Posts Tagged ‘advice for writers’

I like a challenge, I particularly like a challenge when I watch TV. I like to not know everything that’s going to happen next. There have been things I have watched over the years that have truly shocked me, I like to be shocked – up to a point, there also has to be some kind of ‘hope’ at the end though. I really hate that feeling of futility after something really awful happens that there is no way back from. For example the deep fat fryer scene in spooks – that was too much. I literally stopped watching spooks after that – if it had been her hand, I probably could have coped – but her face in a fryer? No! that’s way too much, even for me.  I went back to spooks years after, after the entire show had finished and watched the rest.. I’m glad I did, it had some real moments of brilliance, especially with reference to Richard Armitage’s character and his motivations.

OZ

I go on about OZ a LOT. In terms of shock and awe it delivered in spades from episode to episode right from the very start. The series starts with Straight lawyer Tobias Beecher entering prison after killing a child while drunk driving – Oz Maximum security and being put in the experimental wing ‘EMERALD CITY’ – which – lets face it – isnt the greatest idea. Emerald city is a collection of glass rooms (cells) with slightly special privileges (but not really). When Beecher arrives he is targeted by the aryan Schillinger who warns him about his cell-mate – convincing Tobias to get moved into his cell with him, where he turns him into his ‘prag’ and burns a swastika into his buttock and systematically rapes him and humiliates him, trying to break him. Beechers psychological roller-coaster through the series is something to behold. This is the moment after the moment after he breaks – he fought back and blinded his rapist in the eye – now he is out of solitary…

Every episode has a moral or a story to tell, usually narrated in a semi beatnik/def poetry style.

I held my breath so many times during Oz, turned away many times, too. many of those times were thanks to Chris Meloni’s character Chris Keller – oh he was evil, but beautiful at the same time. This was a weird one for me as I didnt discover OZ until after I had seen many many episodes of Law and Order SVU – where Meloni is a righteous, catholic, alpha male and devoted husband and father. Keller is manipulative and you just never know what he’s going to do next – or what game he’s playing. He is like a walking hormone, too, can literally seduce anyone – evidenced by his manipulation of ‘Sister Pete’, the nun in the show.

There is a moment, when Keller has been working on Beecher for weeks, convincing him to trust him, bringing out feelings in Beecher that he didn’t know he could have for another man. There is a very homoerotic wrestling scene  (at 8 mins in the above video) that is full of tension, as we ‘the audience’ know that he is manipulating Beecher and watching Beecher fall for it is heartbreaking. But this is all just a prelude for whats to come. After Beecher finally admits his love for Keller and breaks his walls down again – then Keller reveals he is just doing it to repay a debt to Beecher’s nemesis the Aryan Schillinger – who he has been friends with for a long time. (8 mins in below video) this was a real *gasp* moment for me.

of course the joke is on Keller, because when Beecher realises his betrayal he is destroyed.  Keller breaks both Beechers arms and legs. After 3 months in the infirmary, terrified and broken he comes out completely cold again – and Keller has had some time to think- he  also realises that he was in love with Beecher and spends the rest of his time in Oz trying to prove his love for him. The love story that is Keller and Beecher is epic, and tragic, and never-ending. Til death do us part -baby!

Oz again actually the moment when poor old Miguel is caught between a rock and a hard place (Again!) He’s just got out of solitary where he literally went mental. His father was in prison, his grandfather was in prison, in solitary for 20 years. Its awful for Miguel and I really felt for his character. But basically the latin gang have told him unless he blinds one of the ‘hacks’ they are going to kill him. So he does it – and they put him in solitary – where he spends most of his time smearing himself in his own excrement.  Just thinking about Miguel makes me sad – his life was only ever going one way. *sniffles*

HANNIBAL 

I watched Hannibal like I watch everything else, in the background while I was writing. It was slow and moody and seemingly quite dull. Then suddenly something happened and I didn’t know what was going on but I knew I needed to find out – Rewind. I watched it again – got a few episodes in and then decided my husband might like it – Rewind again. Starting at the beginning again, in the evening, with the lights out my husband and I started watching the series from the start. I realised what I had been missing was some of the best dialogue I have ever heard, intelligent and witty interactions, also an intricately woven plot. The funny thing about Hannibal is that we all know how it ends (or at least those of us who have seen Manhunter, Red Dragon or The Silence of the lambs) – Psychologist/FBI Agent Will Graham will eventually outsmart the seemingly invincible Lecter. It was an interesting choice putting Mads in the role of Hannibal because of his accent, coupled with the moodiness of the show – sometimes you had to really concentrate to understand… but only at the start.

