Editing is Hard

“Editing is hard.”

One of my editing clients said this to me the other day – yes even after I’m done tearing apart their manuscripts clients do still speak to me.

My internal voice said “No sh** Sherlock,” but externally I smiled and nodded and agreed.  But it made me realised that this is news to some people.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that writing is easy, that you just scribble a few lines and that’s it, you can self-publish and everything will be great, best seller, right.  Wrong.

You can write a novel in 30 days (see NaNoWriMo), I’ve done it.  Normally I can write a novel in two months – well that is 60 days of work, not always every day for sixty days on a trot because I have a life and two jobs.  But if I had sixty days on full-time writing, I could do it in 60 days, hell full time I would write it in 30 days.  But it wouldn’t by any means be publication ready.

That’s where editing comes in.

Writing is the quick part, editing takes forever, and sometimes it feels like it’ll never end.

Let me give you the example of my last completed novel, Shades of Aether.  This is my first steampunk novel, and I wrote it in about 60 (non-consecutive) evenings.  Then I reread it – the first self-edit.  With that, I picked up any obvious inconsistencies, made any changes I thought necessary, in this case, I upped the level of steampunk in the text. Then I booked it in for an edit.  My editor couldn’t do it immediately, so I have time for another read through to find a few more typos, tweaks, and corrections.  Then it went off to my editor.

Let me underline that – it went off to an editor. At no point did I think that could ever get a book complete for publication on my own.

So it went off to edit, that’s another four weeks gone – though I think in this case it was five weeks.  Then it came back with loads of questions that I hadn’t even thought about, so I had to do some major edits after that to ensure that I answered all those questions for the reader.  Having the facts in my head are no use if I can’t get them onto the page.

So that was another couple of months of rethinking and rewriting, editing and tweaking. And it wasn’t easy.  Some of the questions and queries that had been raised really stretched me, forced me to re-imagine my ending completely.

Then – guess what – more editing.  Yes, I sent it off for another professional edit, because to a certain extent I had a new book.  That one is due back to me any day now, but even then, I’ll still have to edit it, then reread it.  So there’s another couple of months gone by.

Once that is done, then there is the last stage – proofreading.  More time, more money, because proofreading, like editing, cannot really be done by the writer.

Writing the full novel is only the beginning.  Once it’s done all the hard work really starts, that is editing.  So don’t underestimate how much time and effort editing takes, but it’s well worth it.  Editing is the only way that you will ever get a publication ready book.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Where do you get your ideas?

I hear that that’s the most annoying question you can ask a writer.  I disagree; I think the most annoying question you can ask a writer is – what is it you write again?  Anyway, I digress, as ever.  The question I started to discuss was where to get your inspiration, well everywhere.

If like me you write crime, open the newspapers, there’s crime everywhere.  Locked In takes some aspects from an actual bank robbery that happened in my home town a few years ago, many years after I’d left it, but it made the national news.  I didn’t at the time think – oh yeah I’ll use that in a book – but when I needed a good reason for Charlie not to be seen for half the book, that incident immediately jumped to mind.

Some romance writers take inspiration from their own lives, I used to read a lot of Mills and Boon and there was a writer who always wrote about nurses falling for doctors, just as she’d fallen for her doctor husband. I think that we all do use our real lives in some way shape or form.  Though that said, I’ve found that the closer characters are to being me and leading my sort of life, the less well they work out. I figure this is because I don’t like me and so can’t write me very sympathetically.

But where else can you get ideas?  Well there are a surprising amount of books that can help you out there, go borrow or buy one, there’s no point me telling you what others already have.

I find that challenges work for me.  I’ll often see a competition and let that inspire me. I might not even enter the competition or write to the actual specifications, but I still get the inspiration.  Incidentally, I submit stories for competitions that I have written specifically for that competition, sending any old thing is likely to mean that I’m off beat with the theme of the competition.

Similarly I’ve done a MOOC with Future Learn for short story writing, and that was very useful for making me do something. I have also done other courses, mostly in forensics, and I’ve tried to find a story idea in each week.

There are also a lot of games out there that can help.  There is the obvious cross comparison with any role playing game, after all, writers spend their working lives imagining that they are other people.  Personally when I was a teen, I used to play Tunnels and Trolls, these days I play Dungeon and Dragons E5.  I’ve got an interest in playing Cthuhlu RPG too, just need to read the rule book.

