Archive for the ‘work in progress’ Category

Monthly Round-up: October 2014

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s October already. Tthis month is mostly known as being Hallowe’en season. And for me it’s also the month of my birth. I was born a week before Hallowe’en – fairly appropriate for a horror writer.

And it’s time for another update, so here is the news for this month.

COMING SOON/OUT NOW

Death Scene is available at a 60% discount until the end of the month, as part of MuseItUp Publishing’s fourth anniversary celebrations. If you haven’t bought it yet, now might be a good time, before the price goes up.

Dead Cool is released on 25 November, but it can be pre-ordered if you want to get your order in now.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

Two guest appearances this month.  I was on Jami Gray’s blog talking about the importance of a sense of place, and then on Margaret Fieland’s blog talking about why my characters never get ‘Happy Ever After’ endings.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I have been feeling decidedly under the weather for a good part of this month, struck with the lingering virus that seems to be hitting rather a lot of people at the moment. I end up feeling tired all the time, so getting up early to write has been rather difficult. I’m still working on the horror WIP, though have not made as much progress as I would have liked.

Time seems to be flashing by, and I haven’t done nearly enough writing. But there’s still a bit of time left before the end of the year.

Happy Hallowe’en!

The End In Sight

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I got the early train into London this morning for an early-morning Starbucks writing session – something I have not done in a while, it must be said.  In fact looking at my writing log made me realise the last writing session was dated 16 April – over a month ago.  I will say at this point I am rather anal about logging my writing sessions, noting word count and date of every one.  It helps me keep track of my monthly word count, and also how long it takes me to finish each draft.  But it also makes me aware of how long it’s been since the last session.

Why the gap?  The end of April and beginning of May was manically busy in the day job, and I was also working on edits for both DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL, which made it hard for me to get my head around working on the WIP as well.  And then I was away for two weeks.  I did actually take the Netbook away with me, with the idea that if it was raining I might get some time to sit in the hotel room and write, but well…the weather was glorious and the writing didn’t happen.

Anyway.  Now I am back home again and trying to get back into my usual routine, including the early-morning writing sessions.  The current work in progress is the 1960s crime thriller, and this morning was a good session.  I’ve been wrestling with the climax of this one, but now I feel that the end is in sight.  The novel still needs a great deal of work – I am not deluding myself about that.  But I am nearing the end of the first draft.  And I’ve always seen the first draft as putting the scaffolding in place.  Once you’ve got that, you can start the real building work.

The main issue with this novel will be research.  It’s set in 1967, and spans San Francisco, London and Vietnam.  This is not an era I was alive to witness, but there are plenty of people around who were, and they’ll notice if I get it wrong.  The parts of the novel set in Vietnam – which is effectively the final section of the story – is proving particularly tricky.  This was a very emotive point in history.  In particular I want to know what Long Binh looked like in 1967.

Research has never been my strong point, and I’ve never let a mere thing like getting the facts right stop me from getting stuck into the first draft.  Of course, this generally means a great deal of changes between the first draft and future drafts.  Fortunately, the Internet has made doing research a great deal easier than it used to be.  A quick search has revealed that there are a lot of personal accounts and photos from soldiers who lived through the Vietnam war are out there in the public domain, and careful research will help me ensure I get it right.

For me, the most important thing is to get to the end of draft 1.  I’m not there yet with this WIP.  But I can just glimpse the light at the end of the long tunnel.

After that, the real work starts.  Doing the research, getting the facts right, sorting out the plot holes, working out what’s not working and what’s not in the novel that should be.  But all that will come later.  For now, I’m focusing on getting to the end.  And I feel like I’m almost there.

Happy New Year

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

As 2014 dawns, it’s time to take stock of the writing goals I set myself for 2013 and assess how I did.

In summary, I had two goals last year – to finish both DEAD COOL and the horror novel and get them out on sub.  Happily, I can report that I have achieved both of these goals.  In addition, DEAD COOL has been accepted and will be published this year.  The horror novel, THE WHISPERING DEATH is out on sub, but I am optimistic that I can find a publisher for it this year.

I feel I did not do so well on the self-promotion last year.  I found it a bit hard to get into pimping mode without a forthcoming release, and it is sometimes difficult to stay positive in the face of rejection.  However, with another book coming out, it’s time to get back on the horse, as it were.

