I’ll Make This Brief

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Goodness gracious me, I thought writing a title was hard work.

You’ll recall me complaining about that last week no doubt. No? In that case, it’s over here (but come back soon).

Having (almost) come up with a working title that works, then changed it again, changed it back, gone back to the original title, then broken down sobbing and shaking uncontrollably, screaming “It’s only a few words!! How can it be so HARD??”, I asked Delightful Other Half for help. She came up with a stormer straight away.

So, one more trauma safely behind me, I launched straight into the synopsis.

Oh dear Lord, the synopsis. Is this some evil ruse by agents to weed out writers who don’t have what it takes to survive an SAS training regime followed by several months of being locked in a coal bunker?

I’ve already written the damn book and now you want me to write it again, only shorter? Shorter, but containing all the same information and emotion?? What kind of twisted sadists are you lot?

And if I don’t get it absolutely spot-on, you won’t even get as far as taking a teeny little peek-ette at the other 85,000 words I’ve toiled for four years over?

How about if I just stick a whole wodge of tenners to a sheet of A4 and we’ll call that your motivation to read the book?

Pretty please?

**Gratuitous over-use of question marks in this post should be excused on the grounds of synopsis psychosis**

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Write Drunk, Edit Sober

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A few days ago, this wonderful infographic popped into my Inbox (I do love a good infographic!)

While it’s ostensibly focused on copywriting, it contains some fabulous advice for writers of all kinds and some even more fabulous quotes from renowned authors.

Amongst them is the one and only definition which has ever clearly defined for me the old adage “show, don’t tell”:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

That’s from none other than Anton Chekhov, so I’m taking it to be pretty authoritative!

It also contains a lovely section on Productive Tactics, dishing out some cracking advice to help the writer stride over the seemingly-insurmountable hurdles with which we all come face-to-face at one time or another. A particular favourite is:

Write drunk, edit sober.

I do this fairly often, which probably tells you a whole host of badness about me. But it really does work. The first few paragraphs are invariably dry and stilted as I struggle to chase my fleeing muse around the room. Just as invariably, the work slides gracefully into outlandish gibberish as my alcohol tolerance level is reached. But in the middle there, at the point where the inhibitions are loosened and the muse perches coquettishly upon my knee, there’s some really good, free-flowing writing which is not only good in itself, but raises ideas and concepts worthy of further development.

There are far too many other gems in here for writers of all ilks – if you’ve never written an ilk, give it a go – to be able to summarise with any justice, so you’ll just have to read it for yourself. It’s lengthy, but very worthwhile. Trust me, I’ve written a novel.

My parting shot for today is from the unspeakably wonderful Ray Bradbury, making a long-overdue repeat appearance on these pages:

Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.

Pass me a pen, several reams of paper and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s time to get to work!!

What’s In A Name?

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My first novel runs to 86,500 words, give or take a few. That’s 86,500 words that I wrote myself, all out of my own head. And that’s quite a lot of words.

So why am I finding it so hard to come up with a couple more for a title??

For a long while in its youth, the novel was called Dark Energies. I still think that’s a strong title, but fear it sounds a bit too sci-fi. I don’t want to end up on the wrong shelf, do I? Incidentally, that’s a whole other debate – the book is fiction and deals with themes of quantum physics, so in a very literal sense it is a bit sci-fi. But it’s mostly a contemporary urban love story with a twist and a mighty helping of mystery thrown in.

For a shorter period – one week to be precise – it became Jumping From Cliffs. That works for a blog, but doesn’t work for a book. I kept asking myself “would I want to read a book called Jumping From Cliffs?”

The answer was “only if I were considering suicide but couldn’t work out how to do it.”

For ten minutes I dallied with Façades but had an overwhelming urge to punch myself in the face at the pretentiousness of it. Plus, it’s rather Jilly Cooper-esque. And that’s never a good thing.

So here I am, metaphorically sitting on 86,500 words of manuscript, without a name to its name.

Surely a few words can’t be that difficult?

At this rate it’s going to be called A Story About Some People Who Do Things.

So tell me friends, how do you come up with your titles?

And That’s A Wrap!

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Oh no it's not!

I have finished my first novel.

I can scarcely believe I’m writing those words…

After four years, numerous drafts and countless hours of editing, the final changes went in on Saturday afternoon. I now, for the very first time,  have a completed manuscript that I’m happy for people to read.

A dream that I’ve harboured since the age of 7 has been fulfilled.

*happy face*

Amongst those upon whom I’m happy to inflict this 86,000-word tome are, of course, a select group of what I’m increasingly seeing referred to as beta-readers (a term a little too software-geeky for my liking). I shall call them guinea-pigs!

Is the book perfect? I doubt it. As one of the characters says: “Perfection doesn’t exist.” Will the GPs come back with changes, plot-holes, character defects, story suggestions? Undoubtedly. And I very much hope they do, so that I can be aware of the shortcomings as well as elated about the achievement.

The fact that it may not be perfect isn’t going to prevent me sending it to the other group of guinea-pigs though. Agents and/or publishers.

And therein lies the secondary source of immense excitement… I have a manuscript that I’m ready to send out to seek a publisher! And that’s something I could hardly have imagined 4 years ago. How my baby will fare out in the big wide world is anyone’s guess. I’m prepared (on the outside at least, sensitive little soul that I am) for rejection, rebuttal and possibly even being totally ignored.

But hey, if that happens, I have a Plan B don’t I? Why, of course. Self-publishing.

The more I see the growing army of talented writers out there (yes, that includes you, and you, and especially you) who are self-publishing, the more I believe a tipping-point has been reached. There is a whole new route to readers.

After all, one man’s reject is another’s bedside-table page-turner.

It’s far from the end my friends, this is just the beginning!

Care to join me on the journey friends and see how Jumping From Cliffs – for that is its name, having been re-christened from Dark Energies a couple of months ago – gets on in its quest to grace the shelves of a bookshop? I do hope so, you’ve all been bloomin’ marvellous so far!

Are you in?