One of the things I’ve noticed about other writers from going to various writers workshops, is how slow some people are to actually come up with a story.  Either that or they are just too reluctant to share.  Back to the point, there are a few games that really help as you have to make up a story on the spot.  My favourites at the moment are the “Gloom” series, but there are others, I’ve got one called “Once Upon a Time” which you have to put together a coherent story based on cards and just keep it going.

I often end up waiting for other people for various things, in various places (I’m awful for having to be early for appointments – even I know I’m stressing myself unnecessarily, but it seems to be hard coded).  But when I am or when I’m waiting in line, I’m always looking around for the story.  In fact I wrote a story on this subject, it’s called Bored, Bored, Not and you can read if on my website.

The point really is that there is inspiration everywhere, all you have to do is see it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Robbing The Dead – Review

tana-flyer

Robbing The Dead is the wonderful debut novel of Tana Collins in her Inspector Jim Carruthers series, published 14th February 2017.

Those of you who have read my blog for any length of time will have heard a little about this book before, (read here) because I had the privilege of being the first editor to get my mitts on Tana’s manuscript.  But now it has been picked up by Bloodhound Books and polished to become the best it can be.

In Robbing The Dead we find a dead Welsh Aircraftman, the car bombing of a Scottish university lecturer, and a old rival of Jim’s turns up.  Not things that are obviously linked, but Tana connects them all nicely.

The main man to watch here is, of course, Inspector Jim Carruthers, now I have an odd relationship with this character.  I can’t say I loved him at first read.  In fact when I did an initial sample edit for Tana, I said “Carruthers is heading for a disciplinary on grounds of sexual discrimination in the workplace.”  Thankfully, when Tana sent me the full script she had moderated her language and Jim was the normal, likable bloke he was always meant to be; a human with faults, though thankfully not many tawdry quirks, he’s given up smoking, drinks but isn’t an alcoholic nor is he in any danger of becoming one, he’s not a serial womaniser. He is a decent bloke doing a tough job.  I think he needs a good woman in his life, but I think that’s where Tana and I disagree, and he’s her baby so her rules apply.

In a way Carruthers does have a good woman, because he has Andie at his side.  DS Andrea Fletcher is a good young copper.  She’s analytical and clear in work, a steady personal life, she respects her boss, understands Jim better than the man realises, and she does her best to curb the worst excesses of her colleagues.  Especially Dougie Harris.

Dougie Harris is old school.  Let’s just say that Gene Hunt would approve.  So okay, he’s a Neanderthal.  But he’s also solid and, maybe not entirely dependable in the world of political correctness, but he’s still the kind you want on your side.

These characters read like real people.  People whose trials and triumphs you can share.  They make a good team and a solid base for a series of books.  Books all set to the beautiful backdrop of Fife.

In other words – this is a good book, but you should decide that out for yourself. Robbing The Dead

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Steampunk Saved His Life

shutterstock_217753792

Following on from my last blog about how writing Steampunk saved my writing life, I wanted to share what happened next.  Steampunk also inspired me to write in a new direction.

As mentioned before I mostly write contemporary crime, a bit of horror and Cthulhu too, but mostly contemporary crime. Well, a while back, I had an amateur detective who worked with a local copper and I thought it was a good book, series material in fact.  Then I sent the manuscript to my editor, Tony Fyler of Jefferson Franklin Editing, and it came back trashed.  Well, not trashed exactly, Tony isn’t the type of editor to do that, but basically, the message was – “This is rubbish, you can do better.”

And looking back now, it was a fair message, but at the time I was devastated.  And that book was consigned to the waste bin.  The main character, the police officer in that book was this guy called Maker, I’ve mentioned him a few times, mostly in Schrödinger’s Edit, a brief overview of which is that Maker was trashed and I rewrote him and was scared to see the edit.

Turns out that while Maker was never a punk, what he really needed was some steam.  What I did was take him out of the 21st century and put him in the 19th. For him, it was a change of clothes, not a transformation.  But it transformed the way I wrote about him, and it gave me much more license to show who he really is, and why he is that way.  It’s still basically a crime story, but one in a very different vein to anything else I have done.

