Category Archives: Flawed characters

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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Getting someone to hear

To continue on from discussions here on Friday, I have spent the weekend giving a lot of thought to this whole marketing game and how it can feel as if it gets in the way of writing.  If you Google How to promote your book  you will find lists and lists. And in fact I am doing most of them, a lot of it is common sense. But it can become an obsession when really all you want to do is WRITE!

The question is how do you get people to know about your book?

With so many books out there how do you make someone listen to you?

I now have more than 500 likes on my FB page but the promo ran for 2 week and cost me £100 more or less. I have to stop it now. How effective is this in getting sales? Well I don’t think it translates financially but I hope the post engagement, the interactions and making new friends will make a difference, it’s all part of gaining a following. And I’m sure it helped to get me as many downloads as we achieved!

I have also boosted posts. I think it was worthwhile, but everything is limited by pennies!

I do as much as I can to get free advertising of course — radio interviews, magazines, blogs etc.

I guess we must do what we can!

I will be visiting some universities soon to give talks and have more bookshop signings being organised!

We do what we can.

I think this is an issue for all writers, perhaps more so with those who have self-published but even those with big publishers. It is part of the job.

I think one of my biggest fears is I have a book, and one that seems to be getting a lot of positive interest,  but it will disappear because people don’t know it’s there. I guess this reflects a fear for all of us. So now the question becomes, so how important is that? Should we focus more on just writing and not worry, or do we need to think about this?

I think it’s about finding the right balance. Why do we write if not for people to read your story? And really honestly truly for me it is not about the money! I don’t want sales to be rich but to know people are reading the book — is that a bad thing? I guess it depends who you are. The accountant might say it is — the writer might agree with me!

I also noticed in myself a new trait — checking reviews! How can we not, but it sits up there alongside how many likes we get and how many retweets– how many stars! This new obsession feels unhealthy and in fact I wonder if I am becoming like Amy in my new novel. She is rather a flawed character (I am still trying to make her more likeable) but she talks about connection and is a social networker, she says it’s like we check the number of likes and retweets as if is a measure of who we are. Do we become like our characters?

I will leave these questions with you and with a further request to be a guest on some of your blogs? I need to do a little tour!

Have a great day everyone!Funny

Couldn’t resist sharing this!

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Glowing in the Limelight

A little later than usual this morning as got up and got on — lots done early, mainly house cleaning!

But here I am. I’ve had a crazy few busy days since I came back but three big crits successfully delivered and can now just write today and look forward to my visit from Lee’s parents and my trip back to Essex tomorrow. I have other work lined up too so will get to that before Christmas but nice to relax a little and do what I love the most — WRITE!

I will keep this post short and sweet and leave you with the link from my interview in Glow Magazine!

GLOW

Enjoy!

Keep on LIVING THE DREAM GUYS!

Keep on LIVING THE DREAM GUYS!

 

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The Glorious City of Bath

Winning the Bath Short Story Award (BSSA) this year has to be one of the big highlights. It knocked my socks off to actually win something and with a story  that had some very personal meaning. It seemed other people got it, it resonated on some level and isn’t that what being a writer is all about? So this is a great feeling when you make that connection. Thanks BSSA for choosing Learning to Fly –– read it here! LINK

Jude, one of the BSSA ladies, also wears another hat, that for Writing Events Bath, so when she knew I work with developing writers and my novel was out this month, she invited me to run a workshop on writing a psychological thriller at the wonderful Mr B’s Bookshop. And I love psychological thrillers, and while While No One Was Watching isn’t exactly that, it is kind of and I call it that if I have to pigeon-hole it and of course it uses many of those devices that tap into the psyche. I  grew up reading and being influenced by such books! So I loved putting this workshop together — a pig in literary mud!

And so last week Mum and I did something we never do, we left Dad in charge of the pooch and took a little trip to Bath, and the Hilton Hotel. And what a treat we had!

This time last week in fact we were  getting ready to set off to the station, although sadly it seems like ages ago now! Want to do it again! Want to do it at lots of hotels and places! Anyone else want to hire me? He he …

The hotel, although not quite as aesthetic to look at as the other Bath buildings, is lovely and central and a very short walk to Mr B’s although we did take a rather convoluted route because the girl at the hotel wasn’t sure! But we found it and around the corner at 3,30 we also found Halls and Woodhouse, the cafe where we were kindly treated to afternoon tea by the lovely ladies from BSSA. So nice to finally put faces to names, I met Jude, Anna and Jane and from Writing Events Bath also Alex.

