Wednesday 31 December 2014

Party Time?

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m contemplating my evening. Not new year resolutions or anything like that (gave up on them a long time ago), but how I’m going to spend the next few hours. I live on a small unadopted lane and we’re quite a social lot - there’s a party later on. I will know a lot of the people there and it’s a short stagger home, but I’m undecided.

Why? I hear you ask. Or not. Andy is unlikely to be drinking as he’s working tomorrow and he’s not very sociable at the best of times – he’d rather sit in the pub with the pint and a newspaper than make polite small-talk. Me – it’s not that I’m not sociable; I’m just really not very good at it.

I’ve said before on this blog that I’m actually quite shy. Half a bottle of wine helps, but I’m not very good at small talk. How do people do it at parties? Stand there and chat effortlessly about anything and everything? I can never think of anything interesting to say. It’s why, when I used to do the convention circuit, I was always on committees and doing stuff – sitting on a reception desk or running an event gives me a focus and a raison d’ĂȘtre. Without that, standing at the bar with nothing to hide behind and I’m just me. Even in the local pub, I’m far happier on quiz night or meeting to talk about the radio plays project I’m involved with.

And I wonder if other writers are like this. Is this perhaps why we invent our own worlds, peopled by characters we understand, who don’t judge us? Writing is like acting in many ways, walking in somebody else’s shoes, getting under somebody else’s skin. Being somebody else. It isn’t that I’m dissatisfied with my own life in any way – I just can’t imagine it being that interesting to anybody else!

If there was a poll of writers, how many would declare themselves as introverts and how many as extroverts? Sometimes I wish some of my closest friends were closer in distance so we could spend evenings with a bottle of wine and putting the world to rights. And I value my online friends too. You guys know who you are!

So I expect I’ll go out tonight. Put on a bit of slap and some heels and have a couple of drinks. Pretend to be somebody I’m not. And I know if I make the effort, I’ll enjoy it too. I will.

Here’s wishing everybody all the best for 2015.

Thursday 18 December 2014

New Book!

And Ratline is finally live on Amazon UK and US (and other Amazon stores worldwide) in kindle ebook format. The paperback proof copy is on order - delivery date 22nd December allegedly, but I suspect the computers don't realise it's Christmas, so I'm not expecting it any time soon.

I'll be processing the other ebook formats in the next day or so. It'll be available at Smashwords in all formats before Christmas, but realistically I doubt it will make it into Kobo, WH Smith, Apple etc until after the holidays as at least one of the sites does manual reviewing.

So many other projects but I somehow managed to write the opening scene to the next (last) Lenny story. No plot as yet ...

Friday 5 December 2014

On Editing

I was at a meeting of my local Writers' Group the other day and the talk got around to editing. I mentioned I was in the midst of shuffling files from my new book Ratline back and forth with my editor, and other people wanted to know what he did and why I felt I needed an editor anyway. I don't for a moment think that anybody was suggesting I didn't need an independent set of eyes on my writing (because we all need that), but more that people were wondering what you get for your money when you engage the services of a fiction editor.

My first published novel, Hamelin's Child, was agency-edited. The two follow-on books, I was reasonably confident about - although I do have a supremely-talented beta reader who can spot a typo at a thousand paces and is not shy about telling me the bits that don't work. I am eternally grateful for his support.

But when I got to my spin-off book, Rat's Tale, I was no longer so sure about what I was doing. Rat's Tale was shorter than my other books - more of a novella at under 50,000 words. And I wanted to do something different with the structure that I hadn't done before. I wanted a fresh pair of eyes and I was happy to pay for it - it's no different to buying-in design services for a book cover, or formatting (although I do my own ebook and print formatting). By this time, I was socialising widely on facebook and John Hudspith's name kept cropping up, so I thought I'd try him out....

So how does engaging the services of an editor work? With John, you get a free sample edit, so you know exactly what you will get for your money, should you choose to accept his quote. Your quote will be based on the sample you submitted, and you will be able to see for yourself how much/little support you need. He'll fix typos, suggest alternative words and correct punctuation and spelling. He'll also point out style issues, where perhaps sentences aren't flowing as well as they could, or where scenes need expanding or rewriting. He's also exceptionally good at cutting out fluff - those extraneous words that creep in without you noticing and threaten to smother your story. And he'll suggest rewrites where necessary (editing of rewritten scenes is included in the price - as are blurbs and synopses).

Most fiction editors offer similar services. Some are fixed-fee, some charge according to the sample. Many editors will ask for all/part payment up-front. John works in chunks of approx 10,000 words - so you can budget as you go along.

Whoever you choose - if you choose to employ an editor - it's important to have a rapport with him/her. You need to feel comfortable and able to discuss and query/argue with suggestions. Always make sure you know what you are getting for your money. Ask for references if necessary and make sure you are happy with the quality of the sample edit.

So what happens to my books? I have lots of fluff. I could stuff pillows with my fluff. Chapters coming back from Johnny have been positively shaved. I have typos - everybody has typos - and sometimes I overuse the same words or I get lazy with my research. I also have a habit of building up the tension and then losing it because I've not gone quite far enough to reach the point of no-return. I can't usually see it myself, but Johnny can. Oh, and he puts even more swear words in than I started with (and I'm not exactly mean with them), and sex too - so I'm blaming him entirely for corrupting the moral fabric of society ...

Lists of other editing services can be found here. Caveat emptor! Always ask for references or testimonials from satisfied customers before parting with your money.