The real draw of the show for me was an emotionally and psychologically broken Will Graham (not entirely hampered by the fact that he is played by Hugh Dancy – ahem)  And the way he processes crime scenes in order to find the killer. He becomes the killer, sees, thinks and feels what the killer feels. More than that the horror of what is happening is tangible to him. With every case he is drawn deeper and deeper towards a kind of insanity, which he receives therapy for from Doctor Lecter. As time goes on Will becomes increasingly worried that he may be a murderer himself, that he is forgetting things he needs to remember. Its brilliant when it finally does all start making sense, I’ve literally got goosebumps just writing about it.

It was this scene below – in fact this episode that really caught my attention. I still get chills when i think about everything that’s going on here.  In the show they talk about how with fishing you have to lure the fish to you, most other animals you hunt.  Its the moment just after this, when Will takes the fish inside and cuts it open- the blood triggering something else for him that really piqued my interest. Its such a clever show. I dont even want to ruin it for you. Not for the feint hearted though. Its horrific!

Visually this is one of my favourite shows too. Its a work of art. Some very disturbing things happen and yet they don’t feel gruesome. I watched this after I had written my first draft – but you can see why I liked it.

Interestingly the moment in the movie HANNIBAL RISING when we see the birth of Hannibal is one of the most horrible things I remember – If you haven’t seen the movie, look away now – but basically he’s on a farm with his little sister and the soldiers cook and eat her, and feed her to him – which is how the cannibal was born. Something broke inside him and made him justify that with further acts of cannibalism. Oh gosh, that really turned my stomach.

Anyway here’s some gratuitous ‘Will Graham’ going crazy in his underpants footage. Mmmmmmmmm

I havent watched season 3 yet.

JUSTIFIED

I feel like Justified went under the radar a little. Where people raved about Breaking Bad and The Wire I rarely hear anyone mention Justified and for me its one of the best shows on TV (or it was before it finished). Although Timothy Olyphaunt’s performance as Raylan Givens is reminiscent of his role as Sheriff Bullock in the amazing show Deadwood there’s something incredibly cool about Raylan. I do like his ability to read a situation and his cool and collected menace. The other great thing about this show is Walton Goggins, who is a phenomenal actor, but although most people remember his role in The Sheild, he will always be Boyd Crowder the explosives expert and overall ‘bad guy’ of the show to me. The First series was great, with Raylans character pretty much carrying the whole show forward, as although the story was interesting, with some great hooky moments i wasnt totally Gripped. Givens is a Marshall who does something a bit  embarrassing to his district and so they ship him off back to his hometown in a Kentucky backwater.  His strained relationship with his father and his knowledge of the people and area all make for interesting confrontations as most of the characters are corrupt in one way or another.  Season 2 was when it really hit its stride for me, season 2 of Justified was one of the best complete seasons of television I have seen.

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The end of the opening episode of season 2 gave me serious goosebumps and was so cold. The quick run-down is the bad guy of season 2 is a sweet old lady with 4 boys who all peddle drugs and have some anger/intelligence issues. the old lady Mags kills a single father and then takes his daughter in to raise as her own.  The way she kills him is cold , slow and brutal, and the lies she tells after are even more calculated.  There are probably too many moments to list in Justified.  later on in season three there is a scene where a man draws his gun and before he has a chance to fire someone cuts his arm off. it comes as as much of a shock to the viewer as it does to the victim (who wholeheartedly deserves it)

Here are some scenes – mostly of the great dialogue in Justified.

