for? To help you sell stuff? Well, yes, partly, but what is it that I’m trying to sell?
I’m a writer, and soon I’ll be an author, the former because I can’t help it and the latter because I want to share. I’m writing my books to entertain, and here’s the crux of the matter because I want everything I do to emphasise that. I want my web presence itself to be entertaining. I don’t want a potential reader to look at my blog or twitter feed and think – blimey what a bore, I bet his books are just as dull, because if they do then I’ve torpedoed myself. I think this is so important, and it adds value. So yes, I want my reader to buy my books – when I publish them – but I don’t want that to be all I do.
I’m not saying for one minute that I’ve got all the answers, or that I’ve got it right, but I am saying that I’m trying to make everything I do as interesting as possible. That’s not such a bad goal is it? I just want to entertain.
I suppose it’s up to you, dear reader, to decide if I’ve actually been successful so far.
It’s taken me about three months to get the second draft of the second book finished, and that’s with a lengthy decorating interruption early on, so all things considered I don’t think it’s too shabby.
But woo, what a feeling, I’ve finished a few books in my time, but never before have I done so knowing that it would certainly be published. I would say I feel so Money Super Market, but I won’t because I’d hate myself.
Anyway, this means that sometime soon, another person, perhaps you, perhaps someone I’ve never met and likely will never meet will read those words and peek inside my head, and that’s both scary and exhilarating. Towards the end, as the number of pages yet to be edited dwindled, this thought grew until it became a serious preoccupation, it never stopped me, but it was there, like someone looking over my shoulder as I wrote. I began to imagine what my reader would say, and it was a fight for me to ignore that thought and simply write the truth of the story.
But wow, what a thrill, I could say it almost felt as good as washing with Herbal Essences but I won’t because I’d hate myself and you’d hate me too.
I’m guessing that this feeling will fade with each subsequent novel I write, but I hope not.
I didn’t give myself too much time to bask in my own self-assumed glory and cracked on with the changes I needed to make to the first book to make it fit with the second. That wasn’t too difficult, but it was surprising the things I’d forgotten, like family members and habits and hair colour (things I should have written down in the first place) and it was difficult not to beat myself up over these lapses. Not only did I have to retrofit changes into book one, but I found new changes I had to make to book two, which this took several iterations to complete.
However, here I am with two complete novels, so what’s next?
Well, it’s off to copy editor to clean them both up and make them presentable, and in the meantime I need to work on the jacket blurbs and the cover art which is a step outside my comfort zone.
I’m starting to get very excited and just a bit scared, a bit like standing in line for a new roller coaster…
With my sleeves rolled up and a pencil behind my ear I made my first decision: I would complete the first draft of the book before beginning to look into self-publishing, so that’s just what I did. This may seem like a no brainer, but I suspect there are many would-be authors out there who jump the gun. At least with the first draft done I knew I had something to work with, like a rough block of stone ready to be chiselled at, the book is already there I just had to chip away the bits.
It was hard work, but it had to be done.
Of course, a first draft is not a publishable product; at least I don’t think so, although some web authors advocate publishing and then revising “live” – so to speak. For me, the idea of doing this gives me the collywobbles. Before I publish any book I want to be sure it’s so polished it wouldn’t look out of place in the hands of a silver service waiter.
But then, I went a bit further and decided to wait until I had two titles ready for publishing, the first two parts of a series. Of course, I know this reads like the very worst case of procrastination, but I did have good reasons. When I started the second book I soon realised I’d have to make some changes to the first, because they are very closely linked and between the two drafts the whole story had evolved in my head. While this seemed a pain at first, I soon realised both books would be stronger for it, and since I was writing two books I also realised there would be advantages to simultaneously publishing them both, not least of all, my potential reader would realise I’m serious about writing and not a one hit wonder.
My original vision for my authoring future was to publish electronically through Amazon, because they have the biggest market share with their Kindle readers. Yes, I know Amazon are unpopular at the moment but I decided not to cut my own nose off to spite my face. To do this, the prevailing wisdom seemed to require me to build up some sort of internet presence, I’ve later discovered that this is not essential, but I still feel it’s important: At the very least, I’m sure it can’t do any harm. So I set up a website using the WordPress free service, and Twitter and Facebook accounts. I found WordPress very easy to use and it didn’t take very long to create a useful and attractive website – I hope you agree. As for Twitter and Facebook, only time will tell how useful they will be; right now, they seem to be frustratingly good at swallowing up my time.
Since I had no idea what I was doing, the next thing I had to figure out how I was actually going to self-publish, so I rummaged around on the internet and found this book: “Createspace & Kindle Self-Publishing Masterclass.” This turned out to be an excellent buy and I’d recommend it to anyone thinking about self-publishing.
Until I read this I had only considered publishing electronically, but this book gave me the idea of using Createspace to also produce hard copies, which is a new and exciting thought.
So, I’ve got two first drafts ready for reworking – I’ll be soon Tweeting my daily progress with those, and I’ll be starting a Facebook business page soon, and as you’ve noticed I’ve started blogging about my self-publishing adventures.
Next, it’s pressing on with the second drafts, and then looking for a copy editor…