Tag Archives: writing

Write Away

Last time I blogged I may have mentioned being a happy bunny because I got a three book deal.  Well, now I can actually give a few more details.

I’ve agreed to publish Locked Up, Locked In and Locked Down with Bloodhound Books, I know this is going to happen because I (a) have a contract and (b) I’m actually on their website!

Locked Up should be printed in Autumn this year, and I can’t wait.  Locked In is written and will follow in due course.

Locked Down, is the third in the series.  This hasn’t been written yet.  I have a bit of a story to tell about this book.  I planned it a year ago, but when I spoke to my agent I had this idea and an idea for another thriller, something quite different.  The advice was that without selling the first two of Locked, I was best starting the other book.  I did, I’m over 70k words in.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing it and I will go back and finish it because it’s a great book, but right now I have a contract for Locked Down and that’s the one I have to concentrate on.

So I started writing Locked Down on April 11th and I’m 20k in so far. The book isn’t going the way that I thought it would.  Which isn’t a bad thing, this version is much more interesting than the first draft I started.  That’s the thing I had started Locked Down, but I wasn’t that keen on it.  So when I got the contract.  I started again.  Didn’t like that version either.

So I threw the plot in the bin and just started writing.  The book doesn’t start quite where I thought it would start.  It doesn’t even start with the person I thought it would.  Now it has started it’s flowing nicely.  Have a moment earlier on this weekend when I realised I’d written to a crux moment when a clue needed to be revealed.  The problem was – I had no idea what the clue was going to me.

That meant I put the writing aside.

Then I went to the Llandeilo LitFest listened to a panel of female crime writers, and then some very dark poetry. It was an interesting day, and well worth the journey.

A day away from the laptop and writing and I came back with a clear idea of what had to happen next and have been writing it since.

I guess that’s all I have to say. Sometimes you have to ditch what doesn’t work, start over, and even take time away from writing in order to actually be able to write.  Worked for me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How to drop your Agent

Carefully!

Okay, well this is a blog I never expected to write.  And somewhat different from the tone of the last one.  For many, many years I have been desperately trying to get an agent, and in 2015 – I got one.

Whoops of glee did, in fact, abound.  I even blogged about.  I was so happy.  I knew not to expect miracles, but I figured I’d get a publishing deal in a year or two.

Only I didn’t.  And when I asked my agent about it, he was saying that a lot of the big boys were cutting their commissioning editors, especially in crime, and that until they appointed new editors, it was unlikely that they would take on any newbie writers.  Not good news for a newbie writer.

And yet, I know so many authors who are getting published, admittedly by the smaller press, but they are getting published.  The small press are guys my agent wouldn’t touch because the margin just isn’t there to make it worth his while.  Well, sitting around forever and earning nothing isn’t worth my while either.

I have a load of friends who are full-time writers, and a few of them were giving me the same advice all the time – Ditch the agent and self-publish.  I knew they were right, sort of.  But it still took me six weeks from admitting that to actually doing the deed.  Saying goodbye to an agent after so many years of trying to get one was without a doubt the scariest thing I have ever done. (And I’ve jumped out of a plane.  And had two kids.)

So I sent an email, acknowledging what my agent had done for me, but also recognising how the industry is and admitting the fact that I don’t want to be in my 50s before I get a book published.

Yes, I have self-published, Last Cut Casebook (LCC) is still out there.  And that’s one example of why self-publishing is not great for me.  I don’t have the know-how that is needed for marketing – nor the contacts.  I wish I did.  That’s why LCC, good as it is – and it is – I have the 5 star reviews to prove it – has only sold in single figures.

I didn’t just send an email and forget about my agent though.  I followed the email with a call, and spoke to my agent.  It was actually a lovely, reaffirming conversation, reality accepted and no blame laid on either side, because frankly, there isn’t any.  We’d have both sold the book if we could have.

And that’s really the point of this blog.  If you are going to ditch your agent, accept that as much as you want the book sold – so does he/she!  Agents only make their money by selling their clients books.  So if saying goodbye, recognise the professionalism of your agent, appreciate any work he or she has done.  And be honest.  Being honest is something I went on about when giving advice on how to get an agent, well it’s just as important for ending that relationship.  And don’t forget – read your contract and be clear on what you need to do from a legal standpoint – chances are there is a contract end period.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, once the relationship with my agent was – sadly – over, I sent off my manuscript to a publisher.  Within 8 days I had a publishing contract.  Not just for one book – but three!

A three book deal!

I can hardly believe it.  Such a happy bunny.  All I have to do now, is write book three.  Which I’m off to do.  Ta-ta for now.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

An Incontinent Dog

I really should be writing.  It’s a simple as that.  I even want to be writing, but when I open up my current WIP or either of the other two I have reason to be writing, all I see is a blank sheet and no words.  Well I see the words I’ve already written, but nothing new springs to mind.

So I was about to close down, and give up for the day, when I saw Document1 was still open.  This document.  Not having any trouble writing this document.  But that may be because of the nature of this document.

This is my blog.  I can write whatever I want to write here.  I don’t have to make sure that it makes sense as it follows on the heels of the last blog.  It doesn’t have to relate to anything in the next blog either.  It’s its own little world of words – a standalone.  This way I am free and can just type a stream of consciousness scribbling thing, and let sentences kind of get away from me like this one did. I do go back and edit – most of the time – but sometimes I let the creative weirdness stay in.

The truth is that the last six months have been well, pretty naff actually.  I have struggled with stress and depression.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a good life, there is a great deal that I have to be grateful about in my life.  But getting depression isn’t one of them.  Depression can dump all over you like an incontinent dog with diarrhoea, and sometimes there is just nothing you can do to stop it.  Which is where I am now.

I’m trying to get past it, really I am, but this mental block on the writing is just starting to wind me up.  I’m not sure if being able to write this is helping or making matters worse since it’s such a stark contrast to where I was a few minutes ago.  I want to write the next scene of my WIP.  Even kind of know what it is, but I sit down to try and can’t, been like that a few days now.  I suspect that somewhere in the back of my mind I know there’s a problem with what I’m going to write.  That probably means that I’m going to have to wait until that “somewhere” figures out what is going on and jumps up to tell conscious me what the problem is.

This mid-book funk is unusual for me and I don’t like it.  I want it and the depression to go away.  Hand in hand into the sunset.  Yep, that would do.  A romantic break together.

I suspect what I really need is a restful break from the day job, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon either.  Well, except that I’m going to Crimefest is 46 days, that’s always something I look forward to.  Anyway, sorry it’s a bit of a blue afternoon, hope to have something more cheery to write next blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

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

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