PRIME SUSPECT (SEASON 1)

Anyone who remembers Prime suspect wont need me to explain what was so great about it. I did watch the American remake a few years later but I was not impressed with it.  They missed the point by a LONG shot.  I’ve re-watched the first season many times. In a lot of ways it was way ahead of its time. Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison definitely leant a certain amount of gravitas to the role. It was bleak, it was gritty, it was dark and it tackled the idea of what it means to be a monster. The show really played with our expectations – I know the first time I watched it I thought that the police had it wrong, that they were persecuting George Marlow unfairly and that Tennison’s obsession was affecting her judgement.

The moment when shes interviewing Moyra Henson, the girlfriend (played  by Zoe Wanamaker) and gets her to believe that maybe her boyfriend is lying and then breaks his alibi is brilliant. I found it chilling the way she stuck up for her boyfriend like that, even knowing in her heart that he had done it.  I was Fifteen the first time I saw this and every time I have watched it since its like watching something brilliant and new. The gruesome nature of the crimes was a new thing for a TV show, too. I would go as far as to say the recent trend of Scandinavian Dramas all have a lot in common with Prime suspect. Aside from the great characters, great plot and great dialogue there is a visual feel that corresponds with reality, its something we can relate to, its real, its something that could happen.

SOUTHLAND

Southland was another under the radar show, although this time it was really under the radar. It was cancelled, brought back by fan petition TWICE and then finally ended after season 5. Strange it didn’t do so well because its one of the better police procedurals I have seen in recent years. Again I like a show where I feel like I am being taught some kind of moral lesson. Each episode would follow several characters and some how each of their stories would demonstrate some kind of shared philosophy .

There were several gripping moments to me in Southland, and it really was a character driven show, which I also like. As well as being visually different. It was formulaic but it was blatant about it, and it was poetically formulaic, so I didn’t mind it so much. Filmed like a fly on the wall documentary for the most part, it has a realism to it. Although most of the actors are familiar faces.

One of the police – officer Cooper is hiding his homosexuality at the beginning of the series, but he comes out at some point. His partner and long term friend has major homophobia and serious issues working with him and the gay jokes are aplenty but for the most part, his team are ok with it, its not as bad as he thought. In the final season Cooper and his partner Lucero are investigating a very ordinary regular traffic crime when they are taken by 2 crack-heads and taken back to some ramshackle building in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. They are bound for days, attacked and after a while sexually violated by their captors. The whole double episode where this takes place made me physically sick, it was harrowing for so many reasons. The idea that A gay man – watches helplessly as his partner – who up until recently was very close to him (and knowing full well how he feels about homosexual acts) – is basically raped by two crackheads. Also from the victims point of view, having a close friend watch as you are attacked – and then summarily murdered.  Cooper manages to escape but to say that this ordeal adds to his eventual demise is an understatement.

 

In SUMMARY

I like cop shows, I like the idea of a flawed authority – I like the human side of the law, the side that makes mistakes. how people deal with those mistakes – self recriminations and self loathing that come from making decisions in a position of authority. I could talk about shows like Game of Thrones that are literally made to shock, but in all honesty – because of the ‘fantasy’ aspect it doesnt hit me in the same way. The same with the Walking dead, which I love, possibly one of my favourite current shows. Because of the Zombie element I cant empathise in the same way. Like I said, I like both of those shows.

There is one exception to the fantasy rule.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (Remake)

I’m still angry about the way Battlestar Galactica ended. I didn’t sleep because I needed to get to the end and when I did the disappointment in one element of the story was so deep and personal that I figured I must have really loved the show to have been that bothered.

I only got round to watching this last year, and I watched all 5 seasons in a ridiculously short amount of time, I cried, I laughed, i got angry and in places I was blown away by the storytelling. It may all have been some kind of psychosis induced by lack of sleep – but judging by the things I have heard from other people – its not – its actually a good show.

Now I like Sci-Fi – when its done right its excellent. But in all honesty I would prefer a thriller.

