Archive for June, 2015

Well – the truth is that I am fine with both of these things – because i Understand how subjective it is – I have read plenty of books that were recommended to me and hated them, I have read things that my friends loved and just not “got it” and so its understandable that not everyone who reads my books is going to love it. I got an update from my agent this morning with details of the 8 rejections that I received. and by details I mean criticisms, or basically observations on why they didnt want to publish it.

It would be easy for me just to focus on the bad – here are some of the negative comments i received.

  • I felt that the main characters needed more rounding out as it didn’t keep me gripped like it should.
  • I didn’t find myself quite as gripped as I was hoping to be by the narrative
  • it’s one of those cases where there’s much to admire, but somehow I didn’t quite fall in love enough to want to pursue further
  • I don’t find the writing exceptional. It’s good, but I don’t think it’s wow.
  • I think it was the writing more than the plotting that I couldn’t engage with
  • I struggled with the way in which characters were described, which struck me as rather anatomical at times

OK so when I look at it as a list like that, its not too bad, those were pretty much all of the negatives – now lets look at the positives

  • I really liked the characters of Abbey and Parker. I thought that their relationship was a tender juxtaposition for the more brutal murders that were taking place
  • It’s a complex plot that poses interesting questions about right and wrong
  • It’s well-written and an enjoyable read
  • It’s a gut-wrenching tale – very affecting, and I thought Diamond did a good job marshalling the various perspectives
  • I read a large chunk of this over the weekend and have been deliberating all day
  • The opening is incredibly chilling, unsettling and gripping, and I admired Katerina’s ability to evoke a mood, to build an atmosphere which plunges the reader into the story.

There are some other positives here and there – overall i would say 55% positive and no one said it was utter crap . But it was so hard to read and not just focus on the bad stuff. my agent will speak to me again in the week she has about 13 more agents to come back to her about it. I guess its just been a rollercoaster since submitting and then getting an agent and getting pitched to a bunch of people. I think realistically i would have been more perturbed if someone had loved it! Onwards and upwards!

If you’re anything like me then you wait a lot. You wait for ideas to grab you, you wait for the writers block to disappear. You wait for distance from your script before you start to edit, you wait for someone else to look it over for you, you wait for their feedback. You wait until you feel ready to send your work out, you wait to hear rejections or offers of representations and then you wait for your agent (should you get one) to get you a publishing deal.

i wonder if its worse when you’re waiting for yourself or when your work is in others hands. Both can be frustrating. I remember when I was writing the first book i had a lot of people offer to read it for me, in fact I think I gave it to 5 people all together, only two of those people read it, and one was my mother (who skipped all the gory bits – which is about a third of the books) – so my advice is, don’t give it to anyone to read unless you are 100% sure that they will understand that it means something – because people flippantly say things and then don’t deliver (I’m guilty of this myself)

Having a writing partner was invaluable – my wonderful friend and writing partner J was the only person who actually read and critiqued my work from a readers point of view. It was almost finished by then but i did need someone to read it for plot holes etc. Because I had worked with J before for hours and hours in google drive – writing screenplays together I knew i could trust her to be honest with me. Writing with a partner is hard work because artistic egos can be an issue at first. i have a lot of respect for writing teams because it does take discipline to be that person as writing is naturally a very lonely art.

Sending my work off to agents, – well I was waiting for a lady i knew who was showing it to her agent – she had sent it to a “Reader” for me, which took a few weeks.  it was a couple of weeks after the reader before i heard back and then I heard back with a NO thanks – not our thing – which was fine, i was kind of expecting that. – even though you are always hoping for an offer of representation – you always expect the rejection – its better to be that way – trust me, Its fine to be disappointed when the rejections come – if your work is strong and you believe in it then just keep sending it away. Anyway the woman said she had another agent to show it to. this was about the time I got impatient – my work had been “finished” for about 3 months now and i thought now was the time to do it myself and send it away. So I sent it to a few agents – I was lucky that I heard back a week later to ask for the rest of my book and then a week later for offer of representation – which seems super fast but when you factor in everything else it really wasn’t.