I also made good progress in 2013 with the current work in progress – the 1960s crime thriller I am working on with Hubby.

With this in mind, these are my goals for 2014:

1. Find a publisher for THE WHISPERING DEATH
2.  Have at least one promotional event per month in 2014
3.  Get to the final draft of the current WIP
4.  Start the first draft of a new WIP

I begin 2014 feeling fairly positive about the writing.  Let’s hope it continues.

I wish you a Happy New Year, and whatever your own goals are for 2014, I hope you achieve them.

On A Roll

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

With two finished novels out on sub, it was time to begin in earnest a new project.

I’ve mentioned in passing a collaboration with Hubby. Who, it has to be said, is not a writer. However, after 30 years of running Dungeons & Dragons games, he’s become very good at plotting – especially with our group, who frequently decide to go off and do something that’s not actually in the module, which means he often has to do some spontaneous plotting to keep the game going.

The WIP is a crime thriller set in the late 1960s, and is about a young woman with aspirations to be a rock musician. The novel takes her from California and the Monterey pop festival in 1967 to the emerging and influential music scene in London. On the way she gets mixed up with gangland London, in a search for a friend who’s gone missing.

This project is in its early stages.  Hubby and I have been working together on the plot outline, and I’ve been doing the writing thus far. Though I am relying on his expertise on references to bands and songs of the late 60s, and what make of guitar bands of the time would be playing, as he knows a lot more about this than I do.

Thus far I’ve been struggling with the first draft. The first 20,000 words took months to write, and I was struggling to find the voice of the main character.

But suddenly, I’ve found the story and the character, and the novel has become much easier to write.  In the last two weeks I have written as many words as I did in September and October combined.

The project is in its early stages, and I am reluctant to say too much about it as anything can happen between now and the end of the book. But thus far it’s going well. I am on a roll.

Here’s hoping it continues.

Not Enough Words?

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I have finished my new horror novel!  This is a cause for celebration, and time to start submitting it.

The novel is about a group of LRP-ers who unwittingly unleash an undead magic user onto the world whilst performing a ritual during a game, which proceeds to wreak death and destruction on those involved in the game.  The finished draft has come out at 69,000 words.  I’m aware that this is a very short novel.  In fact, to some it’s only half of a novel.  The majority of people in the T Party Writers’ Group are fantasy writers.  Most of their first drafts start off with over 150,000 words.

I’ve never really ‘got’ how you can stuff so much into one novel to make it so long.  I am the opposite.  I end up with 50,000 word first drafts and then I have to pad them.  Only that’s what it looks like – padding.  I used a fair amount of padding in the version of DEATH SCENE that got submitted to Lyrical Press.  My editor promptly stripped out all the padding, saying – quite correctly – it was superfluous to the plot.

I remember that lesson when I write novels now.  Is this scene moving the plot forward in some way?  Is it revealing something about a character, or a plot point that becomes important later on?  If the answer to all of these is ‘no’, the scene has no place in the book.  So this is a very short novel.  But it doesn’t have much padding, and I think I’m going to keep it that way.

I am a voracious reader, as anyone who follows this blog will know.  I read quickly, and I like strong plots, but I read so many books I don’t retain plots of books I’ve read for very long.  I like clear beginnings, middles, and ends.  I don’t like subtle hints, I don’t like ambiguity (my attitude to this is if the author couldn’t be arsed to work out what was really going on, why should I?), and I like satisfactory endings.  If it’s a horror novel, the horror should be resolved.  I don’t mind if all the main characters die – that’s acceptable in horror.  But if it’s a crime novel the killer must be caught.  If he or she gets away with it, that’s an unsatisfactory ending.

I do most of my reading on the train, going in and out of London to the day job.  I have about 40 minutes at each stretch.  On my journey home I want to be able to pick the story up again from where I left off that morning.  I don’t want the plot to be so complex that I have to re-read the last 10 pages to remember what’s going on.  I don’t want to be re-introduced to a character who had a brief appearance 100 pages ago and I’m supposed to remember that, because I won’t.  And I like chapters to be short.  When I get to the end of a chapter at Clapham Junction I will be checking to see how long the next chapter is, and if I have time to read it in the few minutes I’ve got left until the train gets in to Victoria station.  If it’s only five pages, I will keep reading.  If it’s 20, or worse,  I will put the book away at that point and put some music on instead – because I hate finishing a reading session mid-chapter.