There’s a song in the show, it comes and goes in pieces and you almost dont notice its ever-presence through the story. Battlestar Galactica is a space ship that protects the fleet of ships where the remaining inhabitants of earth, the last humans are kept. Its too intricate and involved to get into – in terms of twisty turny stories its got a lot happening. There are humans and there are cylons – robotty things – and then there are special cylons who look just like humans – all the cylons look the same, or so we are lead to believe at the start. in fact they all look like SIX  – her story is intertwined with sex obsessed Gaius Balthar – the scientist who caused the apocalypse – he sees her in his imagination – sometimes she’s real – sometimes she isn’t – its a real headfuck!

The moment when we learn the real meaning of the song in the background I think I literally exclaimed out loud – WHAT THE HELL?! so brilliant – I dont want to spoil it for anyone but the song is all along the watchtower by Jimi Hendrix and there’s a moment when it kicks in and the whole plot of everything that’s gone before falls into place – its incredible! I almost wanted to start again from the beginning and look for all the clues, my mind was totally blown, its a great feeling.

 

Even though this is such a key relationship in the show, most of the time its not even real, its Guyus guilt for practically exterminating the human race.

Starbuck and Apollo – I loved the strength of Starbuck, she was badass, made no apologies for who she was, knew she was flawed and just carried on regardless. Apollo was constantly trying to prove himself to his father and to Starbuck, who started out as his brothers girlfriend back on earth – his brother who died – so she was always kind of off limits. At this point I am going to say that these characters are always at the forefront of my mind when i am writing a love story, or a sex scene. The unresolved nature of their relationship just makes me cross and I think I’m always trying to find that happy ending for them (no pun intended). – Ds Imogen Grey has definitely got a bit of Starbuck in her. (even though I had already finished writing the The Teacher before I watched the show – but in book 2 I definitely would have factored Starbuck into the equation.)

This scene where they fight was so beautiful and romantic – even though they are beating the crap out of each other. they are so angry, so in love, so in hate. resentment, wanting – everything. She married someone else – with no warning very soon after declaring her love for him – so he married someone else to get back at her – years not even talking and then they get in the ring together. Their husband and wife standing ringside and basically watch their own marriages fall to pieces as Starbuck and Apollo connect again. but not for long (damn you BG writers!!!) – unfortunately the scene is no longer available – but its awesome

 

I’ll think of some more and I’ll write another post like this at some point –

Until next time

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sorry I have been a little overwhelmed with the whole getting published thingamebob but now I am back to being just whelmed in a regular way – adjusting to life and a new career as a writer.

 

Just write!

I hear so many people tell me they want to write a book one day. Its ALMOST  getting on my nerves how many times I hear it. Either they don’t have the time or they aren’t emotionally or mentally in the right place to write. Here’s the secret to writing a book – you just kind of have to sit down and write it. Then you rewrite it, then you edit it and just keep going until its something you’re vaguely happy with (or you go crazy).

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Be open to change!

Without going into the specifics here, I kind of had a plot mapped out for the next book I wanted to write, I had gathered information, made some vague outlines. Then I watched a TV show and the plot was too similar to what I had planned and so I decided to scrap it (for now). That wasn’t annoying at all!!!!!

If you find yourself in a similar situation dont get dishearted – every story has been told before – you can either tell it from a different perspective or find a new angle – no one can write your story but YOU

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Don’t be afraid of research.

Watch, read, consume ideas, read news etc – its not time wasting, its research and its important – just know when to draw the line and when you are just stalling yourself.

So I’ve had a week to mull it over and have managed on the fly to come up with something else. I have spent that week watching documentaries, reading blogs, asking questions on forums, reading articles and news reports, watching dramas, anything and everything to try and trigger some kind of story in my mind from the initial concept idea.

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Adapt!

Your original idea may evolve and change – adapt to it and don’t see it as some kind of failure. Sometimes its the challenges and overcoming them that make writing fun!

So I had already kind of figured out a main character for the story I originally wanted to write. I managed to mostly transfer him over because all I had was a plan and a character bio. I had to tweek it slightly but it felt easier than starting completely from scratch – even though essentially its a completely different character.

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Outlining?

I really wanted a complete outline before I started – but as with everything I do – I got so into the characters and the story that i wanted to tell that I am FAR too excited to just sit on this and wait for the rest of the plot to come to me. I have a 30% idea and that’s enough for me for now. I think I probably end up planning the story in 4 or 5 stages.

