Category Archives: Novel writing

When you get ‘possessed’ and it’s only 5.30 am

I am close to 9000 words into the sequel novel and I am coming up for air. It’s odd when a chapter writes itself in two hours. Oh sure it will be edited and tweaked probably a million more times, but it’s flowing, good and fast like the Hudson River.  If that flows fast?! Just popped into my head. I think it, I write it. Where does it even come from?

Starting a new novel usually takes longer, finding the character’s voice, and his or her quirks. I have talked many times on here about how you need to create flaws and mannerisms and tics that make your character feel real. And while some you plan, most appear — by magic. What I had never thought about before was how nice it is to write characters that are already fully formed. The thing about a sequel is you already know your ‘people’, well the key ones at least, so their voice comes so much easier. And that is what I am finding now.

In addition, picking up the story threads six weeks on means I also know what happened to my people, and by way of a quick but not overdone recap for those who have not read book one (even though you hope they will have read book one) means you can process what happened. And the plan I have drafted means I also know where this is heading. I know the function of each chapter. Only now come the surprises.

It’s interesting how many things happen as if by magic and certainly there has been some of that since I started to work on this sequel. This morning is a case in point when my favourite flawed character with the most distinctive voice ends Chapter 4 in a way I have never actually planned. Oh, the thing it relates to was going to happen in this chapter, but not quite this way. And this is what I was talking about last week: when it surprises you but feels right, then it should surprise your reader.

So I thought I would share before I go back in to tweak.

Writing is a powerful way to lose yourself to find yourself.

And I am now possessed.

And that, for now, is all.

cartoonwriter

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Plots, Sequels and Radio Interviews!

Well, what a lot has been achieved this week… lots of plotting and planning. Four hours each morning with a notebook and I think I am about ready to start my sequel to one of my novels on Monday. Yay!

I have blogged about many things on here, mostly writerly, but not on plotting and ‘idea brainstorming’. I don’t think you can force ideas to come, you have to let them show up. Sometimes they march in without knocking and plonk themselves down in front of you. Here I am! Other times they whisper as you sleep or drift in and out like a tide that you can’t hold onto, you have it, you don’t. It’s a tease until you grab it and hold onto it like a wriggling cat until it settles on your lap.

This week has been enlightening. And it’s been exciting. You just never know who or what is going to show up. The good news is that for all its convolutions and complexities that have to be part of this novel to make it a good sequel, the ideas have come mostly pretty well formed and the new characters even told me their names! I am getting to know them now! While I never planned it this way, I have ideas for the two books that will make this a trilogy — and scope for more later. I had not planned to ‘plan’ the third book but since there is this thing called ‘foregrounding’– the legwork for the next one, i.e. the planting of the seeds — then it makes perfect sense. I now know how it all ends and what has to happen in the third one. I even have ideas for the names of the books. I am excited ❤

So how much do you plan?

Well, not too much. That said, if you were to see my notebook you would say I have it pretty much worked out, and I guess I kind of do. However, the true magic of writing happens when you allow your subconscious to guide you. Plots change. They change because as you write, things need to happen: pacing things! When you read a great novel and a chapter ends with one of those moments: another body is found, someone isn’t who you think they are — you know, ‘the unexpected reveal’, well, I like to think it’s by magic. A lot of these, I think, are not planned. They just happen. I have had a character  walk in and make a statement and I’ve spent the next hours, maybe days, working out why and what it means. Truly. Something in me knew it had to happen, and every time it really was vital to the story, I just didn’t know it when I planned the book! See, magic! Writing is magic. You need to plot and plan, absolutely — but then you need to allow the magic in.

I can’t wait to get writing now.

And in other news…

Cover reveal!

My short story collection is out in July and I will be in conversation with Tony Fisher on BBC Radio Essex this very afternoon from 2 pm talking writing and short stories! Do tune in: here’s the link!

TONY FISHER ARTS SHOW

And, here it is… my cover. Me and my nan! Her photo was taken in the 1930s and relates to the last story in the book, the newest short story of mine 🙂

Because Sometimes Medium

Out July 2019

Launch Event, St Nicholas Church, Canvey Island, July 19th 7 pm, all welcome!

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Tunnel Vision

It was such a great week last week after the ‘new agent news’ and finally feeling as if I knew what I had to do next. So I found myself up and working at 5 am every day, after a break from that for a while, and fully in that zone: that fully immersive state we all relish if we can get in there! It does mean everything else falls away around you as you write, and some mornings I was aware of the hubby speaking until he probably realised I was not ‘in the room’ and off he’d go and next thing a coffee would plonk down beside my computer mouse. I have him well trained!

