I’ve always imagined that most writers have that unfinished book in their files somewhere.
Often, I imagine, it would be one that came to a halt because of external circumstances. The day job gets frantic for three months and when you go back to the book you read the first chapter and think: who are these people? Yes, that happened to me.
Or you get ill. Or there is a sudden family crisis.
Sometimes it is to do with the book itself — a publisher changes their mind, for instance. And yes, I have one or two of those. (One I was very glad to stop, to be honest. I’d really gone off the hero.)
I still have a 40K word file of a book I really liked. It was a sequel that the publisher decided, mid-creation, they didn’t want after all. Please could they have a romance based on a (then) popular reality television show instead?
I used to think that only historical novelists needed to write a timeline for a novel. Someone like me, writing contemporary fiction set pretty close to the real world, didn’t have any use for it. I read Joanna’s excellent (and detailed) account on this blog of the timeline she constructed for her Regency-set Lady in Lace. And thanked my lucky stars that this was so. (It’s a lovely book, by the way.)
Only, of course, she is not just talking about setting her characters into a sequence of historically documented events. She is talking about the timeline of the whole novel, including the stuff she’d made up. Scene by scene Joanna records what her characters do and feel as well as well as facts of place and history.
But I still thought I didn’t need that sort of hassle in a contemporary story.
We’ve just passed the submission deadline for the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. And I’ve heard whispers from some readers that the MSS they are being sent to read are not as professionally prepared as they should be. That’s sad. And unnecessary, too. Professional layout isn’t difficult. Especially with Word Styles.
Some aspiring writers, I’m sure, tell themselves that the most important thing is to get their pearls onto the page. They can sort out the niceties of formatting later. But that’s a waste of effort. It means doing stuff twice when it could be done once, Right First Time. So this blog is about how to set yourself up to get your MS Right First Time, while you’re actually creating it.
This blog is long—sorry—because I’m trying to explain every step of what you need to do. But it won’t take long to do it, and you only have to set up these Word styles once, so it’s no great chore. In fact, it’s an investment. Once you’ve created them, you can keep using them in every story you write.
I’m currently finishing a first draft. And it’s too long. Much too long. It needs lots of cutting.
And therein lies a dilemma.
My first draft is definitely my voice, with all its good and bad points. One of my bad points is repetition. Duplication. Saying the same thing over and over again, but in different words.
Did you notice what I did there? Yes, bad point number one to the fore. Also in the first para of this post (sigh).
Problem is that, if ⁄ when I start cutting out the sin of duplication, I also risk changing the authorial voice so that it isn’t mine any more.
Cutting habit words?
I can, of course, make cuts by removing my habit words and phrases. Of which of course is one. I blogged about that a while ago. But, to be honest, removing habit words doesn’t reduce the overall word count by much. And I need to cut thousands of the blighters. So something more drastic is required. Continue reading →
I bet you do. Perhaps all authors do? A few weeks ago, in her excellent presentation on snappy dialogue at the RNA Virtual Conference 2020, Virginia Heath confessed to overusing the phrase “he huffed out” as a speech tag for her heroes. Virginia, being a professional, knows how to catch and reduce her use of habit words. Do you?
To start at the beginning: what are Habit Words?
Repetition can be boring. And people do notice…
Habit words and phrases are part of an author’s voice, the words and phrases that come naturally and automatically, that trip off the tongue, that make the writing sound like you. Continue reading →
This week, I finished a book. Writing a book, that is. So I’m feeling smug. (No mention, please, of the fact that the agreed deadline for the MS was end of July.) And when I finished it, I thought: “I’m a completer-finisher. Eureka!”
She’s off again, I hear you groan. What on earth is a completer-finisher? Continue reading →
The writing life is hard. And some parts of it are harder than others. [Yes, I know. Cue violins?]
When i do talks for readers, they regularly ask me, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I answer. Of course I do. But for me — and, I suspect, for a lot of other writers — the challenge isn’t finding new ideas to write about. My challenge is turning the zillions of ideas fizzing around my brain into words on the page. Thousands and thousands of words.
If you’ve read any great books recently, the chances are that you raced through thousands of words in a few hours. Perhaps you missed out on several hours’ sleep because you just had to keep turning the pages? That’s really pleasing for the writer. But it’s also daunting. Because you, dear reader, may well want another book by the same author. Now. Immediately.
It takes a few hours to read a great book. It takes months, or years, to write one.
Explicit Sex in Romances: none, lots, somewhere in between?
Explicit sex in romances is a complete turn-off for some readers. They like the bedroom door firmly closed and refuse to read any romances where it is not. That, of course, is absolutely their choice. And I have written some romances that, in my opinion, worked very well without sex scenes. Indeed, one of them — Rake’s Reward — has been called “fizzing with sex” even though it contains no explicit sex at all.
But, equally, I’ve written romances with a lot of explicit sex on the page, even though that is bound to have lost me some potential readers.
Confession time: I have a problem with compulsive micro-editing; and I don’t normally believe in electronic benefits.
I am a quintessentially late adopter. Even when I have been pushed through the airtight seal into the orbiting 21st century, I’m not one who expects to find anything much good coming from the new technology at my command.
Mainly, of course, because it’s NOT at my command. It goes its own way. Sometimes it’s too fast for me and whizzes onto the next page, next program. And freezes. Or it’s too slow, so that I lose confidence and try to go back. And it freezes.
This is true of laptops, desktops, tablets, E-readers. The whole boiling. I hate ’em.
Except that they make my writing life just a little bit, well, easier.
Conviction Tiffler Addicted to Micro-editing
You see, I’m a conviction tiffler.
If, like Autocorrect, you don’t recognise the term, I borrowed it from a woman who was once my editor. What she actually said was — in a public restaurant, quite loudly — “If you don’t stop tiffling with that sodding book, I shall come round with chloroform and forceps and remove it surgically.” Continue reading →
This week I have been remembering the first draft of my first book. Well, the first book I actually completed.
I remember that it was written by hand, mostly while I was waiting for books to be retrieved from the stack in a very famous library.
The leather-bound tomes, the scholarly hush, the dust dancing in the sunbeams, the academics concentrating all around me…. oh, I remember them as if I’ve only just walked in from that day with my book bag stuffed with notes and my head full of my characters.
Or sometimes I wrote that first draft while I was waiting for an old friend in our favourite coffee shop.
When inspiration struck there, I sometimes scribbled the idea down on any old scrap of paper — including a cafe napkin once or twice.