Monday, 17 December 2012

Being an Author: Conclusions of the First Novel.

You who visit regularly will know I have just concluded my first novel.

It is now away with others who will read and judge it - those who will decide if I am to be a published novelist, or not.

So now I get to look back on the journey and see if the decisions I made were right, if the assumptions I made were wrong, and if 'writing my first novel' is to be the template for all future work, or a list a calamities, a log of mistakes... paths never to be re-trodden.

I can make a guess at that answer. I really can.

Plotting, Planning, and Generally Being Organized
Not the right pantsing...

In Part One (written after I hit problems at about 20K, a month after I started) I made accusations that The Author (me) had not planned the work, but had pantsed it. I cited that this was stupid, ranted perhaps, and that this work should be planned. It must be plotted.

I was right. It should. (I can't guarantee that I will take my own advice here, more fool me)

But it should not stop there. Since Part One I have learned to note and plot, plan and journal the work in progress.

Keep notes of what you've done, and more: WHY YOU'VE DONE IT.

These notes can and will become little nuances that can later be added in to round characters and events; make them interesting using real reasons - don't struggle to make up fake ones.

Don't Take a Four Month Sabbatical

This notion of planning and plotting became the point of Part Two also. FOUR MONTHS AND TEN THOUSAND WORDS LATER.

Part Three is about actually getting off your ass and writing. Lesson learned.

Part Three also heralded in the completion of draft one. I had, at this point, written the novel. Okay, it was a stinking pile of crap-shoot, written over a period of ten months or so. It made little sense even for a shlock horror, the characters were indefinable and the plot was winged. Clearly.

But it was finished.

So yeah, decide what you're going to write and write it. That's pretty much it as far as the first draft goes.

Then comes the pain.

Allow The Work Time To Breathe

Part Four begins with me returning to it, around a month after I had completed it. I was told to rest the novel like a fine wine, come back at it with fresh eyes.

Good idea? Yes.

After completion, perspective is addled. Wait. Wait to savor the novel.

Then hate it. Then hate yourself (Part Five). Then accept, and learn to love (Part Six).

Edit It To Death I: Cut It's Arms And Legs Off

Editing comes at a price. It is your sanity. It took me three drafts to actually look at (what I had left of) my novel and say, 'I think everything's going to be alright.'

So, did I strip out my darlings? Did I cull bits and pieces?

Yes. Yes I did. Once the novel is written you have to make it palatable for the audience. I did this. It was shorter when I'd finished. It's not just about 'killing your darlings' either.

A good line is: remove everything that doesn't move the plot forward.

Strip out the dream sequences that you thought were a good idea at the time, seek out the plot points that go nowhere. Delete them.


Before you start editing make a copy of the whole. Once you begin - any major change (removal of a scene etc.) should incur the wrath of the backup monster. Slap a version number, a date, anything, on the filename, and archive it away.

Then backup your backup.

USB drives, other people computers, floppy disks (What?), anywhere that you don't use. No one likes to think about catastrophic failure, but if your laptop/computer explodes, how much work are you going to lose?

And once you've cut off all of the unnecessary bits? It's time to rebuild him.

Edit It To Death II: Building a better, stronger, story...

We can rebuild...
In Part Seven I started to put it back together again.I started to change my characters. I started to weave the plot. I made it interesting.

At this point I started to give my characters a voice that went with there actions. My psycho started to sound like an evil genius, rather than an accountant. 

Each of my characters found there own uniqueness. My hero became sentient. My villain, mischievous. 

I found it important to do this. It removed a lot of the 'bland' from the characters, and hence, the story.

By the end of Part Eight, it was a story. One I was starting to become proud of. 

Then, around Part Nine, I changed the narrative. I decided having read, written and re-written the damned thing, that the narrative was wrong (this makes sense when you know a little more about the story).

In order to make the 'mystery', the narrative should be - had to be - non-linear. 

It removed more 'bland'.

And then it was finished.

Opinions. The Novel Needs Opinions.

Before you start rushing around in the streets screaming, 'Look at me, I've got a novel for sale,' you'll need to get someone else to read it. Probably more than one. (Note: I only got one person to read mine because she really knows what she's doing. And no, I know I said this, but she's not in the basement.)

Getting someone elses opinion is really important before you start trying to sell it to potential publishers. (Self pubbing is a very different bag, but more on that later).

And once you've got their opinion, don't ignore it. 

They are not wrong. It is their opinion. If that is their opinion, then it will be others too. Don't dismiss the suggest that, 'maybe you should change chapter 4 - it's sort of sucky.' (hopefully they'll be more constructive than just saying sucky)

And then you need to sell it to someone. 

And that's a whole different problem...

'Til next time...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Being an Author: 2012 in review.

It's been one hell of a ride, this year. So much has happened. So much...

The writing has changed.

Mark Taylor:
The Human Condition
From 12 months ago, stylistically my writing has changed dramatically. I have 'The Human Condition' coming out soon from Wicked East Press. A book full of the woes of people. It is a dark insight into man, and the evil that man does.