Once I was done, I (in total trepidation) sent Maker back for the edit in Schrödinger’s Edit, and got nervous about what it might say.  Eventually, of course, I opened the edit up and read it.  Tony loved the new version, to quote him:  “Maker SO belongs in this time period, all tight bows[1] and tighter corsets. He’s like Darcy’s grandson.”

Yes! An actual comparison to my absolute all time favourite character!  Sooo happy!

The new book has been revised, I did the thinking bigger I was advised to do, and it has also gone through a name change, it’s now “Shades of Aether”. And it’s back with Tony as I write this, to see what he makes of it now.  Hopefully not a dog’s dinner!

The point is, in the last blog I said thank you to Steampunk for saving my writing life.  This blog is saying thank you to Steampunk for showing me where Maker belonged – for saving his life – Literally.

 

 

[1]  Bow the action, not the bow you tie in a ribbon.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dreaming Cost nothing.  Giving up All Dreams Costs Everything.

steampunk-hands3-2017-xpk

 

I’ve been a writer all my life.  I’ve tried all sorts and come to settle on crime (mostly).  But I also came to settle on the idea that I just couldn’t get published, I was ready to give up my dream.  Then one day I heard about this call for short stories for an upcoming anthology, the theme being “The Strange Island of…”

I was instantly inspired, dreamed a new story, so I wrote a piece.  It took some changes to my thinking of how to write because it was a very different genre to the one I was used to.  The piece, The Steel Inside, still had mystery and suspense, like my crime writing, but there wasn’t a crime, well not in the illegal sense.  The whole island isolation helped.  The fact that I had read a few steampunk books helped too.  But mostly what helped was having a good story idea and then twisting it.

So I finished the story – all 10,000 words – and sent it off.

Then promptly forgot about it.

I try to do that.  Remembering that I’ve sent something off for consideration always leads to painful worrying.  Will it be okay?  Will they like it?  Will I tie myself up in knots wondering?  The only question I ever answer yes to is that last one.  I guarantee I tie myself in knots waiting to hear.

Then I heard.  I really thought that it was going to be another thanks but no thanks, but – stunningly – they loved it.  I was accepted!

My first ever piece of steampunk and it won through.  Amazing.

The Steel Inside, is now the last entry in Steel & Bone from Xchyler Publications.

The real point of all this isn’t blowing my own trumpet, though that’s quite nice too. The point is the effect that it had on me.  I was just about ready to give up on the idea of ever being published, and finally a proper bona fide publishing house was going to print one of my stories.  It renewed my belief that I really can write.

Renewed belief allowed me to carry on, and I have since managed to secure an agent in Ian Drury of Sheil Land Associates. I have also published a collection of short crime stories, Last Cut CasebookThe Steel Inside also inspired me to write a whole new steampunk series, but I’ll tell you more of that later in the month.

Without steampunk I wouldn’t still be writing, so thank you Steampunk, you saved my writing life.

Steel and Bone front cover (newer 2)

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Last Cut Casebook

Facebook banner 2_3.jpgSay hello to the murderer next-door. Outsmart a mad bomber. Take on The Preacher, and pray for your life. Feel a gun to your head, the knife at your belly. Welcome to the Last Cut Casebook.

This collection of crime stories comes from CWA shortlisted author GB Williams, brings you police procedurals, amateur sleuths, vigilantes, private eyes and bomb disposal experts. Thirteen stories with a combined body count over thirty. Edgy or noir, domestic or international, these are stories that explore the darker side of life, and the true meaning of justice.

That is the blurb from Last Cut Casebook.

It’s out! I have finally launched my first self published book.

It took a while and I genuinely thought at one point that this was never going to happen.  My confidence faltered time and time again.  Only half the stories that made the cut were in the original draft, which means half as many again got pulled out.  I arranged for a cover artist – who had to pull out of the job.  Then I grasped a straw and to be honest I accidentally found a fantastic artist – Linh Doung.  Linh is 18, studying Graphic Design and is very talented.  I love the cover of my book.  It’s just brilliant, better than anything I was imagining.

I’m very proud of the stories that have been collected into this one place.  And I hope very much that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Cut-Casebook-G-Williams-x/dp/0957343914

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Rules and When to Break Them

rules

Rules, rules, rules.