So then my agent gave me some advice on things that needed tweaking or changing and i did that within a few days because really it was continuity issues over anything else and that just required perseverance rather than inspiration. Now my agent has pitched to 22 publishers and i find myself waiting again. Every day i check my email and every day there is nothing. My other half made me email my agent for an update just a week after pitching but I knew it was too soon. i don’t know how long its going to take so in the mean time I keep myself busy by writing blogs and trying to rack up my word count on the new books (which is at 56.5k thanks for asking)  and intermittently going on facebook to look at other peoples mind vomit.

Worse than waiting though, is not waiting.is selling your work short by sending it out before its finished. by not rewriting and editing because you are impatient. Do your work the justice it deserves by making it the best thing you could possibly write at this moment in time – not just something that “will do”

Good luck to me, to you and to anyone else on this crazy ride.

I always used to think writing from  first person Point of view was cheating, because its easy, you just put yourself in a persons position and then you let rip on your thoughts. Now I dont feel that way at all. As long as use the first person POV correctly its actually a very powerful tool.

There arent many books that I have read from a first person POV that have really felt that authentic, because there is a tendency for your character in your POV to know everything, but the truth is you only know your own perspective, and unless you impart the individuality of the character in that perspective then there is very little to be gained from writing in that way.

Probably the most famous first person POV book is Catcher in the Rye, and you are sucked into holden caulfields perspective of the world, and his perspective alone. Its probably been twenty years since i read that book and yet If faced with a small excerpt from it, I would recognise it immediately, Because the voice is so brilliantly distinctive.

Another book that stuck with me was John Fowles The Collector – such a dark book, again, I havent read it for a very long time, and I probably should read it again because I think i was about 14 when i read it and it kind of blew my mind a little. Its such a dark book. What struck me about the main character was that there was something wrong with him, his perspective was all wrong, he had a bitter view of the world and of the people in it, he saw himself as an outsider (although I think we all do) and it really struck me as imparting some of the things you think but you never say out loud. Thats where I think the first person POV is so useful, because you can create a language that creates the individual, unlike with dialogue.

A clockwork orange exemplifies this perfectly, the language is so alien and yet it doesn’t take long for the audience to understand it. It creates a feeling for the man ALEX and helps us to understand how he doesn’t play by the rules, not even the rules of language. Another book where the first person POV is used so well, to create the world inside the characters mind.

It took me a long time to make the transition from writing in first person to writing in third person with one persons perspective at the forefront, its an important skill to have – being an outsider looking in, but only having the inside of one characters thoughts to draw on. I never really understood why it was important not to change between perspectives in a chapter until I heard other people doing it – its very confusing and it pulls you out of the story if you have to keep adjusting the person you empathise most with in each “scene”. There are many older books that have an all encompassing view where you can see what everyone is thinking and feeling, but that actually requires an awful lot of skill to pull off and i wouldnt recommend it. Its pretty rare too.

I have recently read the outlander series, which i have mentioned before. The first book is exclusively written from the main characters POV – but this changes in later books and i feel that was because it became hard to explain how she knew things, and also her POV made her a little dislikeable to me, because she was a real know it all. I didnt feel like the first person POV was used in the way that I described in the other stories, i didnt feel like I was in a world inside her head, I felt like she was constantly relaying things to me that she probably wouldnt have known. This also involves her “husband” Jamie giving her a detailed account of the rape he encountered at the hands of Captain Black jack Randall – just so that she could relay the information to us, because otherwise there was no way for her to know. It just involved a little too many people trusting her. Dont get me wrong, i loved the book, I read the first 5 books in about 4 weeks, but i noticed a change in the writing style as the books went on. The only first person POV we get is from the original main character, but we get a few other third person POV’s including jamie her daughter and some bloke called Roger. This lead to a much richer and believable experience as a reader as we got to see things through other characters eyes. Although quite a few of them seemed to be obsessed with breast feeding fully grown men and this seemed to be an oversight to me, as though it could have been restricted to one or two characters as opposed to all of them. maybe thats just me though.

