Thursday, 28 August 2014

Clues to Crime Writing


When I became a published author of contemporary fiction, I always proclaimed I’d never write crime fiction, and I’d never write a series. And yet, here I am, three years later, an author of crime fiction, with a two book deal contract for the first two books in a series. I have written the third, but it needs much editing before I pass it over to the publisher.

I always thought crime would be too difficult to plot and write the resolution, although it is my favourite genre to read. I revere authors such as P.D. James, Ian Rankin, and newly discovered (for me) Elly Griffiths, and I still do after delving into this world myself.

I decided against writing a series in the first instance, as I love creating new characters. However, after creating DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox, I decided I enjoyed being with them so much, I wanted to see where life would take them. Thus far, they haven’t disappointed me, so our journey continues for the time being.

I went to a talk by Peter James, crime writer and Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association from 2011 to 2013, and he stipulated how important it was to have a link with the police force to give ones writing an element of reality. I thought at the time it was easy for him to say as he was a successful author, and I came away feeling slightly deflated.

One rainy Sunday morning, I was standing on the touch-line watching my teenage daughter play football, when I overheard the man next to me declaring it had been a quiet shift for murder that night, enabling him to come and watch his daughter play. Now I'm quite a shy person, but I approached him and explained my situation, then I gave him my ‘business’ card and hoped he would contact me; especially as he was, and still is, a detective inspector in the metropolitan police force.  He has been such an invaluable and patient resource, I dedicated my first crime book to him. The moral of this is you never know where you're going to come across some form of inspiration or resource, so always keep your ears and eyes open, and a supply of cards with your contact details on.

I have a plethora of books on writing crime, and although they can’t answer questions like a human being can, they are an excellent addition to any writers’ armoury. I’ve listed below a sample of my own groaning bookcase to help you along the way:
Talking About Detective Fiction: P.D. James.
Criminology for Dummies: Steven Briggs.
Forensics: D.P. Lyle, M.D.
The Arvon book of Crime and Thriller writing: Michelle Spring and Laurie R. King.

As for devising the plot, I generally know the beginning of the story, which generally comes to me in a day dreaming moment, and the premise of the novel. I also believe I know the denouement, but I've proved this as a misnomer, as the outcome is invariable different to what I originally thought in the beginning. It tends to change as I get to know the characters more. The twists can take me by surprise, which in turn I hope surprises the reader.

I am continually learning about the art of writing, and when reading well-renowned authors, it feels like a never-ending process, which of course it is. But that is part of the joy of being an author, continually striving to master words, plots, protagonists, and antagonists, and to hopefully create a memorable read.
If I've helped one writer who’s been hovering on the diving board of crime writing, take the plunge, then I’ve achieved something. Welcome to the murky world my friend.

Happy Word Flow One & All

Sunday, 20 July 2014

My New Found Joy of Editing

I used to dread editing, especially my first time with an Editor from my publisher. I worried about undoing their hard work, or not being able to raise myself up to their standards. Adding comments in the boxes made a nervous rash clamber up my neck.

Three years on with my publisher, and I've learnt so much. I believe I have a better eye for what the Editor is looking for. I edit a manuscript four or five times prior to sending it to the publisher, and yet I'm still happy to iron out kinks with the Editor. It feels such a positive experience.

I've begun editing a novel which is due out in May 2015, and it occurred to me how much I enjoy the process; I actually find it invigorating.

I sit at my laptop eagerly, ready to erase whole paragraphs and conversations which add nothing to the story, and don't move it along. In my early days of editing, I feared such actions as I believed I wouldn't be able to recreate such artistic prose; that I was erasing my artistic vibes. How I laugh at myself now, for thinking that.

 The early manuscripts of my novels are certainly not full of amazing prose, they need erasing,  re-writing, and perhaps changing direction altogether. I blush at remembering my early days of submitting to agents. i would read article like this, urging writers to re-write, leave the manuscript for a while before returning to it to edit. I couldn't find the patience in me to do that back then, whereas now, I follow those guidelines and feel all the better for doing so.

I'm not preaching to you here, just reflecting on my own mistakes along the way. You will come to your own conclusion in your own time, just as I did.

I chose to edit at the moment as a break from writing the following novel. I find I sometimes need a break to cleanse my eyes, so I can see where the story is leading me. Editing, is offering me the head-space I need, without me frittering away my precious time doing nothing.

Happy Word Flow One & All

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Orchard Author Event

How have you been lately? Me? Well the words have been flowing lately, thank you very much, but my get-up and get-out-there author promotion has been rather hit-and-miss. And who is to blame? Well me of course.

In my daily life, at work, I'm not a person brimming with confidence, I like to quietly get on with things, not drawing attention to myself. However, in the author world, this is exactly what I should be doing. I have a FB Author Page, this blog, and Twitter, but who wants to follow someone who constantly self-promotes? I've contacted a couple of promotion agencies, and I'm weighing up the options as they both have fees attached.

My publisher has a page displaying my books and some information about me, which is all very nice, but I need to direct people to it, otherwise how would they come across a small-fry like me? Oh, it's Winter Goose Publishing, thanks for asking *blush*

I imagine I'm not alone in just wanting to write, and let the promotion side trundle-on by itself. It's safe in my writing world; I can be mean, dangerous, rude, arrogant, and commit unspeakable crimes without being punished or snubbed. I can type in bare feet whilst eating mango or chocolate peanuts. I can drink copious amounts of coffee, and sit and watch the birds in the garden if I feel I need a break. And most of all, I'm hidden.