We had a lovely chat about all things writing and enjoyed the delights of an afternoon tea. Then we relaxed on the sofas before it was time to go to Mr B’s ready for the workshop.

 

Writing Events Bath

Jane (BSSA), Debz (some writer apparently) and Jude (BSSA and Writing Events, Bath)

I had not run this particular workshop before, with a specific genre, but as I pointed out good writing is good writing and many of the things we talked about relate to any genre — good characterisation, motivation for action, sharp narrative etc. However I did focus it on what a psychological thriller is, where it fits in the context of other thrillers and the premise of many of these novels. I will do a blog post about this as I think many would find this interesting.

We had a couple of writing exercises, one writing an opening scene or blurb to see if we could capture the essence of a good psychological thriller. And after the break we wrote a scene with tension, after a discussion of narrative devices.

We finished with a Q&A and I even signed copies of my novel, in fact we ran out of books.

People were lovely and many said it had been very helpful 🙂 I hope that what I showed was that it can be done, we can get published if we work at the craft.

I have sat through many workshops and so I did what I thought I would want from a good workshop, it needs to be two-way, interactive and they needed to know I do know what I’m talking about (most of the time!).  So it helps that I work with lots of writers and I know the common errors! And that my novel was published of course!

I had a lovely time! And am so pleased some of the writers that took part have have found me on Twitter and said they’re enjoying the novel and loved the workshop! Phew!

The following day we did a spot of sightseeing in Bath, the tour bus, the Jane Austen Centre and of course some shopping! Although I bought very little.

A nice meal in the hotel that evening, and  then we relaxed in the room.

The following morning at breakfast, who should walk in but Ade Edmondson, who had been performing with his band in Bath that night. I didn’t disturb his breakfast but I was tempted to ask him if he wanted a copy of my book! I didn’t of course!

So here are some pics guys! I wish I was still there now!

 

Bath Abbey (1)

 

 

Bath Abbey (2)

 

That writer person again, who does she think she is?

That writer person again, who does she think she is?

 

Off to talk to the lovely writing group at Canvey Library this afternoon and you can hear me on Sarah Banham’s show on local radio Saint FM from 7pm, here’s the link: SAINT FM

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Standing on the Grassy Knoll

Well the week has finally arrived and I see the news is beginning to be hijacked by news of Kennedy 50 years on. I know the story so well from all my research yet it never gets old to me. I’m not sure why that is.

I have watched and listened and read with interest all the many theories and wonder if that serves only to confuse more, but still I can’t get enough.

But for me history really comes to life when you can imagine yourself there. So many times my psychic character took me to the grassy knoll. I felt as if I was standing right there with her. I love the whole idea of letting the past rub up against the present, fact against fiction as if they are part of the same thing.

I remember how Edith, our mother, is standing on the grassy knoll as the motorcade turns the corner. I saw the cars, the Presidential limousine and felt the surge as people pushed forward. There weren’t that many people on the knoll, which is why they chose to stand there — to get a better view. Or is that the reason?

They all think it’s a firecracker at first, but it quickly becomes apparent it’s gunshots. Gunshots being fired at the President.

It’s a moment in time so many of us remember, even those who weren’t born. But Edith Boone will never forget this moment, she will get stuck there. She will get stuck there because of what she does when the gunshots fill the air. She lets go of her little girl’s hand. She watches the panic, the confusion.

I chose to use real images so it’s when Edith sees the Newmans, a mother and a father laying across their children on the grass she remembers her little girl. Does this make her a bad mother? Would you do the same?

But when she turns back to reach for Eleanor’s hand, she’s gone. G.O.N.E.

So now folks rush up the grassy knoll and as I stand there with Edith, as Lydia did in her visions, she smells gunpowder. But Edith doesn’t run. She stands still. She stands still and she watches and she mumbles. Eleanor is missing.

But where is she?

I loved what I learned standing with Lydia and every time I returned to the novel I felt as if I was in a place I wanted to stay.

I hope this comes across in the writing.

When I reworked the ending of the novel and walked the grassy knoll again with Lydia I felt as if I had truly slipped inside a moment I did not want to leave. When people tell me they miss my characters and want  to go back it seems as if they feel the same thing I did and I can not tell  you how special that feels. I hope everyone else feels the same.

I’d liked to take the credit for the that but I am convinced I am little more than a channel for their voices. Maybe I ain’t so different from Lydia after all.

We are now beginning a HUGE week, and had Parthian not taken a chance on this novel the anniversary would have passed with a tinge of sadness from no one meeting my characters. Characters I breathed life into for so long. Thank God that never happened. I know they were all dying to meet you.