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Just start!

I’ve written fifteen thousand words. that means I have roughly eighty five thousand to go (give or take!) All of that excitement I was talking about before? its been replaced with a crushing and daunting feeling mixed with the excitement of finding my characters and finding out what’s going to happen to them.

Personally I try and work on one project at a time, because I think its good to be immersed in your story.

Do it now!

The truth is there is no good time to start writing – you just have to get on with it – its all a learning process. I am still learning now!

 

 

Here is a long overdue blog post about things that have been happening with me. The unexpected side of being a published author – both positive and negative.

First of all this may seem like I am complaining – I absolutely am not complaining! I have been so happy lately I’m beginning to wonder if I can drag my mind back down to the depths I need to go to in order to finish the second book… I’m sure I will manage!

Getting Lucky

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So I ‘got lucky’ and got published. Suddenly I find myself on a ‘side’ – I didn’t know there were sides! I am very naive when it comes to the politics of these things because all I have done is keep my head down and write. I have faced a little resentment from a couple of people, probably because I seemingly came out of nowhere, because I got lucky and published my first book which then rocketed into the charts and has been doing steadily ever since. Its taken me a while to crack this writing malarkey and I have had my fair share of rejection – but I changed what I was writing and tried to get better every time, if you learn from rejection its not quite so bad! So being jealous or resentful because I am not out marketing myself at every turn, being annoyed that this is some kind of cake walk for me- is rather silly because it was not an easy path – yes the last year has been utterly phenomenal – but it took me a long time to get there. I really haven’t just walked into this, its been my dream for most of my adult life.

Overcoming Shyness

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Getting over my crippling shyness – this has been the biggest obstacle for me. Both in writing and in self promotion I am very secretive and ‘closed’ and so it took me a long time to send off for an agent, it took me a long time to have enough belief in myself to do that. I have had to let it go a little and just trust that other people who know what they are doing believe in me and so I should stop trying to self sabotage and start behaving like an author would (whatever that means!} The anxiety I first felt of how peoples perception of me would change after they had read my book is mostly gone now. I don’t think its something that will ever truly go as its such a private thing. If a little bit of your soul doesn’t go into everything you write then you just end up with a hollow mash of well constructed sentences. I personally think its important to write what’s uncomfortable. Write the dark things because those are the thoughts that people latch onto and identify with.

Getting reviews!

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Reviews! Getting reviews for my book has been both amazing and challenging at times. I have had a lot of 5 star reviews – over 200 now (over 300 4/5*) which I am stunned by. You see I wrote the book that I thought I would enjoy to read, and its nice to see so many other people enjoyed it too. I have around 50 one star reviews – either I’m pretentious or my grammar is so appalling they couldn’t possibly get past it! Some of the other less favourable reviews have mentioned my use of the word saline – instead of tears – my mother also mentioned this to me. Its not something that I would get my knickers in a twist over if I read it in someone else’s work but point taken, I wont use it again! Also my daughter is obsessed with my use of the word wainscotting, because apparently no one knows what that is. I know I should be grateful to even have reviews – and believe me – I am! I have learned to laugh at some of my reviews, especially one who referred to me as Katerina DIEmond (in exactly that way!) and try and take some pointers for the future from others. I am not averse to constructive criticism (as long as I agree with it!). Still hard to read a dismissive review when you have spent literally YEARS working on something. Dont even get me started on reviews with spoilers in them!!! grrrr!

Meeting great People!