So edits under guidance completed along with new synopsis and off to my agent. I am now doing something I have never done before. Working out the plot intricacies of a sequel! I had always intended a sequel to this novel (not saying which one yet) but had not quite worked out what would happen. I spent three hours at 5 am scribbling and thinking. I am not there yet but something is slowly emerging! I often find I need to look the other way for a while to see it clearly as if plots like to take shape just out of shot. My mission for this week is to get something together and find my EUREKA plot moment when I realise what it has to say. And to be ready to start writing it!

Writing is a process of many stages.

  • Planning: advice? Never force it; let it come when it wants to, just nudge it along as I do not recommend waiting for your muse either.
  • Writing new material: is the really exciting part and my fingers get a buzz when I am in that zone. I think that is probably the most exciting phase. This is when the true magic happens and often things you could not have planned!
  • Editing: I relish because it helps your work to take shape and become something so much better than that first draft. And if you are lucky enough more magic creeps beautifully in 🙂

 

Many many rounds of edits later it might or might not be ready but it has to reach a point when you MUST let it go and if you have been working on the same thing for too long — rest it and write something else. We can get too close to it. My advice for anyone wanting a career as a writer and intending to find an agent and a book deal needs to let one novel go and work on a new one, especially when new to it. Get a critique, get solid editorial feedback and learn how to improve — but when you have reached that point know when to rest it and work on something new, taking those newly acquired skills with you. Agents want you for a career, not a single book. My fourth novel was the one that was finally deemed good enough to find a publisher.  But nothing is ever wasted because you have something to later work on.

So that is me, just wanted to pop by to report in mid-editing a manuscript for a client!

That is all. Happy Writing! Happy Week!

Books HD

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Create Your Style Guide [Editing Tips]

Welcome to a new and busy week. I thought I would give some editing tips every day this week, of course, some of this will have been covered before but  I think it’s always useful as a reminder.

So hands up who uses a Style Sheet or Style Guide when they write?Do you even know what one is? 

A style sheet is a list setting out the decisions that your editor has made on aspects of the layout and language of your document, in order to keep the document consistent.

This is a really useful thing, especially if you intend to write this as part of a series and so how you do something in one book must be consistent across books as well as within the book.

As you come to edit your work you don’t just focus on the shape of the story and if it works, on filler, character development etc. When it comes to the nitty gritty bits of the narrative don’t just focus on the flow of the language and the construction of the sentences either, you have to think about how you represent things. So, for example, do you use a hyphen in ‘no-one’ like that or ‘no one’, both are acceptable. Which of the OK or okay forms do you use (ok is not generally an accepted form). Do you write -ise in words like recognise or realise OR the more US form of recognize/ realize and how is this in other forms of -ise/ize words. Do you use capitals in some of your expressions, like the Magic Sword, the Golden Knife. Do you capitalise the East and the West? Do you use a capital in Professor? University… here I would say unless part of the official address, his name, the university’s name then use a small letter — get the idea? US or UK spelling?

By writing these things down you can create a guide so you don’t have to remember because, inevitably, you will use forms interchangeably. The sheet helps you create consistency — which is key here. For a final edit/proof, it’s vital, especially if you plan to self-publish. But to submit you also want to show the highest level of professionalism. It’s very rare I am sent a ms with the writer’s own style guide but it happens from time to time and it shows me they appreciate this aspect is important.

 

It might include notes on what font is used, whether the text is left or fully justified, how particular words are capitalised or hyphenated, how much indent your indented quotations have, what is put in italics.

Especially if you’ve learned English as a second or other language, you will know that the English language is not consistent, and it doesn’t even have proper rules for some things! This can be really frustrating, as two people might do things in two different ways, BOTH of which are correct.

For example, in English …

  • We can use -s- spellings or -z- spellings in words like “organisation”
  • We can capitalise or not capitalise words like Chapter 1 or experiment 2
  • We can hyphenate or not hyphenate pairs of words like policy-maker

 

And that’s before you get to decisions like …

 

  • Are you going to use 20%, 20 percent or twenty percent?
  • Are you going to describe America as America, the United States, the US, the USA, the U.S. etc. etc.?
  • Are you going to use double inverted commas for quotations and single inverted commas for concepts, or vice versa?
  • Are you going to refer to other research as (Brown, 2003; Green and Jones, 2005, p. 23) or (Brown 2003, Green & Jones 2005:23) or any other variant

 

Now, the important thing with all of these is to keep it consistent.

