Posts Tagged ‘crime novel’

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!

 

 

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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…

I watch a lot of television. I try at least to watch any drama show that has been renewed for a second season – my reasoning is this – these shows must have something that keeps the audience coming back.

I don’t know about you but when i do anything I am analysing it from the perspective of how it would work in a book or a screenplay, every. single. interaction. I am no more critical than when i read (or watch) other peoples work. Not to pull it apart to find the flaws, but to find the gems in it, the things that make me FEEL something.

It occurs to me in life that I am a voyeur, constantly evaluating and interpreting life in a way that I can translate what I have learned to other people, through my writing.

Sometimes if i am honest I just don’t get it, some TV shows have me baffled, without naming any names, I just don’t understand the appeal.

I like action movies, I like the simplicity of them (although I could never write one, i would be out of my depth) – and sometimes the things that look the simplest are actually the hardest things to pull off. Its a true talent that, making something look simple – and i don’t mean making something look like you wrote it in one go and then made it in one go, I’m talking about something so well put together that you don’t even really notice how its put together. (I know what i mean)

What i like the most is the subtlety of thought that is brought out in me – something that challenges what i believe about myself – something that i think i have always believed – to be forced to question myself.

Something else I like is revenge, revenge is sexy, no matter how long it takes, to see the balance restored is something that’s very appealing to me. One of my favourite Tv shows of all time is OZ – I faced a lot of personal moral dilemmas when watching that one. To feel sorry for the bad guys, to see a hierarchy of bad guys and wondering who is the worst, and realising how easy it is to forgive and empathise with someone who you once hated. my favourite character in this series was Ryan O Reilly, played by dean winters, who , aside from having the sexiest voice in the history of voices, is a truly excellent actor as the manipulative addict  in this scene that im about to show you Ryan is talking to Patrick, a fellow irishman in prison – he knows that patrick has raped the prison doctor, a woman that ryan is absolutely obsessed with, because its something to do, but he does it wholeheartedly and without condition, she is seriously creeped out by him. Ryan doesnt get his hands dirty he manipulates until he gets what he wants, thats why this scene was so striking and sexy – and why its probably one of my favourite tv moments ever. (link below)

Ill talk more in other posts about other tv moments i like – but that one gets me every time.

Until next time

For me what can make or break a novel is the feeling that the author has a firm grasp on the underlying facts, its not necessary for them to impart every single fact they know to me, but the ones relevant to the story.

In crime this is particularly true (as with historical fiction, although i personally wouldn’t attempt to write historical fiction without getting a degree in the era of my choosing).

The way it works for me is that i get an idea, and then i think – hmmm I should look into that, then probably spend a few days looking into it, until I have a fairly rounded idea of the basics of it – in UNKINDNESS i came across plenty of ideas that needed to be researched, as I had a slight historical element to the story. You can get by like this for most things that you are merely touching on. i had to do a lot of research into instruments of torture, from various countries – the unpleasantness of looking at photos and really understanding the devices before i could write about them. youtube is also a great resource when it comes to research, as often a documentary is easier to go in than reading articles, although i tend to flood myself with information from various source – in this day and age there really is no excuse for not knowing you stuff.

Then there is the Police procedure of the crime novel, as usually thats an element that needs to be touched upon, you can blag it to a certain extent, but only after you have done a serious amount of research – I purchased a book on police procedure, written by a former police officer specifically for crime writers (link below) . I then read the book cover to cover – even after I had read it i felt like I needed a more tangible idea of what was going on – so i watched a lot of british police shows, it helped me really get my head around the structure of the departments and the hierarchy and where my characters fitted in. It takes a while for me to “get” things but once i do its in there.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crime-Writers-Police-Practice-Procedure/dp/0709086318/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_y

The other thing watching the shows did for me was make me realise how much i wanted to include in the actual story, I read a fair amount of crime novels too and sometimes I find I get bogged down in the intricacies of the police force, and some things I really didn’t need to know.

The thing about research is not just knowing what to include, its knowing as well what you don’t need in there.

I probably spend at least the same amount of time researching as i do writing.