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I have met some great people since being published – this is possibly partly due to the fact that I feel I have the right to call myself an author now, instead of muttering that I like to write stories – which people just don’t get or take seriously. Being a published author gives me a feeling of legitimacy. I think generally I have been more open to new friendships. The support I have received from other writers is just brilliant. I have so many questions all the time which must make me seem like I have been living under a rock for my entire life. For the most part I have been quite moved by the support and sense of community I am experiencing. Also the book bloggers (who I didn’t know existed) have been so supportive as well – some have even become friends. As mentioned before there are a couple of people who I sense some deep resentment from but I see that as their issue and not mine as almost everyone else has been great. I have had one person get the hump with me for not promoting their book online but the fact is, I barely like promoting my own book – I certainly don’t want to promote something that I haven’t read. I don’t mind retweeting things that other people ask me to retweet – but I feel newly constructed or written tweets should be FROM me, about things I want to say or feel passionate about! The marketing side of things does my head in a little bit, I am so pleased I am not in charge of that myself. I really admire anyone who has the ability to both write great books and market themselves successfully without being pushy and in your face – that would be my main concern! I absolutely LOATHE clickbait and couldn’t bring myself to post any – even when I repost clickbait I put a synopsis in my post! it just seems so damn dishonest!

Having a great Agent and Publishers.

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I was a total novice and this is where I truly believe I did get lucky. My agent Diane Banks saw something in my book that she liked. My publishers Avon felt the same way. I sent off to a few Agents, and my Agent sent off to a few publishers for me to have landed with the team of people that I did was incredibly good luck on my part. I get warm squishy feelings about all of them (and I am not a warm squishy person). I think this was the best possible outcome for me – on all fronts! I think it shows in both my sales and the great working partnership I feel I have with both my previous editor and my new one. I have heard so many horror stories from other writers about shocking behaviour from both agents and publishers I didn’t realise it could be so bad! I would be utterly USELESS as a self published author, I probably would have sold about 12 books by now, and that’s even less impressive when you consider the size of my family alone. As it stands I have been in the Sunday Times Best Seller list 3 weeks in a row (what??!!) and I was a number one kindle best seller (??!!) I’m still holding into the top 5 on kindle although I feel that’s about to change as some great titles are being released over the next couple of weeks. My book will also start moving internationally soon and that’s just amazing, too.

Being a success!

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Well I always said I was more afraid of success than I was of failure. Its a new feeling but its a nice feeling. The main thing I am noticing is that the hard work has just begun. I had my own time and pace to get my foot through the door but now its there I have more books to write and actual deadlines instead of self imposed ones. I have had so many people ask me when the second book is coming out, its such a great feeling. I am so excited for the next few years of my life. I’m also so grateful to everyone who has been so incredibly nice to me. I was feeling a little fragile on entry into the world of being an author – on publication day I came down with the flu and was in bed for 4 days! intermittently tweeting a gif between naps through my fever.

Anyway – I’m on holiday at the moment so its back to the pool for me!

live long and prosper!

Well, its weird. That’s the short version.

Over the last few days I have been watching a lot of interviewers with writers and I realise that my story isn’t so different from many other authors. One of my favourite authors Karin Slaughter said in an interview that i watched that things turned around for her when she treated her submitting her novel as a business proposition, and nothing more.

Its hard to be emotionally detached from your own work. Occasionally I think about what I have written and I cringe a little, that is something that will never change. Its not because I think its crap, I don’t; but its more because its a part of me. I’m such a private person, the possibility that I may have to be less private is quite daunting and something I had to talk myself into. I would be happy never to meet anyone new, or to have to talk about myself or anything else that’s personal. All of my most personal thoughts and feelings are hidden inside my characters anyway.

I think there is an arrogance among new writers (myself included) when you start writing and you realise, actually I’m quite good at this. There’s a frustration that other people cant see the talent inside you that needs nurturing. There’s almost a feeling of entitlement that – I’ve written this – so you must publish it. Without any real understanding of what’s really happening out there. A lot of people think they can write a book, a lot of people start books that shouldn’t, a lot of people don’t that should. The fact is, its a business, and no one has to recognise anything about you, no one owes you anything. That attitude is going to get you nowhere fast. I have a friend who sent off to an agent, when the agent refused – they decided to self publish. I understand that gut feeling, how DARE you tell me my works no good – I worked hard for that. The truth is there are hundreds of agents out there, and there thousands of people like you, who think they deserve to be published. Your book might be amazing, it really might – we have all heard stories of mega successful books that were rejected a heap of times before they reached any kind of attention. Luck is most definitely involved, but only if you have put the work in first.