In my new book I have one character thread which is told from a first person POV and i have to say it was so hard to write. Where i used to find it so easy to do that, now I had trained myself to write the other way. What got me most was trying to create a person from the inside, not the outside view, because our opinion of ourselves is rarely the way others see us. For instance people are often telling me how laid back I am – this could not be further from the truth HA! So trying to impart how someone else sees you but also be in your own head, is pretty tricky stuff. Also being honest with the first things that come to mind, because you are no holds barred inside someones head, and thoughts come before they get filtered for public consumption, so dont be afraid of the horrible thoughts put them in the story and then you can edit them at a later time if you think they are too much.

On Books I have liked

Posted: June 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

I must admit I dont read as much as I used to, not by a long shot. But I have instilled the need to read and the respect for the written word into my children because I strongly believe nothing sparks the imagination more than reading a good book. I also believe you learn more from fiction than non fiction – purely because facts can be slipped in without you even realising you are learning them. I am very resistant to education and so I need to figure things out for myself, i need to educate myself. Good books also make you think about yourself, question yourself and your beliefs make you think about your place in the world.

1. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

i know I have mentioned this before but its such a beautifully written book that it deserves mentioning again. i wont go on about it this time but – its a fantastic book. This is the exact copy of the book I have

rebecca

2. The Count of Monte Christo  – Alexander Dumas

Such a finely intricate plot. Its a big daunting book but its worth it, i read it in a week because it was unputdownable – it kind of blew my mind, so exciting, all the adventures of Edmund Dantes. The absolute epitome of how to write revenge and a masterclass in pace. I got this beautiful Leather bound copy for christmas last year – Barnes and Noble leather bound classics

9781435132115

3. Incompetence – Rob Grant

I read this book almost every time i go on holiday (which is not very often) but its truly brilliant. I dont often read comedy because most comedies just make me smirk as opposed to laughing out loud. But this one is just great. By one of the writers of Red Dwarf with a definite similarity in the sense of humour. its basically about a politically correct bureaucratic nightmare in the future. If you want a laugh – read it.

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4. Cross Stitch – Diana Gabaldon

Well, The outlander tv show started on TV and a friend of mine was going on about it, so when it came on Amazon prime I watched the first half of the show up to the Midseason break. Apart from the obvious annoying aspect of time travel and the problems it throws up it was a very engaging book. In fact it was the first time i had picked up a book in a long time. What amazed me was that I found out it was written a long time ago – over 20 years and yet it didnt have that aged feel about it. At first I felt like I was reading a blog post on a kinkster website because it just has that “romantic fantasy” feel. But the book pulls no punches, bad language, explicit sexual content and the baddest of baddies. The last quarter of the book is so unbelievably harrowing that I had to put it down occasionally just from a respite from the sadism.

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5. The Outsider – SE Hinton

I read this so much as a teenager – i think it was one of those “teen tracks” books at my school. I even still have my old school library copy, its completely busted and the spine has fallen to peices but i love it nonetheless. Apart from the content which is a vivid picture of disaffected youth and poverty – it sounds miserable but its not – its lyrical – poetic. BUt one of the genius parts of the story is that the opening paragraph of the book and the closing paragraph of the book are exactly the same – word for word – but the meaning of them is so different by the time you get to it. Its everything a story should be.

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Obviously there are loads more but I’ll just leave it there for now. What are some of your favourite books?

Well I had a fairly productive day – not in terms of my word count, which remained slightly shy of 55k – but in terms of progress in other areas. I went and spoke to my local Waterstones and the manageress has very kindly agreed to let me start a writing group there. So that will be an hour and a half once a month where we get to do flash fiction and read our work out to be critiqued by each other.

My first writing group begins next wednesday and i don’t have the dates yet for the next one.

The reason I think its important to get involved in writing groups is because as a writer its easy to get stuck in a bubble – where you think either your work is really terrible when in fact you just need fresh eyes on it = or – god forbid – your writing is terrible and someone needs to help you get a better rhythm. Its nothing to be ashamed of – we all right duff stuff once in a while. Looking back on things i wrote years ago I cringe, i really do. Writing is about constantly learning, from others as well as yourself. When i start writing a story invariably by the time I have gotten a few thousand words into it it starts writing itself because i have hit my stride, sometimes its hard to find the stride in your story on your own.