It’s going to be an odd week, I will not be Blogging tomorrow as I head off early to Bath for my workshop and a couple of days away with my mum. But I will check in on Wednesday to let you know how the workshop went.

It’s a week I’ve been waiting for. I will try to write and work today but then I don’t think I will get much of either done.

Then we have the big Essex event on the anniversary on Friday — details below. We have now been bumped up to first class and will be using the church hall itself and what an impressive building it is. It’s going to be amazing. I will show the book trailer again (the new version) and then it will be published to YouTube over the weekend and I will share it here.

Also if you missed me on BBC Radio Wales you can now listen again for 6 days, slide the counter to 11 mins, 27 and hear my interview about the novel and the Kennedy.

Oh My God people — it really is happening. And I can’t wait!

BBC RADIO WALES

Canvey PosterAll Welcome!

Ps I still want your memories of the day Kennedy was shot for Friday: LINK

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The art of story telling — the question a novel asks

Writing is not just about having a good idea.

It’s not just about being clever with words and finding new and interesting ways of combining them,

It’s the whole deal and that’s why it can take a long time to really get that to work, to learn this craft of ours.

And burning at the heart of any good novel needs to be a question, one that  makes the reader want to read that book and then keeps them hooked throughout, even to the last page!

Some stories are what we call high concept, the kind that often end up as movies, a great idea, something that feels like it surely must have been done before and has real universal appeal. I hope While No One Was Watching might be that.  It’s not like something I set out to do, and I am not so sure I Am Wolf does that, but we’ll see!

I was thinking about ideas that hook yesterday when the lovely Roy Noble interviewed me for BBC Radio Wales. It airs on Sunday morning, 10.30 onwards.  We talked a lot about Kennedy and about this idea of what’s happening at the same time, who was Eleanor Boone and why did she disappear? Of course I wasn’t going to answer that exactly. He also asked after all my research who did I think killed Kennedy? Well not sure I can answer that either, only to say I was quite convinced it could not have been a lone assassin. I suspected a cover up, and I tried to evoke many of the ideas and theories in my novel — I would say no more. No spoilers!

Roy did also say the idea of being apart from a child is one that is current and he talked about the film Phil0mena.  I’d like to see that.

Yes I think there are two things that I hope have that universal appeal with While No One Was Watching. One is that it deals with an iconic moment in history where everyone, who is old enough to remember, recalls where they were and what they were doing, as does Edith Boone who was standing on the grassy knoll.  But we take it a step further with her  because she got stuck in that moment forever. Can you imagine turning around, distracted for a moment by the gunshots and the panic (and can you blame her? Does this make her a bad mother?) — and then turning back and the child is GONE.

That in itself is a horror story for any parent, right? But amidst an assassination, a moment anticipated with excitement at seeing the President turns into a murder in front of you  … and not only is your child gone but  she is never found.

So why?  Why does she disappear? Is the story really what it seems? Is the question that beats at its heart (as has to be the case in good story telling) and the hook to add page turnability, what really happened to Kennedy? Or what happened to Eleanor Boone? I think it’s this:  if Kennedy had not been assassinated that day, would Eleanor Boone still have disappeared?

That is the one I set out to answer.

So what about your novels — can you identify a single question?

With the anniversary week approaching and the conspiracy theories rearing their heads  again, there was an interesting programme on Channel 5 last night, although not sure when it came to suggesting an accidental gunshot by a member of the Secret Service, I can buy into that. They glossed over quite a lot and when it came to the key elements of the argument, like that the magic bullet could have been right as Governor Connally has a lower seat than originally suggested there was no real evidence to show this or the trajectories, just a sweeping ‘so the Warren Commission was right after all and the ‘magic bullet’ could have passed through Kennedy and Connally etc.’  And in concluding the final head shot that tore the President’s brain apart was an accident,  the agent in the car behind reaching for his gun and falling onto it and that was the fatal shot made me say — hang on, show the evidence? And why go to such lengths to cover that up when they had one man to blame. Okay one that would cast terrible shame for the US if one of their own secret service agents (Hickey) had fired the fatal shot, but in fairness  a response to a real assassination attempt by Oswald. But really? It could be that simple? And would an agent (even though they did say he was not experienced) have made such a mistake? Hmm …

Not convinced.

What about you?

There is another TV show on tonight ITV 10.35 that I will await eagerly.

I do wonder at this incessant need for conspiracy, but there is little doubt for me with this story that this is what we have and with records remaining sealed until 2029, what do they have to hide?