I am aware that my writing style reflects my reading preferences.  I write plot-driven stories, I focus on a few main characters and the peripheral ones are never really fleshed out, I don’t complicate the story with lots of sub-plots, and I write very short chapters.  The vast majority of them are between 1,000 and 2,000 words, and I have been known to chapters less than 1,000 words long.

Consequently I tend to write very short novels.  But you know what?  Maybe that’s just the way it is.  I’m never going to win any literary prizes for fiction, and maybe I’ll never write the kind of doorstopper that hits the best sellers list.

But that’s OK.  I write what I write.  It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, and I get that.  But I know there’s a few people out there that like what I write, and the way I write it.

And so this new novel is for you.  It’s short, but it’s finished, and it’s about to go out into the big wide world to find a publisher.

Shara Returns

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s been 18 months since I finished the third draft of the second Shara Summers novel, entitled DEAD COOL. I haven’t touched it since then.

Why? I got discouraged. Feedback I had from beta readers suggested there was a lot of work still to do on it. So much so, I didn’t know where to begin.

Some writers refuse to listen to criticism. Sometimes I think I have the opposite problem. I listen to too much criticism. Someone says to me, “I don’t think this plot is working”, I look at it and think, “they’re probably right”. But then I have no ideas for a new plot so I just stop working on the story. I have had a few people say, “I don’t like your amateur sleuth; she’s not a strong enough character to take through a series”. This triggers a little voice in my head that insists there’s no point in carrying on with any more books about this character because no one likes her.

All this effectively meant I got so discouraged about writing about Shara I couldn’t carry on with the series. A book I got three drafts into has been languishing on the PC ever since.

Two significant things happened since then. First, my NetBook died about a week after the crit session I had for this manuscript. I had been using said NetBook to make copious notes about what my critiquers were saying. I didn’t back this up anywhere. When the NetBook died, this file was lost in the ether forever. Given that this was some time ago, I no longer have a clear memory of what I was told I needed to fix.

Second, I have recently had feedback from someone else I gave the manuscript to – a retired copper who used to work for the Metropolitan Police Murder Squad. I gave him the manuscript because I wanted to know if I was making any glaring errors in the police procedural bits.

He came back to me recently and told me how much he enjoyed it. It was a good holiday read, he said – the sort of story he’d probably take to the beach to enjoy while relaxing in the sun. And he had no problem with any of my procedural scenes (except apparently they don’t draw chalk lines around bodies anymore). He also didn’t have a problem with my amateur sleuth taking advantage of the fact that one of the investigating police officers fancies her, and using that to get information about him about the case. My writing group critiquers had a problem with that. It’s highly unethical for a police officer to have any kind of relationship with someone who should be a suspect, they said.

It might be unethical, but as my copper friend pointed out, policemen are as human as anyone else. They might well engage in unwise relationships with someone they encounter on a case. In fact, he’d come across such things happening in his career.

The strange thing is, encouraging comments from just one person who enjoyed the book have inspired me to finish it. And maybe the fact I no longer have my crit session notes is not such a bad thing. There’s a balance to be had between ignoring all criticism and heeding every negative comment. Sometimes, you have to trust your instincts.  With the Shara books, the fact that I enjoy writing about her should be enough to keep me coming back to her.

And that small voice inside? That’s the voice of self sabotage. That’s the voice that tells me to listen to all the criticism. And I think maybe I need to learn to ignore her every once in a while.

Shara Summers will be back very soon. And if you haven’t been introduced to her yet and are curious about my actress amateur sleuth, DEATH SCENE is available for the Kindle for a mere £2.59. American readers can find the US link here.

In the meantime, I am working on the fourth and hopefully the final draft of DEAD COOL. And you know what? It’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was.

WIP Update – March 2013

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Time for an update on current Works in Progress.

I’ve got several things going on at the moment. The most progressed WIP is the horror novel. It’s been to beta readers, I’ve had feedback, and I have recently started work on Draft 4.