In terms of my novel – I have come to a point where i kind of need to stop and start a whole new thread – which is very exciting – because i will discover new things about my characters that will also add to the plot. I will discover new characters that i havent even met yet. I think this thread – the police one should give me at least 15k at this point – because i will make sure i use 3k per chapter, and I definitely have at least 5 chapters to write – that takes me to 70k – and then I have about 15k to sew it all up – then comes the REALLY fun part – the rewrite. I will do a whole blog post on rewriting when I get to it.

Until next time

I start out with an idea rather than a plan – its hard to get a complete plan together until I have started writing, but thats just me. I would say in crime fiction planning is absolutely necessary, even if its just a basic idea that you constantly add to

Usually I write about 30k words and then I get stuck as I have to put in more plot elements that slot together Thats when i start my plan.

Because I usually write one thread that will take up chapters 1, 5, 9, 13, 17 etc then I need to figure out what slots in between there – what impact the things I have written already will have on the things I have yet to write. to be honest sometimes i write parts of chapters near the end – i most definitely do not write in a linear way, at least not to start with. Sometimes an idea I have could be slotted into almost any part of the story. sometimes it needs to be earlier or later.

Another thing I have started doing (because of the way i write, is writing all the chapter headings and then putting some plot points under the heading, so that when i get there, I can either add more plot points or I can write the story. EXample

CHAPTER 6

  • KILL BOB
  • ANNA FINDS OUT WHO MOTHER IS
  • DOG GETS RUN OVER

CHAPTER 7

  • DOG IN VETS
  • SUZY GETS SECTIONED

CHAPTER 8

Here i have an actual chapter that I have already written with little bits of information that pertain to things that are happening. Usually to start this would be a past thread, so something thats happened some time before the crimes have started – so far that seems to be my format, who knows what my next book will be written – oh i do, as I already have some ideas for that jotted down somewhere. 

CHAPTER 9

  • SUZYS POV
  • BOBS BODY FOUND BY HIS SISTER

CHAPTER 9

  • POLICE INVESTIGATE BOBS MURDER
  • DETECTIVE FALLS OUT WITH BOSS

You get the idea. and then either side of that will be fully written chapters, but so i know what I have thought i need to put in those chapters I just jot them under.  I start filling in the gaps as the ideas come to me, eventually there isnt much filling left to do. I realise this isnt a conventional way of doing things, That’s in my actual manuscript. Theres a point where you need to stop planning and continue writing, because sometimes the writing is the inspiration for more of the plot to come out. Sometimes your characters lead you in a certain direction and it can be hard to stick to your plan. Think about what the overall objective is as opposed to the journey there – you don’t have to follow your plan to the letter – let your creativity guide you. You will eventually get to a point where the end is in sight and you know what to do.

Good luck!

Editing is a strange thing. There are a couple of different types as far as i can tell. Editing your content, which is where you look for plot holes and structural changes to the story that will make it stronger – or checking for grammar and spelling.

The first bit of advice I can give is – unless you have finished your book, don’t try and edit it (unless there is something specific you need to change – then yeah – do that before you forget) – but don’t keep reading through the beginning – you will absolutely keep finding things and get pulled away from the part of the story that you are actually on. There are things that I put into the beginning of the story after I had finished writing the book, because there were things I knew at the end that I hadn’t known when I started writing the book. I don’t always know every detail before I start a book (obviously or the writing would be easy) and so i like to give myself the time and distance before editing for plot flaws – because the closer I am – the less I see.

The other kind of editing is more difficult for me, I don’t know what an adverb is, my punctuation is shit and I forget to format paragraphs properly. I read through it on the computer many many times – I don’t think i would be lying if i said i had read through it AT LEAST 50 times on the computer – fortunately i am a fast reader and so it only takes me a day to read it through. That was great. I could do spell check over and over and then still find errors. I had a reader read my book, and she (i assume it was a she) said some of my dialogue was a bit hammy (how dare she!) and so i printed off my book and then went through the whole thing with a highlighter pen and highlighted every single bit of dialogue. I looked through the conversations and saw if there was anything i could fine tune. It was actually an interesting exercise to see how much dialogue I had in the book, I think I had a fairly good balance.

