Sunday, 2 October 2016

Pet hates

Now, that I've had my own writing edited and examined I dare to stick my neck out and talk about some of my pet hates, in novels. There are more...but here's a start!
1. "Inward sighing" or inward anything...
2. Wish fulfilment, where very unlikely people indeed, fall at the feel of our heroine or hero.
3. People throwing cushions or pillows at each other...a shortcut for playfulness.
4.Women as too victimised and humiliated and especially, subject to torture and violence.
5. Labels indicating wealth and crap values.
6. Too much telling.
7. Laboured humour.
8. The word "gotten".
9. People fiddling with their hair.
10. Lazy stereotypes, e.g. stroppy, mouthy teenager.

Saturday, 13 August 2016


I am reading: How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson.
This is a revelation to me. I've read writing books before but this one could have been written specially for me. Planning and plotting are my biggest challenges. I write off the top of my head, as they say, and it does work for me. It is true that the whole thing takes on a life of its own - minor characters take on a bigger role, incidents happen and reasons emerge. But, I'm not altogether happy with my method. I know planning would improve my books and my job  would be a lot easier. However, planning in a notebook does not work for me. It kills the story stone dead, in fact.

In the snowflake method, you don't plan in the normal sense  but you do exercises which reveal your story and your characters and before you start writing you do have - maybe not a road map or a plan - but you have a body of knowledge (even of it's all made up) that informs your writing and definitely makes it stronger.   

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Where do you you get your ideas?

Oh, this is a tricky, tricky questions. It's a good question but not so easy to answer.

For me, the idea comes from something very small. It can be something I read or something I hear and it lurks away at the back of my mind, just coming to the fore every now and then. I think its a good idea keep to notebook for this purpose. Many of  the ideas come to nothing but some are more persistent.

Treated as Murder came from this picture I had in my head of an unmarried sister and brother living in Yorkshire. I knew in my mind that the first World War played a part. It was also clear to me that mental illness would play a part. This came directly from my experience of working as a psychiatric nurse.

The idea of having a second underlying story came from my crime novel reading. I think this can work really well though you can get it wrong and I know I committed the sin of letting a sub-plot take too much prominence in (an earlier) draft of Treated as Murder.

I honestly can't say for sure that I initially intended Edith Horton to become heroine of a series. I think this happened gradually.

Friday, 5 August 2016


Oh. Even the word sounds harsh and final. No matter how you school yourself against it, the feeling you get when your novel is returned is not nice. The tendency here is to see a rejection as not only of your novel but of yourself- your idea, your creativity, intelligence, talent and above all your writing.

My advice here is to indulge in this welter of self-pity for a prescribed time limit. No more than 1 - 2 days, then you get annoyed with yourself and give yourself a good talking to.
Almost all writers get rejections - they are part of the process of getting published.
It isn't personal - no-one is just being nice to you (in publishing "being nice) is rare. It is often the case that your book just doesn't fit their list at that time.

You will get there in the end.

Pre-emptive measures:
Always have something else in the pipeline. This may be another agent/publisher or a different project. You know what they say about all your eggs in one basket.

Have a writing buddy or group that will support at this point.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Enough editing - what about marketing...

A common theme amongst writers is an antipathy to marketing. "I'm a writer," you hear, "not a salesperson," There's no denying the fact that the two things are not always natural bedfellow. Sometimes, yes, the are, as witnessed by some meteoric success stories. But it is often the case that the kind of person who likes to hide away a bit and live in his/head (forgive the stereotypes) is not the natural self-publicist.

The other side of this is often expressed by my publisher amongst others and that is that the day has gone where you can quietly hang out in your garret and write. You see, there are an awful lot of books out there at the moment. So many sell in tiny numbers and they sometimes deserve to be better known, more read and reviewed. But, if people don't know about your book how can they read and review? I'd love any one else's thoughts on this very difficult area. 

Friday, 29 July 2016

Self-publishing...good & bad

There are clear advantages to this route:
- Allowing a lot of control to the writer.
- If you are a person who likes marketing or finds this comes naturally, then you will have a clear advantage. At least you KNOW you have to do the hard work whereas when people get a deal with a publisher they often have unrealistic expectations of the marketing expertise/resources which will be directed at their book.

On the other hand:
- I find the editing/cover art help that my publisher supplies, invaluable. This does not cost me.
- Credibility - this is a fast-changing factor but, for instance, because Edith Horton is not self-published I was able to join the Crime Writers Association - a long held dream and something I'm loving.
Proof-reading & editing (at the danger of repeating myself, here). If writing is a craft, this learning curve, painful as it can be, improves the writer's work beyond measure. I don't think anyone is truly objective when it comes to his/her work.

If you are self-publishing my one piece of advice would be to please, please get your work professionally read/proof-read/edited.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Why self-publish?

I haven't self-published as I was lucky enough to find a small indie publisher. Yet, I very much see that other people choose to do so. Some have been very successful. Interestingly, some traditionally published writers have gone on to publish later books themselves. Some of the arguments are about control over their work, receiving almost all of the royalties but, crucially, I think, about marketing.

One of the changes and eye-opening changes at that, in traditional publishing, is that an awful lot of the marketing is up to the writer. This is one of the single biggest changes in a rapidly evolving industry. I keep saying that publishing is changing and many writers have come to the realisation that the option of sitting in front of your screen and living happily in your head is only something you can do some of the time!  Traditional publishers only throw money and time at a small number of their writers - a fact of writing life today.