30 January 2014

Interviewed: Getting to know the Author

Today I'm being interviewed by Glynis Smy on why I work in more than a single genre, which authors I count as my influences and the odd reasons why, and what happened when I and a couple of friends came upon "the man with the gun".

Hey, I'm still here to tell the tale! Join me to leave a comment or ask a question.

25 January 2014

Editing Update #2

Two weeks ago I celebrated adding THE END to The Bull At The Gate and wrote a post explaining my editing plan. I thought I'd offer an update. Of the 1-9 steps I am up to No 2. Okay, so I took a few days off to allow my brain to clear, but even so...?

Step 2 is the structural edit. The Bull At The Gate has three parallel storylines, two contemporary and a Roman historical. It is this historical that has caused the problems due to it expanding from a minor subsidary storyline into a major subsidiary storyline during the writing of the novel.

Anyone who writes fiction will realise that this is a recipe for disaster if allowed to stand, as it will unbalance the entire book. The remedy is to rewrite the storyline thread until it meets its true depth and then dovetail the ends. Easier said than done.

Let me be clear about this, I'm not referring to fairly straightforward multiple viewpoints of the same storyline, which can be easily tweaked. Multiple storylines need to be balanced, not just for pacing, but also for tone, reflection of theme, and of the emotional constraints of the characters. Add in the seeding of information, and the harvesting of it at the optimum point further along the storyline - all without disrupting the other two storylines - and it becomes obvious that this is not just a case of writing a few linking scenes.

Remind me to next time write a first person novel. Far less hassle.

18 January 2014

Are Writers' Support Groups Useful?

It depends on the support group.

I’ve been a member of four or five during my writing career. One was large and hierarchal; one was a loose assembly of whoever turned up on the night. All of them met monthly – except the one I belong to now, and I have belonged to it for – shock, horror - 25 years.

Hornsea Writers meets weekly except for Christmas when members have two weeks off for good behaviour, but we are expected to arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the second week in January with a piece of work-in-progress to discuss. Yes, just because we don’t meet, doesn’t mean we don’t write… and edit and polish and…

It is this dual ethos of grit and professionalism that has made members so prolific and brought such rewards. Our published work covers a wide range of fiction genres as well as non-fiction and journalism, so we have fingers in a multitude of pies. Information we glean is fed back to the group, sometimes across the table, more often via our internal Yahoogroup messaging service, leaving meetings for their true role: to read aloud and group critique work-in-process. And when they do… changes in tense or register, repeated words, incorrect word choice for character, passive verbs, convoluted sentence structure…

We may write, edit, polish and read aloud in the safety of our own office spaces, but reading aloud to members who write notes as they listen throws the work into sharp relief before anyone says a word. Many a potential new member has been left shell-shocked merely listening to us, and it is one of the  reasons why membership is now by invitation only.

This willingness to mark everything has raised our individual standards, and it works to our advantage. A piece heralded by ‘There’s something wrong with this but I can’t put my finger on it,’ will prompt a host of closely argued recommendations that the writer can act upon. I have a blind spot the size of the Houses of Parliament when it comes to using lie, lay, laid, and lain that no grammar resource seems able to illuminate, but I know members will correct my lapse before it crosses other eyes.

Much has changed in 25 years. Publishing no longer means print, it also means audio and digital download, and viewing a global, rather than merely national, market. Occasionally it means side-stepping publishing houses, and some of us are that new breed of hybrid author and indie author-publisher. The trick is to be flexible, and to keep a finger on the industry’s pulse.

If I were starting out today would I still seek a support group of like-minded individuals with drive? Certainly. But I’d seek it on the internet as well as within walking distance.

In its Jubilee year, Hornsea Writers has launched a collective web presence to augment members’ individual platforms. Some might say ‘about time’.

7 January 2014

New Year, New Novel: The Bull At The Gate

Earlier today I nailed The Bull At The Gate, the second in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy. 100,376 words done, if not dusted. Pick up a glass of something sparkling and share my celebration.

I write slowly and edit constantly, so what is now sitting in various Word files will be close to what appears between the covers. But the blood-sweating creativity is only part of the process of bringing a novel to the hands of readers. The hard-headed, and hopefully clear-minded, business end of the process now begins, and I thought I'd share my step-by-step system:

1) to maintain a forward momentum while writing I add in a mass of queries as I go via marginal Comments: these need to be chased down and resolved
2) a structural check/edit to ensure:
-  the balance of the pacing
- that information harvested – the dramatic edge – has been previously secured via seeding and nurturing before it is needed in fruition
-  the three parallel storylines share the correct level of billing 
- that subplots and historical & contemporary detailing remain in subordinate roles
3) a line edit
4) an automated edit check via software to help identify anything I've missed
5) a second line edit
6) a beta readers’ check
7) mulling queries the beta readers highlight and marking priorities for change or honing
8) resolve priorities in order
9) a (hopefully) combined edit + polish, alongside identifying useful snippets for promotional purposes

…and then both it and I shall collapse in separate heaps to moulder, sorry, mature, like good cheese - make that wine - while I reconsider a rather flimsy marketing plan. But that’s a whole other post.

As can be seen, the most pressing of these – the digital cover – has already been completed, by Karri Klawiter, though she won’t be able to finish the wraparound for the paperback until I know its dimensions. And that, too, is a whole other post.