How do you know when a novel – or short story, for that matter – is finished?
At what point should you stop tinkering, put down the quill, lean back in your overstuffed armchair and say to yourself “Right, done! Now to publish”?
The greatly-missed Iain Banks once said:
Don’t try to perfect as you go along, just get to the end of the damn thing. If you try to polish every sentence there’s a chance you’ll never get past the first chapter.
You can hear the years of experience in the quote – there speaks a man who learnt the hard way. Because, of course, we all want to publish the most perfect book we possibly can. And we’re artists, so there’s always a different way to express something, a fancier adjective, a more elegant turn of phrase, a slicker exposition…
A writing teacher (and multi-published novelist) once told me that to really understand a character you’re writing, you should make a list of the items they carry in their pockets.
While I hate to disagree with such an august mentor, I’m afraid that I simply have to.
You see, if you take a peek in my pockets at this very moment – an undertaking from which I heartily dissuade you – you will find a handkerchief, some small change and a couple of buttons which popped off my coat. A character who uses money, occasionally blows his nose and shivers a lot does not a compelling story make.
This may be different for the fairer sex. I have never plucked up the courage to venture into the deepest recesses of a lady’s handbag, so am not intimately acquainted with the traditional contents of such. However, I suspect them to be of an equally utilitarian nature; I would hazard a guess at purse, travelcard, keys, phone and a little spare make-up.
Show me the woman who carries a blunderbuss, a taxidermied stoat and an assortment of kazoos in her bag and I’ll show you a story!
A Room With Views
In short, the whole pocket exercise doesn’t really work for me. No. Far more telling and illustrative are the items which characters have dotted around their living room. In a supposedly private space, we reveal far more of our true natures and past lives than we could ever fit in a pocket.
Go on, admit it – I had you at “kitten” didn’t I?
I see an awful lot of posts from indie writers complaining that they simply don’t have time to market themselves and their writing on social media. An awful lot. What with the demands of a ‘real life’ and the time we need to dedicate to writing whatever it is we’re trying to publicise, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
And let’s be honest, there’s no point in spending all your time on marketing if it leaves you with nothing to market. I’m no economics expert (a lucky ‘C’ in O-Level maths in fact) but even I can see that the laws of supply-and-demand demand that there’s at least some supply.
And that’s where the kitten comes in.
It’s sharing time again!
I’ve been invited by fellow writer/blogger Zenobia Southcombe (you HAVE to love that name!!) to take part in the Work In Progress Blog Challenge…
This is probably the most fun blog hop I’ve come across. The idea is that I post the first line of the first three chapters of my current work-in-progress, then nominate four other bloggers to do the same. And not a bucket of ice-cubes in sight.
I’ve bent the rules ever-so slightly to also include the first line of the prologue/introduction, so there are actually four lines here. In my defence, the first line of Chapter 1 couldn’t really get much shorter.
These lines come from my first full-length novel Dark Energies; a contemporary urban mystery spiced with a healthy dose of romance and quantum physics. The story unfolds from the POV of Dan Carter, who is desperately in search of something to fill the void in his life. When he’s contacted out-of-the-blue by a mysterious young woman via a social networking site, it looks like he may just have found it. But you should be careful what you wish for…
Edward Stretton somehow knew that neither he, nor anyone else, would ever see his wife again.
Why am I writing this?
The hallucinations didn’t begin immediately, nor were they all that strong to begin with.
Sam’s flat could only be described as cluttered.
I hope you enjoyed that micro-peek into the dark and disturbing world into which Dan finds himself inexorably drawn. If nothing else, this challenge has shown me that the first line of Chapter 3 seriously needs some work!
And now to nominate the next 4 bloggers:
Over to you comrades, enjoy!
It is time for me to confess. I can hide my guilty secret behind a curtain of self-denial no longer.
I am enamoured with Google Plus. In fact, I may go out and get drunk and have “I heart Google+” tattooed on my bicep.
Now settle down, calm yourselves, please don’t carry on so! Allow me to explain before judging me, if you would.
Don’t Believe The Rumours
For a long time I, like many others, avoided Google+, believing the rumours that its user base consisted entirely of Google employees, a handful of early adopters and several sociopathically vain bon-vivants who could no more let a new social media vehicle pass untested than permit a bandwagon to roll by un-jumped-upon.
Then I saw the light…
Well hello there Internet, how splendid to be back! Please say you missed me, or there may be the most frightful scene.
I have, as the more eagle-eyed amongst you will have observed, been away. I could spin you a sordid yarn of diamond-smuggling and a brief sojourn in a hellish Peruvian jail, but the truth is far more prosaic. I lost my voice. Not in a “warm brandy, kitten round the neck” sort of a way. No, that would have been far more enjoyable.
The Blogger’s Worst Nightmare
In what must surely be the worst professional catastrophe which can befall writers and bloggers, I found myself with nothing to say and no means of saying it. Inspiration dried up so entirely that even the trusty old standby methods of finding post inspiration failed. Moreover, whenever I attempted to write, the words came out flatter than a Friday-night karaoke bar. No fun, no lightness, no substance, no purpose. None of that which regular readers have been kind enough to say they enjoy in my writing. Which led me to thinking…
Embed from Getty Images
Those very generous people at Getty Images have just done us bloggers a massive favour.
Now, we all know that adding images to a blog post increases engagement. What’s that? You didn’t? There’s always one. OK, let’s backtrack to step one for any latecomers – adding images to a blog post increases engagement.
As a species, we’re pre-conditioned to respond to visual stimuli which help us add context to our environment. If those visual stimuli include kittens, our responsiveness increases dramatically. There’s almost certainly some research which bears that out but, to be honest, I was too busy going “awwwww” at pictures of kittens to hunt it down.