This novel, in summary, is about a group of live action roleplayers who unwittingly unleash a lich on the world during a game. Said lich wields powerful dark magic, and leaves death and destruction in its wake. And it sets about raising an army of zombies, as sort of a sub-plot. Anyway, on the whole the feedback was fairly positive. All my women beta readers love my main female character – she’s a crack shot with a shot gun, she’s ace with Resident Evil, she takes out many of the real-life zombies and she saves the boy.

There are some plot holes, and some characterisation issues, and these I am working to fix in the current draft. But I’m feeling pretty confident about this one. This one will be finished before the end of this year. In fact, I’m aiming to have it out on sub before 2014 dawns.

In the meantime, there’s a second project – a collaboration with Hubby. Now, he’s not a writer. But after more than 25 years of running D&D games, he’s pretty good at plotting. And he’s a musician. This new project is a crime thriller featuring a young female bass player, against the backdrop of the music scene in the late 1960s. We start her off at the Monterey Festival in 1967, and then bring her to London. This project is at an early stage. We’ve been doing a lot of the plotting together. And I have started doing some of the writing. But there’s a long way to go yet, and since I’ve never collaborated with my life partner on a writing project before, it’s somewhat uncharted territory.

And what of Shara 2? Well, that one’s still languishing in a drawer. I got a bit discouraged after the crit session. Every time I get it out and review how much work there still is to do on it, I get depressed and put it away again. And DEATH SCENE has not exactly been flying off the cyber-shelves, so it’s not as if I have a long queue of fans impatiently waiting for the further adventures of Shara Summers.

Nevertheless, she has one or two fans. And I would rather like to get this one finished. So perhaps I’ll finish it for you. You know who you are.

This does make three WIPs on the go at once, however. And talking about them doesn’t make them any closer to being finished. It’s time to get back to the writing.

The Next Big Thing

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I was tagged by the uber-talented Francis Knight in the Next Big Thing blog hop.  The aim is to answer ten questions about your work in progress, and then tag five more writers. I’ve chosen to do mine about the WIP I am currently wrestling with. And this does feel a bit like taking my clothes off in public, because not a single person other than me has seen this manuscript yet. I still feel vulnerable.

1. What is the title of your book?

It’s called THE WHISPERING FEAR, and I have to give credit to Dave Gullen for suggesting the title.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Following on from SUFFER THE CHILDREN, I wanted to write another horror novel based on a mythical creature. It was my husband’s idea to use a creature based on the idea of a lich.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Supernatural horror.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is a bit of a fantasy wish list. My characters are all in their 20s and my knowledge of younger actors is limited.

David – the ambitious young doctor who gets possessed by the lich. Benedict Cumberpatch would probably do a fine job.

Mark – the hero, and David’s geeky best friend. He’s a version of my ideal man (I have a thing for geeks), only everyone on my ‘most fanciable men’ list is getting on a bit now. Perhaps Cary Elwys, in his ‘Princess Bride’ days.

Elizabeth – Mark’s equally geeky girlfriend, who’s a crack shot and undefeated in the world of zombie slaying video games. Maybe Kate Winslet, circa ‘Titanic’.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A group of live-action role players unwittingly release an ancient evil that threatens to destroy the world.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I don’t at present have a literary agent. I am hoping I can find someone to publish it, but I haven’t started shopping it around yet.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About seven months, to write the first draft – I started it in October 2011. I’m now on the third draft.

8. What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?

In many ways it’s similar to SUFFER THE CHILDREN, but that’s one of mine as well. It bears a passing resemblance to Stephen King’s IT, probably.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Stephen King remains an inspiration, and my style has been compared to his on more than one occasion.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Since I am a live action role-player the references in this story are realistic, and I think anyone who indulges in this hobby might like the LARP scenes. It’s also got a kick-ass female MC.

Most of the writers I know have already been tagged for this, and I had trouble finding people who aren’t already playing. Here are my five – all writers I have only met in cyberspace. Some of them may well have already been tagged, and for that I apologise. I also emphasise that there is absolutely no obligation for them to take me up on this, but you should check out their blogs anyway, because they are worth following.