Well, something popped into my inbox the other day, that made me swallow all my fears and say, yes I will attend. What? I hear you cry. It's the Orchard Book Club Author Event, and I'm going to be one of twenty-five authors attending it. Oh yes, I've booked my place, even though it's not until March 2015. Don't berate me, I've given myself plenty of time to develop confidence and order freebies to give away.

I won't write the details here as I'll post a link for you to click on. There's a Ball in the evening; holy moly, what am I going to wear???

Now I really want to get back to writing, as I have a female character in grave danger; will DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox get to her in time? Maybe not as I'm feeling particularly dark today, and murder can be so deliciously evil - only in fiction, you understand.

Happy Word Flow One & All

Link to event details

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Writing Rules


I have swung from one writing rule to another over the past few years; torturing myself wondering whether I am using the right ones correctly.

I will sometimes not write for a few days; paralysed by confusion and doubt. And there, we already have a rule where several answers are floating around the writing community. Many people advocate writing daily to keep the words and ideas flowing. Hence, I feel guilty if I do not write; I believe I am letting myself down, and my writing will deteriorate in such light. Really?

Well, today, I read a insightful interview with Mark Billingham, in the Writing Magazine, June 2014. He mentions he does not sit down to write unless he actually has something to write. He may not write for a couple of days, or even a week. He finds once he has stepped away from the WIP, he then knows what he has to do; the break gives him clarity, which he finds especially important in crime writing. He still manages to write one novel a year.

From now on, I will endeavour to view my 'blank' days as time for reflection and invigoration. Such a positive spin makes even the inside of a dirty bin look enticing - or perhaps not quite that.

Mark Billingham also mentions something I thought only affected me. According to him, every professional writer feels their book is terrible when they get half-way through. writing it. I remember another successful writer saying something similar, but this reminder will hopefully stay lodged in my mind long enough to see me through the next two or twenty-two books.

Happy Word Flow One & All

Monday, 3 February 2014

Those pesky doubts.


I hope that my poor mastering of the ever evolving technology allows me to post the link to my Goodreads Giveaway below.

I have three, signed copies of  'In the Light of Madness' to give away. However, this time around, I'm only offering them to people who live in the UK, as whenever I have included other countries, the USA always wins! I thought I'd give my fellow Brits a chance this time!

I'm currently writing the third novel in the DI Wednesday series, and I've been struggling for a few days now. I'm close to the denouement, but I am doubting my route. I'm wondering whether there are enough twists, whether the reader will have guessed 'who did it'. My mind is being tortured by the taunting of the characters, who all seem to be leading me a merry dance.

In January's edition of 'Writing Magazine', Val McDermid is interviewed, and I found much comfort in her words. the interview began with 'I still approach every book with a sense of doubt and dread'. I'm with you there, Val. She goes on to say that she believes it's 'a healthy approach'.  I want to laminate her interview so I can re-read it at moments such as this.

Val McDermid also says that she has self-doubt with every single book when she reaches about three-quarters of the way through the book. However, she just keeps writing. She suggests writers reaching this stage just write through it. This is me, and I'm going to follow her guidance and just write through it.

I can prevaricate as well as anyone; even writing this short post has taken me away from a blank page. I need to buck-up my ideas, and stop worrying so much, otherwise DI Wednesday will get very cranky with me, and justifiably so.

So, head over to Goodreads and enter the giveaway. Fingers crossed you get it.

Happy Word Flow One & All

PS. The link I posted didn't work (what a surprise!), so just head over there, I know you can find it.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

New Year, New Rules


For the first time in my life, I haven't made any New Year Resolutions, and quite frankly it's liberating. There's no list shouting at me to achieve more in whatever arena I've chosen to focus on. I found one I wrote in 1991, and boy did it make me laugh!

But is allowing myself free-reign on my life a wise decision? I believe so. I don't need reminding to read more novels; I devour them as much as I can. I know I need to keep writing - just try and stop me - and I know there's always room for improvement. Always.

It would be lovely to lose a few pounds, but who am I kidding, I've never dieted in my life, and I don't intend to start at this stage of my life.

So, the new rules for this year are just to believe in myself more without the constraints of forcing myself to conform to a list of resolutions. Perhaps you should try it one year.

Happy New Year One & All & Happy Word Flow.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Writer's Drought


I write every day to flex my creativity and mind. I don't have a specific amount of words, or whether I write by hand or on the keyboard. I sometimes choose to work on my WIP, my blog, or just on scraps of paper.

However, these past few days I've experienced a drought of creativity and word flow. I have found it a painful and demoralising experience, with a risk of it bringing me down if I don't deal with it. So here I am, talking to you, and hoping that discussing will reignite my writer's mode. But even this is proving to be hard.

So what's getting in the way? Work is tiring, but that's not a good enough excuse. Christmas is around the corner, and I'm preparing for the event, with all presents nearly bought, but again it's a poor excuse. Household chores can also hardly be counted as an excuse. So what's happening?

My third novel is due out this month, and I'm painfully aware that I should endeavour to promote my work more liberally.  I have the second book in the crime series already written and accepted by the publisher, and I'm currently writing the third.  So I have plenty going on in the writing world, and yet I'm drawing a blank page in my mind.

I know I need time and peace to write, both of which can be difficult to find in a family home. I am sensitive to the moods of others, not helped by having a teenager in the home! 

I think I need to stop procrastinating and browsing Twitter and FB, and damn-well get on with it.  There is no magic to writing, just a lot of hard work and reaching deep into ones mind. So with that in mind, I shall post this then open my WIP and get on with typing words, no matter that I will delete and re-write many of them in the near future.  

Happy Word Flow, One & All.