I think this obsession with conspiracy in any story taps into the same primeval need for a good story. Diane died tragically in a car accident as many do every day, didn’t she? Or something much more sinister? Add a cover-up and you have all the ingredients for a high concept bestseller, right? Do we like to wallow in tragedy?

Maybe as humans who seek pleasure in escapism, be it film, TV, books, plays etc, there is an inherent need to inhabit other lives and for things to be bigger and better and  at the same time far worse and more sinister than they might be. So maybe that’s why we buy into it, who really knows.

All I know is we constantly seek new angles and so I hope that what my novel does, is find a different  angle that makes an old story feel new.

But you will be the judge of that.

Some wonderful reviews coming in! Thank you and if you read it and enjoyed it, please do post a review on Amazon too!

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Believe in your characters … make them ‘shine’ …

I was watching the revered Stephen King on BBC Breakfast this morning, a rare interview and I have to say he is still the writer I would most like to sit down and  have a coffee with.

One of the things that I always say about his writing is his ability to write believable, yet flawed characters. Their success I think hinges on the fact we are all champions of the underdog, we fall for the characters and root for them. And as I tell my clients this is essential.

This message came across loud and clear in the interview I just watched as he prepares for his sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. He was asked about Kubrik’s interpretation of Jack Torrance and the other characters in the film version of The Shining  and he confessed to not liking the film because it was ‘cold.’ He said there was an emotional detachment to the characters that he had not written in his book. In fact he said you have to ‘make the reader fall in love with the characters’. He wants you to feel warm. And he said, I thought interestingly, if the reader roots for them, they care about their plight and it’s easier to scare them. Or as he puts it so succinctly: Horror comes from love.

Great thought and I had something similar scribbled on the notes I have started making for my workshop in Bath on writing psychological thrillers. I don’t write horror per se but then it very much depends on what you define as horror. Salem’s Lot still sits up there as one of the scariest horror books for me and I don’t know I have the ability to scare in that way. But Dead Zone is my favourite because it taps into the human psyche  in a less overtly horror way and this is something I aspire to. In psychological thrillers it’s about taking the normal and creating around it the worst possible scenario, so the horror is real but more ‘of this world’ — so a missing child, a phobia, kidnapped, waking up not remembering who you are … etc. See what I mean?

I wasn’t going to blog about this today but I decided it warranted discussion while it was still fresh in my mind. As a writer I was very influenced by Stephen King, the way he not only has these memorable plots and great stories, but the reader becomes part of that world, wholly immersed and indeed rooting for his underdogs. I don’t think my characters have the issues many of his have, perhaps less disturbed although if I was asked to name one who most felt like a Stephen King character I would probably say my protagonist in Isle of Pelicans, awaiting a rework once I finish I Am Wolf, previously known as the Reluctant Clairvoyant — ex con, moves to San Francisco and the voices are back. He’s a good guy who got lost along the way.

But then again, aren’t a lot of our characters — doesn’t art not imitate life anyway?

While many might knock Stephen King for not being a ‘literary’ writer I still think he writes great stories, excellently and has the page-turnability I need from a good book. So Doctor Sleep is most certainly on my Christmas list.

I can only hope the characters you’ll all meet in While No One Was Watching are anyway near as good as his — but I have a feeling you will be rooting for them …

To whet the appetite …

 

Gunshots silence the world. Kennedy is assassinated. Fifty years on it’s a moment we all remember, even those of us who weren’t here.

But what if that’s not the moment you remember? What if you watched it all from the grassy knoll but when you turned around you have dropped your child’s hand … and worse, much worse — she’s gone. Now people are shouting and parents lay over their children to protect them. But not you. You were so caught up in the moment you forgot your own child. Does that make you a bad mother? Some point and run up the grassy knoll. Others say the gunshot comes from that big old building they don’t even know the name of … yet. But they will. Of course they will.

But you don’t. You don’t do any of these things because you stand still and you stare into nothingness. Your child is gone. But imagine far worse than even that, than even a dead President — imagine your child is still missing fifty years later. And it all happened while no one was watching.

So when people remember where they were and what they were doing when they those gunshots silenced the world — you remember something else. You remember it as the moment you opened your eyes and the world you knew was gone.

But why is Eleanor Boone still missing? What did she know?

Coming November 1st from @parthianbooks … I have a song composed especially for it to be released next month to go with the book trailer.

And the first edition cover is a special 50th anniversary cover … more on that soon.

Preorder now if you dare … LINK  … when you order King’s latest book …

 

 

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