I also went through wherever I found a mistake and put a post it note on there, colour coded, pink for spelling, green for typos, orange for plot relating to the sequel, yellow for grammar..etc

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mmmm pretty

Finally there’s formatting, paragraph indentations, proper line spacing, making sure you have page numbers – also the title of your book at the top left header and the author name the top right corner. Capital letters where they should be and stuff like that. I also post it noted areas where that was wrong.

the key is organisation of the mind, and also just removing the emotion from it. its a product, you wouldnt try and sell a jumper you had knitted if there were holes in it would you? who would buy it? An agent needs you to make their 15%, so they are not going to represent someone who is submitting a jumper full of holes are they? They then have to fix the holes and move on to showing the jumper to a publisher who will then go – why would I want a jumper like that? (My analogy is thin – just go with it)

The funny thing about me is that if there is even remotely one spelling mistake in a book I am reading i totally notice it – in my own work, not so much.

That’s just how I work. I couldn’t afford an editor and so I had to rely on myself mostly to work it out, like everything with my writing. I am self taught, I didn’t go to University and do a masters degree in creative writing, (in fact i did six months of a computer software engineering degree before realising I was definitely a creative type and giving up) – There’s nothing wrong with doing a degree, but I believe with the right amount of dedication and determination you can learn without it. Also I suck at education.

Remember, its important to know the rules so that you know when its OK to break them.

Until next time

also – heres a great mash up video for inspiration

OK Im going to lay it all out there. I dont know an awful lot about publishing. But tonight i went to an interesting meeting at Waterstones in Thanet talking about getting published. it was interesting to see the different ways some people had gone about getting published. Although none had been published through agencies – both of the men I spoke to there had been self published, but both had very different experiences. One had laid out huge personal financial outlay in order to see his book in print, including some misadventures with expensive editors who didn’t do the job properly. The other man ordered each book that was ordered from him one by one, so there was no initial outlay at all.

It got me to thinking though – about publishing – first of all I only say these things as they relate to me, these are not judgements on other people or how they have chosen to do things – everyone’s different eh?

I was very reluctant to go the self publishing route without at least putting up a fight and trying to secure a deal with an actual publisher, through an agent. One of the questions that was thrown up in the meeting tonight was how do you measure success? Well for me, yeah seeing my book in print would be great, but not if I am the one who has paid to do it – because books are all about the audience at the end of the day, if you just write a book for yourself then why bother getting published at all, even self published, just keep it to yourself.

For me (on this book at least) I measure my success on someone who knows the industry telling me that its a marketable object –  that its something that people will want to read. I knew that if i couldn’t find an agent i would most likely self publish, but I knew for me that might not be the best thing to do. For starters im absolutely crap at marketing myself. I’m basically a recluse who spends my days in my basement staring at a wall without a window. I need an Agent to market me, I cant sell myself as a product and not because I don’t believe in myself, but because – well for a start I don’t have the connections an agent does. I’m just not a seller. I lack the confidence to promote myself. Its not even about money (but lets not be rash, I like money) its about being a legitimate writer. Are you a writer if the only person who believes in your shit is you? well i don’t know, i don’t make the rules.

Getting an Agent turn around and say to me, your stuff is great was a massive confidence boost and totally made me feel like a legitimate writer, i didn’t realise i didn’t feel like a proper writer until I started feeling like one – even though i have been writing for years. getting an agent was a game changer for me. (However if you are self published – great reviews and book sales would provide the same feeling of validation I imagine)

Is it arrogance or insecurity that makes someone self publish? for me it would be insecurity. I would be so scared of putting myself out there to be rejected by agents that I would just do it myself and be happy to sell it to a handful of people who want it every now and then.

