Tag Archives: writing tips

The Inner Reader and the Alchemy of Editing

My Inner Reader and Editing have rather taken over my life in the last few months. This is for a range of reasons. The reasons were all pleasant – or , at least, interesting. But her arrival was a surprise. And, as it turns out, a game changer.

Enter the Inner Reader

inner reader, mystery womanI should explain about my Inner Reader. She’s bit of mystery woman. I’d almost forgotten about her, to be honest.

When an agent took on my first book, I had a day job in the City of London. It fascinated me and I  learned a lot in this new-to-me world of finance. I was even solving problems, in a minor way. Don’t think of me as unhappy in any way.

But I wasn’t writing,

without inner reader

Well, I was writing – stuff my employer wanted: analyses, reports, draft letters for someone senior to sign. Letters that had the force of law, too. They came with set forms of words that I could dictate in my sleep.

And my Inner Reader knew that, except to a very few specialists, those words would mean absolutely nothing at all. Zip. Zilch. Nada. They conveyed as much information as chemical formulae would to a non chemist. It was code.

Now, there is a charm to writing in code. It’s the key to a secret society, after all.

I told my Inner Reader she wasn’t a member.

Ignoring the Inner Reader

inner ReaderFor a few months I went on happily writing this stuff and getting my life together – finding a place to live, catching up with friends. I refused to listen to the bit of me that was used to writing stuff  with delight because I knew that I was going to enjoy reading it later.

But then something happened. (I got rheumatic fever. Maybe I hadn’t been as happy as I thought.)

The need to write was back and it was urgent.

Inner Readers and the Urge to Write in the first Place …

My new agent gave me a Talking To and took me to a PEN meeting. In those days it was in Dilke Street, Chelsea. The place was full of writers whose works I knew. Over-awed, I heard Lettice Cooper and Diana Pullein-Thompson agree that they’d started to write because they ran out of books they wanted to read.

My half forgotten Inner Reader gave me a mighty kick in the solar plexus and said, “LISTEN.”

Disraeli's Inner ReaderLong before this, my mother had told me about Disraeli saying, “When I want to read a book, I write one.” We’d both thought it was peacock posturing, not meant to be taken seriously. But here were two eminently readable and distinctly non-posturing ladies, saying the same thing.

And I realised – the carefully crafted, edited and re-edited book that I had given my agent to sell was NOT WHAT I WANTED TO READ.

Toni Morrison satisfying her inner readerThese days, of course, I know exactly how important that is. Toni Morrison has said “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”  Nora Roberts told The Guardian in 2011 “I started to write the kind of stories that I wanted to read. It was very instinctive. You just wanted the heroines to be a bit feisty.”

…And Editing

My own Inner Reader has fought her way out of the shadows and come back punching her weight this year. Three times.

after the inner editor et alThe first was when I wrote The Prince’s Bride and made a complete horlicks of revising early drafts. Editors and fellow authors shook me awake on that one. Going through their comments, I slowly felt my way back to the book wanted to read.

Second, the woman in the mask started popping up in my dreams, talking about books that are so nearly finished it hurts.

“You know you want this character to do dance,” she said about one. “Cut to the chase NOW.”

Looks as if she’s right.

Inner reader does jigsawAnd third, finalising with Joanna Maitland next weekend’s editing workshop, I realised that there was a piece of the jigsaw I had been ignoring when we talked about making choices.

“You’ll have to handle that,” I told Joanna. “I always keep my characters’ options open far too long.”

 

mysterious inner editorThat  mysterious woman, my Inner Reader finally lost her temper at that.

“Stop letting the bloody characters bully you. What do you want to READ?”

She was right.

Trust your Inner Reader. Always.

 

Falling in Love with Someone Else’s Hero

We all do it — fall in love with someone else’s hero. We always have. Robin Hood. Ivanhoe. Mr Darcy. John Thornton. Raoul de Valmy.

Also, in my case, Brian de Bois Guilbert, Humphrey Beverley, Faramir and Captain Carrot. I like geeks, loners and oddballs. Even those with the occasional dash of villainy, at least as long as I could redeem them. What can I say?

Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that a heart-stopping hero constitutes a good slug of the fun of fiction.

Liz Fielding’s Hero

Royal Bodyguard heroSo I don’t really know why I was so surprised when I fell hard for the hero of an unpublished novel by one of my favourite romance authors, Liz Fielding. Except that the book was not only unpublished, the story was still on the drawing board.

But there was something about the way she talked about her Fredrik…

He had that inscrutability. Something was going on underneath his supremely controlled competence. I could feel it. My fingers itched to get at him.

It felt faintly shameful. I recognised it. I had hero envy.

Essential research

Manor of hero

For I had joined three stunning authors to write a quartet of linked books set around a royal wedding in an English country church, published by Tule.

The four of us got together to talk about our characters and the world we were going to create. 

Visiting Castle Combe, a perfect English village, and having lunch in at the Manor House Hotel was just necessary research. Tough job, as Jessica said. But it had to be done. 

Jessica Hart’s Hero

Baronet heroSo we all went back to writing our books. I told myself that Fredrik belonged to Another Woman. And I needed to stay loyal to my own Prince Jonas. Concentrating hard, I managed it too.

Until Jessica Hart (she also writes as Pamela Hartshorne) sent me the first draft of her story.

And up came Max. And he was this wonderful, practical, grumpy, responsible, inarticulate Englishman who drank terrible coffee and worked all hours and loved his children and his dogs and his decaying stately home…

Yes. OK. In love. Again. 

And he wasn’t mine either.

Anne McAllister’s Hero

Bridegroom heroNow, Anne is the writer who convinced me to look again at cowboys, which was no mean feat. They really weren’t my fantasy until her skilful, principled, competent guys crossed my bookshelf.

So I knew I was going to love her hero. Well, of course I was. He was my hero’s best friend and best man at the wedding.

But did Jack have to be this much of a heart-breaker?

He gives up ranching to play his music. Even exhausted on tour, he can give a Greek god a run for his money. And he’s lost the woman he loves.

And there I go again, handing over my heart.

My Hero …

… had some competition, as you see.

Normally, while I’m writing contemporary romance, I will read biography or crime or adventure stories, for just that reason. But this time I was, as Anne’s Jack would say, hog-tied. I had to read those books to make sure I was staying consistent with our world.

hero on Pinterest - JonasSo how was I to keep my focus on my own guy and not get seduced by these itinerant hotties from my colleagues’ books?

Well, I could already hear Jonas and he quite often made me laugh.

Also, I knew that he has this quicksilver charm which some people might not even see because he keeps it banked down unless he is with people he really likes and trusts. And a whole lot more intelligence and passion than he is quite aware of himself. It takes my heroine to wake him up to both!

We authors had agreed to share images on Pinterest that reflected our main characters and I found just the right one for my prince who was also a volunteer forest Ranger.  Whenever I felt Jonas slipping away from me, I would go and have a look to remind me.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did stay loyal to His Serene Highness Prince Jonas. Just.

He’s published on Friday 13th but you can already order him.

So a question : which fictional hero have you lost you heart to?

What Copy Editors Do and How They Save the World

Dickens and editorFor some time now, people have been asking me to write about what copy editors do and why they’re important. This is a companion piece to last year’s little trot through the origins and history of publishers’ editing: “What Editors Do”.

Why now? I have just actually been reviewing the copy editor’s changes on the text of my new book. So the mind is focused on what I did and what it felt like.

I should point out that, like my blog on editors, this is highly personal. Though I have also drawn on conversations with copy editors and a great talk, some years ago at an RNA Chapter, by jay Dixon, a trained copy editor. Continue reading

Lessons of a Serendipitous Editing Week

By pure serendipity, this last week has turned out to be all about editing.

It wasn’t supposed to happen. I had finished the substantial edits needed on my new book, The Prince’s Bride. I felt they made the story hugely better. The publisher’s editor accepted them. The book went up on Amazon for pre-order. It should all have been done and dusted.

But … Continue reading

Resolution for Writers?

resolution needed to endI don’t know if I’m a particularly picky reader, but I do like a novel to have some sort of resolution. It doesn’t have to be a traditional happy ending – though, as a writer, I always end up with my characters looking forward hopefully. But that’s my quirk.