I have written a lot of stuff over the years, some short stories, screenplays, novella’s and then finally a novel. The first stage of the process was writing a coherent story (harder than you think!) that was also long enough to be classed as a novel. Then, and this is the part that cannot be taken lightly at all, you need to rewrite. This is not to say change everything you have written, of course not. I like to think of it this way – if you are anything like me – I get annoyed at the TV when things are implausible or just out of character. I try to look at my book as a reader and question myself, why did he do this? why did that happen? Youre not going to get everything in one go, but you will find some things to change – that doesnt mean you failed, it means you know how torewrite. So then you go through and answer your questions within the work or you delete the need for the questions. By the end of that you should have something that makes a little more sense. You can get some help by asking someone you trust to read it and give you HONEST feedback, that can be helpful. Its important not to see any suggestions for change as a personal attack but more a want to make your book the best it can be.

Then check for grammar etc – basically make it as professional looking a document as you can. I struggled with this as my punctuation is kind of terrible. But I bought a book on grammar and punctuation and tried to learn some of the rules to help make my book better. I knew that if I wanted someone else to take my work seriously I had to take it seriously myself. I know some people get offers on partially completed work – that could never happen for me – my finished product is always so different, I think that’s because I’m a bit slow and I cant always make all the best connections until the end of the story. with my first novel, I can honestly say I have read through over 100 times, and made changes – even minor ones, every single time.

After you have done that then you format it, paragraphs, spacing, chapter headings. basically you want it to look right. (again another struggle for me)

The I looked through several listings for agents that deal with Crime fiction and I picked several to send to. I followed the submission guidelines to the letter and sent off my work. What I was basically doing was removing obstacles in my way. If its not formatted properly then why would they read it? If they don’t accept submissions then why would they read it? If I have lots of obvious spelling errors then why would they read it?  If they don’t deal with my genre of fiction then why would they read it? Its important not to put obstacles in your own way and set yourself up for rejection, for the wrong reasons. Not because your work wasn’t any good, but because you sent it to the wrong people, or you lost interest at the editing phase. Don’t cheat yourself out of a chance for a silly reason. The hardest part is writing a novel, making it better and sending it off should be fun. I had completely geared myself up for rejection, after 15 years of writing I knew that the chances of me getting an agent were slim to none, every blog I ever read told me so. Of course now i understand why, because its important you understand how rare it is. Rare but not impossible.

I was lucky enough that one of the first agents I sent my novel to “got” my work, because the others that I sent it to just said no. That was where my luck came in, sending it to the right people helped, and I was lucky that my wonderful agent Diane actually saw and read my book. I had lots of complimentary emails and then was pitched to several publishers – again – none of them really “got” it, although I received a lot of praise – but all it takes is one. And so I’m getting published. I have had to rewrite again, with the help of an amazing editor and its quite different now to how it was when I finished it the first time. Having an editor was great, someone else to second  guess you so you don’t have to do it yourself.. (you know what I mean!) – while writing I think everything I write is pants – so its nice just to have specific things picked out – it means the rest must be ok.

The thing to remember about it is this – its a business. You don’t get published because you’re a nice person or because you tried really hard , you don’t get published because you really want to. You get published because your book is commercially viable as a product. Its because they think other people will like what you have to say and will pay to read it. The reason its commercially viable is completely noble and artistic, its not selling out. Its important to remember that its not personal when you get rejected.

 

Until next time…

The truth is, there is always time to write but its all about priorities. So what if my house looks like its been reverse burgled whereby the perpetrators actually put more stuff IN my house than was there originally. seriously why do I have so much stuff? The issue for me about finding time to write is not finding the time, the time is there, and i can sit at the computer and NOTHING will happen because mentally i cant switch off to all the other crap I have going on. Do you write better when everything else is done? or doesn’t it make a difference? If it doesn’t make a difference then write first – do your other crap later. If it DOES bother you? do the other things first and absolutely do not try and write, you just end up ten times more frustrated and less likely to be able to produce anything worth a damn. In a perfect world you would learn to tune out the other stuff, if writing is what you want to do, if being an author is the only possible career you can imagine yourself in, then write, ITS YOUR JOB.