Is it a control thing? Is it just not being able to stand someone else having control of your baby, telling you that you need to change the name, have this cover, change this chapter, do this differently etc etc – well yeah I get that. Although when I wrote the book i have just written i was trying to appeal to a commercial audience – ONE because i love crime thrillers and TWO because i wanted to get an Agent to do all the hard work for me. i had resigned myself to make any changes that an agent considered necessary – you see – this is what i want to do for the rest of my life – and so – I wanted to do it “the right way” – it may not be the most financially lucrative way – it may even be considered selling out.

Like I said before though i realise there are a great number of people who are hugely successful and self published and they are probably much more market savvy people than me, I really am rubbish at promoting myself and putting myself forward Its something i have been trying to work on lately – hence the blog and my lame attempts at twitter.

The publishing industry seems to be fast evolving and who knows what’s going to happen. All i know is that the measure of success for me would be to find a dog eared well read copy of my book in a charity shop – screwed up I know!

Since getting an agent all I ever get asked is how I got an agent. I’m going to be honest and say it was 90% per cent luck at the right person to read my submission at the right time. But its the other 10% that you need to concentrate on.

Firstly (and most importantly) – write a killer book, like not a book about a killer but a book that feels as complete and brilliant as it possibly can to you. Don’t put your faith in an agent being able to see past the mistakes to the core of you as a writer, Why would they?

Remember that some agencies get thousands of submissions a week, the world is full of aspiring writers. Don’t get your work tossed out on a technicality. get someone to help you if you struggle with any of these points below.

  • Grammatical errors are probably the first most jarring for someone who is reading your book – so make sure thats all good.
  • Punctuation – this is my downfall (you may or may not have noticed) – I have been told by a few people how bad my punctuation is. I think I am getting better – I must resist the urge to put commas everywhere. maybe because Im a rambler and I type as i think i dont really think about sentence structure. I bought a book on punctuation which i read a little bit of and then gave up, watched some documentaries. Eventually I just kind of worked it out mostly. Its not perfect but i really did try my best to make it as good as I could. I put a lot of effort into my punctuation.
  • Spellings – silly but I kept finding spelling mistakes – or words that were spelled correctly but were incorrect in the context i was using them and so were not flagged by any spell-checker.
  • Continuity – I found a massive continuity error in my book after reading it for the 300th time, I cant believe I missed it (fortunately my agent missed it too) – but if I had been reading a book other than my own then i would have totally noticed and been infuriated by the error.
  • READ – and re read. I could probably quote my book verbatim because I have read it several times. Over 100 times easily. i can honestly say I have found something wrong with it every single time that I read it. Over time you will find less and less mistakes. Once you have read it a few hundred times, read it aloud to yourself, that should throw up some interesting observations on your “flow”, find out if it works.
  • FINISH YOUR BOOK – no point having three great opening chapters if your book isn’t finished. What if the Agent wants to read the rest of the book? (Just hold that thought for 8 months while I attempt to finish it) Starting books is easy (I know – I’ve started hundreds) but finishing them is hard. Don’t think like – oh but is there any point in me writing the rest if no ones going to want it. Have a little confidence in your work. Do you want to be a writer or not? finish the damn book, then submit
  • Although the rules are different for screenplays i would definitely say that these things all apply to that too

As far as submission goes – well this is where it gets tricky. I deliberately tried my hand at crime fiction because my favourite books and movies are thrillers and so I thought it would make sense to do that. I had never tried it before and trying to get suspense into a book was a no easy feat. I also knew that crime fiction was a hugely popular commercial area of fiction and so there was likely to be more demand for that kind of story. This may seem cynical but at the end of the day I did want to get published. I had spent years with the bitter disappointment of submitting screenplays (not very often – I don’t handle rejection well ) and so I wanted to give myself the best shot possible.