I've just finished the novel 'Shutter Speed'. It is a look into the mind of a psychotic madman. Real world nasties.

I don't write like that all the time anymore.

I'm currently writing a horror comedy about Hell. And a collab about dark spiritualist magic. And one about vampires. I've got another collab simmering - dark fantasy.

But 'The Human Condition II - Human Behavior' is waiting. It's still there in the background.

And there's 'Small Cuts to the Psyche'. I'm never short of work.

I think the new writing is more fun. I'm certainly having more fun with it.

I've also learned a lot this year. My grammar has improved, believe it or not, but I'm still fighting the constant battle against commas. *waves fist*

The author has changed.

Me? Yeah. I'm not the man I once was. I guess that's why my writing has changed. I look at things differently now.

Sometimes you have to look around and just take a minute to smell the roses.

And speaking of roses, I've met my inspiration. She's my bacon. I won't embarrass her here, but she knows who she is, and, well, she's my everything.

join us...
I've stepped out of the shadows and done something I never thought I would. I joined Facebook. Social networking appears to largely consist of slightly deranged people screaming about very deranged things. I only planned to use it to interact with other writer's and those in this business (one way or the other). That didn't last very long.

I have met some awesome people there who - whether they realize it or not - have helped me greatly.

Without them I might not be writing this now.

Eden Royce will always have a special place in my heart. She has a wonderful way of writing and is a wonderful person. She has supported me and my work rigorously over the last few months. My novel would not be finished without her.

Dale Eldon may possibly be a genius. His constant support (and somewhat eerie cheerfulness) have helped me to continue. His forthcoming projects excite me (no, not like that), and he makes me think about what I'm doing, differently.

Rebecca Besser is quite, quite mad. But also a great writer. And a good friend. She tirelessly supports the art and can be an inspiration to all of us as a writer, editor, and all the other things she works at. I'm beginning to think that she has a time machine - there aren't enough hours in the day to do what she does.

There are too many other people to list, but so many people have supported me.

I'm now stronger.

These days my writing has got more fight... and a new bite.

I've got more fight.

Imminently I will unleash the new look of the blog. It's looked like this since the beginning and it's time to change. It needs to grow too. I currently welcome ten times the visitors I did six months ago, and that number grows each and every month.

A new face for 2013 to go with the new words.

'Til next time...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Being an Author: Writing Your First Novel, Part 10

In a year that has seen more than a few changes (but more of that in my review of the year), it is done.

I have finished, edited, murdered, resurrected and slain it one last time. The novel is finished.

So before I bore you with the details of said novel I feel that I should make comment in an advicey sort of way.

What I've learned:

Once you've started, don't stop. Finish it. Write the damned novel.

Resenting it is part of the journey. Don't hate it because you resent it, use it. Learn from it.

Don't be alone. Talk to people. If you don't want to talk to writers about the work in progress just talk to them about other works.

Find a forum to vent on (No, not literally a forum - the admins get narky). This is mine.

They say write drunk, edit sober. They're lying. Writing drunk just causes you to have read it later, scratch your head and say, 'huh?'.

Focus on the work. Try not to change writing style in the middle. (I changed a lot over the time it took me to write it and the re-writes just to correct style took a while)

Edit it. A lot. I mean a lot.

Realize before you start that when it is written, there is still a lot to do.

So anyway, when I feel inclined to I'll do a whole summary thing post. Maybe point out things that I did wrong. There was a lot of that.

Let me introduce to you:

"Shutter Speed"

I'll do a whole blurb thing at some point, but basically a chiller, Shutter Speed is about a guy with a dual personality. He's bat-shit crazy. Well, half of him is. 

It is full of profoundly bad language, totally unnecessary 'hair curling' violence and battered frog's legs. And now I've finished, now the book is complete, I kinda like it. 

It is part of me now.

I suppose the summary post will be the last 'Writing Your First Novel'. Maybe I should do 'Writing Your Second Novel'? Hold on, I've already started that one.

By the way...

...know anyone that might want to publish a novel?

'Til next time...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Lady Killer: A Review

Donald White: Lady Killer
I've just finished turning the pages on short, 'Lady Killer' by Donald White.

It is not what I expected.

The narrative and pacing of the story remind me of an old 'tec noir. The 'lone voice in the head' type of exposition.

But it is chilling.

The voice that you are listening to - the voice that we all imagine to be our own - is that of 'Rick'. Rick is a killer. The way Donald White has tailored the tale, the reader is unsure of the motives - and practices - of Rick until the story unfolds. It is a very clever example of story telling.

If you like clever, dark fiction, with a sting in the tale, I must recommend it. To be sure, it is not for the gore hounds, although there will be death, and it is an exciting read.

It is cheaper than your coffee, will last just as long, and the two will go hand in hand when you want to snug up and be a little afraid.

Buy it from Amazon US: here, and Amazon UK: here.