I can take bereavement, despair or the end of the world in other people’s books. Even enjoy them in a Having a Good Cry sort of way.

What I can’t be doing with, is to turn the page and find that there’s no more book. And in the last few months I’ve found that happening more and more.

Is a Resolution purely a Matter of Taste?

Continue reading

Considering Cliché: A Writer’s Unforgivable Sin?

The very first piece of advice that I remember anyone giving me about writing was, “Avoid cliché.” I was ten. I had to look up “cliché”. So now I have a question.

Dickens father of clicheA cliché is a word or phrase so worn out by overuse that it has deteriorated until it is meaningless. It may once have been striking. Today it is white noise.

The gentle reader ignores it. The ungentle critic berates the writer for laziness and lack of originality.

Dickens got away with “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done,” because he thought of it first. After that it became popular, then heard widely, then untouchable by any writer with pretensions to respectability.

Cliché, the Reader’s Friend?

Continue reading

Pedantique-Ryter: Less is More. Or Is It Fewer?

Less? Or fewer? This Pedantique-Ryter post is dedicated to that Disgusted of Chelsea (no names, no pack drill) who had this exchange on Twitter recently, after shopping in Marks & Spencer:

exclamation mark in fire for less or fewerDisgusted of Chelsea:
My faith in @marksandspencer is shattered, I tell you, shattered. Their ad at checkout:
“Less worries. More sandcastles.” AAAARGGH.
M&S
Is there anything we can do to help?
DoC
Very kind but am in shock. Civilisation tottering.
Ideally change wording to “fewer worries” or “less worry”?
Probably not cost effective?
M&S
We’re sorry you don’t feel we’ve got our ad right.
We’ll share your comments with the team. Thanks
DoC
It’s like a needle under a nail to me.
Team could try Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage?

Civilisation tottering? Well, maybe DoC’s irony went a bit far there, but Pedantique-Ryter admits to feeling the needle under the nail, too.
Fewer? Less? Are they interchangeable? If not, how and when should they be used?
Read on to find out the Pedantique-Ryter answer. Continue reading

Collaborator and Writer, First Steps in Doing it Together

Collaborator…

Collaborator with colleagueBy temperament, I’m one of nature’s collaborators. Show me a team and I’m spitting on my hands and doing my bit. With enthusiasm.

In my various day jobs, I’ve loved the sense of shared enterprise. OK, I could get a bit testy when we had meetings about meetings. But mostly interaction with other people buoyed me up when I was tired, focused me when I was floundering and made laugh a lot.

And I work a whole lot better than I do on my own.

…or Loner?

Continue reading

Nice words: he Rats, they Badger, but does anyone Mole?

animal words create images in hearer's mind

Language is a writer’s basic toolkit. Writers — novelists, playwrights, poets, lyricists, and all the rest — use words to trigger emotional responses or to paint pictures in the minds of their readers and listeners.

How can we fail to see layers of meaning in creations like these?

  • the wine-dark sea (Homer, Ancient Greece)
  • sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care (Shakespeare: Macbeth, 1606)
  • nursing her wrath to keep it warm (Robert Burns: Tam O’Shanter, 1790)
  • moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black (Dylan Thomas: Under Milk Wood, 1954)

English, a pickpocket stealing words?

Continue reading

Love among the Thrillers: Alison Morton guests

Alison Morton, author of Roma Nova series of thrillersToday, we welcome our first guest blogger of 2017, Alison Morton, author of the acclaimed Roma Nova series. Her novels are set in the alternate reality of a breakaway Roman state that survived the fall of the rest of the Empire — and it’s run by women! There are six novels in the series, all edge-of-the-seat thrillers, but all involving at least one love story as well. So Alison is well qualified to blog here on the subject of…

lovers - but can love survive in thrillers?Love among the Thrillers

Love. Ah, love! Nothing like a breathless heroine falling into the arms of her strong, yet conquered hero.

Yes, heroes are conquered by that heart-pounding, visceral but tender feeling as much as heroines are. But that’s just in romances, isn’t it? The classic “happy ever after” ending?

Er, no. Continue reading