So I looked for a list of agencies – I found a great comprehensive list on literary rejections website (link below) and i went on each agencies website – I looked firstly at whether they were taking submissions, secondly at what kind of submissions they were taking, then i picked my favourite ones based on my preliminary search. For each agency i carefully read the guidelines on how to submit, they are not all the same but you can bet your backside they have that submission process in place for a reason. Most of the agencies were a cover letter, a one page synopsis of roughly 500 words followed by 3 chapters of your book (this ALWAYS  means the first 3 consecutive chapters – not 3 random chapters that you think are great examples of your writing skills). One agency however wanted the first 50 pages, and another the first 100 pages. Some wanted email submissions only, some only want hard copy. Its up to you to make sure what the requirements are.

http://www.literaryrejections.com/uk-literary-agencies/

I sent to 14 agencies, i made a table in “word” and listed the date I had sent the original email with the cover letter and the sample of my work. I wanted to be able to keep track of who i had sent to – the name of the contact and the date i had sent the initial correspondence. I didn’t want to get rejected because i had messed up the submission process basically, it was important that I got that part right after spending so much time on doing the work of actually writing the novel.

As for the cover letter, i kept it short and concise. In fact I cut and pasted an example cover letter then substituted the relevant information in it. I am full of self doubt when writing letters to people and so I thought taking myself out of this part of the process as much as possible was a good idea. Don’t overcomplicate things, keep it as sharp as possible.

Well a week after I had submitted I had already received 4 rejections when I got an email from an agent saying she liked what I had written so far and could i send the rest – this was on the Monday- so i did – On the Friday late afternoon the agent asked me if i could meet up to discuss representation. I met with the Agent the next Friday (10 days ago) and now I’m signed to an Agency. Incidentally the Agency that liked me I had addressed their submission letter to “whom it may concern” but all of the other Agents I had names for. I looked specifically within each agency for the person who dealt with crime thrillers or who i thought would be most open to my work.

I had lots of advice not to just accept the first Agency that offered me a contract but in all honesty – even though I was so excited that wasn’t the decider for me – I met the agent in person and we got on really well, I was happy that they were so enthusiastic about my book that i had slaved over – trying my best to make it the best i could do. (which I really did – it may not be the best book ever written – but its the best book I could write) I had researched the Agency and knew that I would be well represented by someone who was passionate about my work. What more could i ask for?

Subtext is a tricky thing, unless you know how to do it, its hard to do, and when you do know, its simple.

Subtext is important because thats how people are, people are full of things they don’t say. If you think of it like this, you have a secret you want to tell someone, but you have absolutely been forbidden to tell them, or you are terrified to tell them – you really want them to know though, so you tell them without telling, you imply or infer, or you avoid it altogether. To me subtext is basically the secret conversation going on inside the conversation.

When writing a novel you only have the thoughts of one character (usually – depending on perspective) and so some of your subtext can be explained through that, but often, you don’t want it to be explained, you want it to subtly creep up on the reader or punch them in the face. In screen-writing of course you don’t have the luxury of being able to read peoples thoughts and so you have to work a little harder for your subtext (although in some ways this makes it easier).

Possibly one of the reasons i love the book Rebecca so much is because no one is ever saying what they are thinking! the tension and frustration shines through in this subtext rich novel. From the protagonists relationship with her husband, to creepy housekeeper Mrs Danvers bizarrely homoerotic fixation with her dead employer. the subtext also comes through in the actions of the characters. If you only ever read one book – make it that one.

Another story that is rich in subtext is CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF,  My favourite movie, also a fantastic play although different to the movie in many ways, including the “happy” ending. The best conversations in that movie are the ones that don’t happen. The rare moments when there is some honesty Brick has to drink himself into oblivion.

Just remember when you are writing to leave out the obvious things and try not to write on the nose. Write the conversation as you would have it, then change it so its all a little less in your face. If someone asks a question, rather than answer it have your character do something to show how they feel. For instance in that clip of cat on a hot tin roof when she drinks from the glass he wont take it from her to continue his drink, he doesn’t say to her “I don’t want that now you’ve drunk from it” but the way he looks at her and the way he goes and pours himself another one tells us all we need to know about how he feels about her. – although later we realise that his disgust isn’t with her but with himself (subtext with subtext – hot!) make your story multi-layered and make your audience work for the truth. no one wants it all laid out on a plate for them, thats just boring.

I have by no means mastered this myself, but at least i know this is something to strive for. i find it easier in screen-writing than in writing a novel where i am privvy to thoughts and feelings of characters, not to say its impossible, it really isn’t.

Subtext is what makes stories sexy to me.

Until next time