Diane Dooley
Carolyn Arnold
Aheila
Ken Hoss
Jen Campbell

Imaginary Places

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Location is crucial to a novel. For crime fiction, which is a very crowded market, it’s almost as important as plot and characterisation. There’s a serial killer loose? We need to know where. Is s/he pounding the streets of East End London, or moving among the movie star wannabes in Los Angeles? Swedish crime novels are the Hot New Thing at the moment, and I’m sure that part of the appeal is the Otherness of Sweden – a country that most people haven’t visited, and its uniqueness – both in climate and the attitude of the population – make it a fascinating backdrop.

Of course, the location of a novel can only pull your readers in if it feels like a real place. If you’re going to write about a real place, you need to convince readers who’ve actually been there. If I write about a real place in my stories, it’s generally London, or parts of London that I know pretty well. But that’s because I’m rather lazy about the research. If I have to set a story in a place I don’t know very well, I’ll create a fictitious place, rather than research a place I’ve never been to.

For SUFFER THE CHILDREN, I made up a fictitious town in Surrey, called Stanbridge. The town itself doesn’t exist, but it’s based on a combination of other Surrey towns, and I hope it comes across as a real place in the novel. For DEATH SCENE I used real-life locations – the book is set in and around London and Sutton. I wanted Shara to have a real-life grounding, a chronological time line in an actual place. It does mean that I have to be careful with location, as when you use a real place you have to respect the features that are actually there. If you throw in an abandoned warehouse on a street that actually exists and is exclusively a residential area, the residents might feel the need to correct you.

The current work in progress – the horror novel – is set partly in the Forest of Dean and partly in London. I don’t know the Forest of Dean all that well, but it’s a vast ancient forest and I don’t think anyone knows every tree intimately.  However, it became necessary to take my characters to a town on the outskirts of the Forest of Dean. It had to be a small, old town.  Since I don’t know the area all that well I thought I would just make up a town. After playing around with a few letter combinations the name Lydney came to mind, and seemed to work.

Earlier this week I discovered there actually is a town called Lydney – and it’s a small town on the outskirts of the Forest of Dean. I found it while looking someone up on the database during the day job. One of my committee members actually lives there, so I suspect this knowledge had been lodged in my brain for a while, and my brain threw out this information when a request for the name of a town in the Forest of Dean came to light.

The only problem is, having never been to Lydney I have no idea if my Lydney bears any resemblance to the real life one. And because I really don’t want irate Lydney townspeople writing me to protest what I’m doing to their town – and not just taking extreme liberties with the layout – I think I need to change the name. I’d far rather use a fictitious town. So I’m going to have to come up with another name for my fictional little town in the Forest of Dean.

I’d be interested to hear other writers’ views on this. Do you prefer fictional locations for your settings, or real ones?

Rewrite

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I have just started draft 3 of my horror WIP. Like SUFFER THE CHILDREN, this is another novel about a mythical supernatural creature picking off citizens, with a select group of main characters being the only one to stop it. This time, my Big Bad is a magic user of old who was messing with some seriously dark magic, and finds a way to have himself brought back from the dead. Of course there is a price to pay for such power.

I’ve been working on this novel a year now, and I was rather hoping to be further along than I was. Generally I present draft 2 to beta readers. Not this time. I wasn’t too happy with draft 2. It seemed that my main characters spent far too much time talking about what this creature was, and how they had to stop it, without actually going out and doing anything about it. My logical brain always wants to put in scenes about research and investigation, when it comes to stopping the Big Bad. But these things don’t always move the plot along. There needs to be more action.

So, about halfway through draft 2 I decided that perhaps the Big Bad needs minions, and should work on raising an army. What kind of army would an undead wizard want to command? The answer, it seemed to me, was that my WIP was crying out for zombie hordes.

So I am now rewriting draft 3, adding a sub-plot where corpses are rising from graves and gathering under the thrall of my Big Bad, as he gathers his undead army for a final show-down. Much as I like blasting zombies in video games, I’ve never tried writing them into a story before.

I’m planning on sending the MS to beta readers once I’ve finished draft 3. Then I might find out that I really have no business writing about zombies and I’ve got it completely wrong. But I am having fun with it, and zombies are hot property right now. Hopefully, they still will be by the time I finish this novel.