You cant go to work and then say I need to pop home and mow my lawn, i need to take my car to the garage, I need to do this, that or the other… You cant, you are getting paid to do that work, and so you need to actually do the work. The work is what’s important. I have to remember that now, everything else takes a back-seat and i put in my 6 hours a day (pretty cool working hours – of course sometimes its more or less)

So my advice on this is BE SELFISH, put yourself and your writing first and get your stuff done. I am doing just that at the moment, of course, I am getting other stuff one at the same time, I just do it after.

Until next time…

I started writing a long time ago, but it was a secret, it was shameful. Who the hell did i think i was?  Is this a familiar feeling? It always amazes me the people who just out there and are writers, its like how??? aren’t you afraid of judgement? criticism? aren’t you afraid people will think you are a freak? So i used to write in secret. I remember telling my friend i was writing a screenplay, it was greeted by a scoff and a silence – like she had no idea what to say to that. I still have that screenplay – and one day Ill finish it and it will be a damn film! i worked on my craft hard and long, I have been learning to write for the pleasure of other people for around 15 years. and yet its only been a year that i have had the confidence to share and show my work. Its only a recent thing where i read other peoples work and think – oh right – my stuffs better than yours – or – i wish i could write like you (without getting down on myself at the same time)

It seems everyone is a writer these days – and a lot of it is shit – Im sorry but it is – Im not Tolstoy by any stretch of the imagination and I know where i sit in the market but there is a lot of unproffessional work being pumped out thanks to the ever increasing world of free ebooks and self publishing (some of its great though!)

I used to treat writing like it was my dirty little secret. hiding my documents, keeping my stories to myself – generally acting like some kind of junkie who had to keep her habit on the down low. I have even shredded books before because i didnt want anyone to find them and know i had written them  – not because they were shit – but because i didnt want anyone to think i was that self indulgent that I had the audacity to try and write a book.

Be proud if you write – I am nearly 40 and im not embarrassed by my habit anymore, I dont think there is anything wrong with little old me trying to impart my wisdom on the world. It wont be the best thing you have ever read – but hopefully if you do ever read something i have written – some part of it will stay with you – and thats all any writer can ask for.

until next time

Well I am in a funny place at the moment. We all go through times when we think our work is crap – I am going through such a time. I think its possible that because everything was moving at such a fast pace and i got an agent etc and I was flowing along with the hype. Now however things have slowed down and I keep waiting for my agent to call me and say “ive made a huge mistake” (In Will Arnett’s voice). Instead of giving up and throwing my computer in a bin and dousing it in petrol I have decided to just weather the storm and keep plodding along.

I literally hate every sentence that is coming out of me at the moment – I look over the crap I am writing with disdain – but i know – I KNOW that when i finish the first draft – the world will open up to me again and I can fix things in the editing phase – if i allow disillusionment to get the better of me then i will get stuck in another writers block. I refuse to let that happen. I go on holiday in 5 weeks and i would like to at least have the outline of the whole story done – but realistically I could do at least 25k words by then, as long as I allow the plot to come to me.

Its something that I have accepted, that at some point I will look over these words that i hate , words that are moving me closer to my goal – but one day I will read them and think – HMMM thats not that terrible and then hopefully i will be able to fix them. i think in every creative person there are strong forces of doubt, whether you write novels, poetry, draw, paint – whatever – not necessarily doubt in your skill, but maybe doubt in yourself.

I met up with some lovely ladies from my old writing group last week – they came to my new writing group – which went well – even though it was the hottest day or the year and the room we were in only had one window that opened a slither. the venue we were in had put some large jugs of water in the fridge for us which was really nice of them – and possibly life saving. I think I lost about 12kg in sweat.

What was interesting was that neither of the ladies had written anything since our last writing group had disbanded and they both seemed to have that lack of confidence in their work. we did a bit of flash fiction and mine was by no means briliant, but it was nice to write something outside of my novel for a change. i will post up the flash fiction when i get round to typing it up. As i was writing it I thought – urgh this is rubbish, this is rubbish this is rubbish. I know thats just my self doubt talking though. what i really need to do is read some badly written books that have been published – they always inspire me to be better!

Until next time

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.

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