 

More editing tips tomorrow!

editing cartoon

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Friday Writing Prompt

Inspired by my talk last weekend, and thinking about the close interaction between fact and fiction, here’s a prompt for you.

Take a key moment in history; so something that ‘literally’ stopped the world, not just your world, so let’s say, as is the case in my novel, the death of a president, maybe 911, Diana’s death, Elvis… ? and then write a short piece of ‘alternative history’ as if it never happened. So you will need to use fictitious characters perhaps or make it a memoir piece where the event affected you, but now let us see what happened if something else happened instead… So, for example, JFK Airport used to be called Idlewild and, in fact, this is the name of Mark Lawson’s alternative history novel, if Kennedy had not died as he did and make him the icon he is, would the airport still be called that? In fact, that is the case in this novel; Kennedy is still alive years later. Perhaps juxtapose what might have happened with what did happen, so some of you might even want to write two versions…? I will leave that to you! Allow your imaginations to run wild… and not be idle! See what I did there 🙂 Groan!

Happy Writing!

Happy Weekend!

Happy Being YOU!

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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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In The Spotlight: Amanda James

Mandy James April 2017

 

I have great pleasure in welcoming the very talented Amanda James back to my blog to share her latest writing news… and to interview the protagonist of her fantastic new novel Behind the Lie that was out for Kindle on Friday.

This is part of Amanda’s busy blog tour so I am delighted she found time to pop over to mine!

Look where she’s been and where she’s going!

Blog Tour Mandy James

I met Amanda through Bridge House Publishing when we published her short story in our charity book for Born Free. It’s a collection of wild animal stories, and of all our collections remains a landmark success. We launched at the Hay Festival in 2010 with the wonderful Virginia McKenna. What a day. Amanda got to read at the festival. I have since followed Amanda’s career as she has gone from success to success.

Friday (just gone) saw the release of another novel and so I asked her to do something a little different. So we have an exclusive over here today. But first let me tell you a little more about Amanda.

 

She lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the beautiful coastline near her home. In fact, three of her novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel and the new one Behind the Lie – April 2017 published by HQUK ( HarperCollins).

So in an exclusive, I asked Amanda if she would interview her protagonist, Holly, for me and this is what happened…

So to set the scene… a beach house overlooking a windswept beach in Cornwall. We are on the balcony drinking tea and watching the Atlantic waves hurl themselves at the shore. We are huddled in thick sweaters, because even though it is spring, the wind is Arctic.

So, I thought we’d have a little Q&A session, is that okay? It will be fun. Please tell me your name?

The young woman sitting opposite gives me an incredulous look, her eyes reflecting the blue of the ocean.

Humour me.

You know my name, but okay, I am Holly West.

Tell me what you’re most afraid of?

Holly sighs and takes a sip of her tea. She watches at a kite surfer but I can tell she sees something else. She wrests a strand of golden hair from the wind and tucks it behind her ear. Eventually she looks back at me.

People thinking that I’m not telling the truth, that I am still the woman I used to be.

Why so sad? What has happened to you?

There is no hesitation this time.

So much has happened in such a short time …When my childhood sweetheart left for the army, I left too. I moved from my village in Cornwall to be a model in London. Caught up in everything that goes with such a glamorous life, I was lost, alone…disgusted with the person I became. But then I met Simon and he helped me turn my life around. I was so happy when we married and I fell pregnant with twins but then my son died. Well, that’s what they told me, but I know he’s alive.

What do you want most from the world?

A sad little smile turns up one corner of her mouth.

That’s easy. To find my boy, make a life for us all back in Cornwall and to just live an ordinary life.

What will happen if you don’t get it?

Her expression grows dark and the clouds roll over the sun.

I can’t think about that… I won’t think about it.

Is there something about you the reader never finds out about you, Holly?

There are secrets about me that only you know, Amanda…

 

 

Want to know what happens? This is it…

Behind the Lie Cover

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.

Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.

Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

Buy me! 

Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

Author links – Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/

Twitter  @akjames61

Facebook mandy.james.33

 

I don’t know about you but this has certainly whet my appetite… so do download a copy… thanks, Amanda, and we wish you great success with this! Thanks for being in the spotlight today!

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