At a conference, I once heard Joanne Harris say that the reason she wrote Chocolat was to break every rule she had been given by an author who had critiqued (and torn apart) another of her novels.  I love that story.

We all know that there are always rules to every aspect of life and writing is no exception.  But here’s the thing about rules – there are exceptions, so I thought I’d highlight a few of those exceptions.

Rule:  Never use ‘Emolument’ when you mean ‘tip’.

(Stephen King)

What this rule is actually saying is keep it simple.  I have an editor who screeches about some of the vocabulary I use.  He hates words like ascend, he writes comments on why it should be ‘went up’, similarly with descend, he doesn’t even like entered or exited.  Now, maybe I wouldn’t use emolument (because I had to go look up what it meant anyway) but as for ascend and descend, entered or exited, they have there a place in the English language so they have a place on the appropriate prose.

When to break the Rule:  When it’s appropriate to what you are writing.

I write crime, mostly contemporary, but I have recently written a steampunk crime novel set in the 1870s.  These are very different styles.  No one in the twenty-teens would descend – that lot go down stairs.  My Victorians though – they descend from the upper floors.  Then there’s conversation.  Like Stephen King says in another of his rules – Talk whether ugly or beautiful, is an index of character. The vocabulary picked for the character tells the reader who that person is.  So if you want an upper-crust, over-educated egotist, they might not so much leave a tip as talk about extending emolument. Yes as a reader I already despise that character, but then that is the point of the description and the vocabulary choice.  Remember Mark Twain’s rule: Use the right word, not its second cousin.

Rules: Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue

(Elmore Leonard)

The more that I edit, the more I agree with this rule.  It also goes back to the previous rule: keep it simple – I say.  Also remember that you don’t have to use speech tags on every line of speech.  But yet, I can’t always agree with Mr Leonard on this one.

When to break the Rule:  When it gets boring.

There is nothing more irritating to a reader than constantly reading the same word, and after a while, that is true of ‘said’ too.  So if someone shouts, say they shouted.  If they whisper, use the word whispered.  But make sure they do so sparingly and correctly.

Rule: Work on one thing at a time until finished.

(Henry Miller)

If you can stick to this rule, good on you.  I can’t and I’m not going to beat myself up over that.

When to break this rule:  When it works for you.

Love this rule as an idea, but let’s get real here it’s not always possible. So let’s bring a little reality to the world and let me give you a clue how this works for me.  Right now I am writing a User Manual, my second steampunk crime novel, and a contemporary thriller.  Now the manual – that’s part of the day job, so I do it in working hours.  While I’m in the office, because I’m also doing other things, if I have to wait for a long calculation or upload, I have my notebook by my side to write the steampunk because I write that out first in long hand, I find it helps with the Victoriana tone. But when I get home at night, if I’m not editing, I write my contemporary crime because I’m doing that on the computer only.  Three things, all writing, and all happening at the same time.

Rule:  The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season

(Stephen King again)

Wow!  To be honest, there’s a huge part of me that utterly agrees with this one.  Generally, I do complete a book in that time frame, so why is it in my list of rules to break?  Because this is a list of WHEN to break the rules.

When to break the rule:  When life gets in the way.

I know that that sounds like a cop-out, and frankly it is, but here’s why.  Unlike Stephen King, I haven’t yet been able to give up the day job, so I can’t write solidly for three months.  If I could this would be easy.  The book that got me my agent was written entirely during NaNoWriMo.  But I know a lot of writers and a lot of us are unnecessarily harsh on ourselves, so you have to be real about the rules you follow.  I started a novel in November I still haven’t finished.  Why haven’t I finished it?  Because I’ve was diverted on to a different novel by some solid agent-y advice, and I have taken some time out to (a) edit my first steampunk crime novel and (b) do a paid editing job.

Admittedly I haven’t finished the other novel either, but I’m 37k words in and trying for 1000 words a day, but even that goal goes by the wayside when I get home from the day-jobbery exhausted.  So the real point of this is to give writers a reason to give themselves a break – don’t beat yourself up too much if you can’t meet this time frame.  Equally – don’t take this as a reason to slouch either.  If it’s taken ten years to write the first draft, that’s not a good sign.

So, go on, be a rebel, break some rules but get the writing job done anyway.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized