Archive for the ‘editor’ Tag

Monthly Round-Up: June 2014

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

In an attempt to try and be more diligent in my writerly blogs – which are technically supposed to happen once a week, on Wednesdays (sorry, I’m a day late) – I am endeavouring to make the round-up post a monthly feature.  This will be a regular update on forthcoming releases, works in progress and promotional appearances.  Without further ado, here is the news for this month.


The MUI re-release of DEATH SCENE is at line edit stage so progressing well. Still no confirmed release date, but likely to be end of June.  Watch this space for more news.

Edits on DEAD COOL are also progressing.  This is scheduled for release in the Autumn, so it’s likely to be September/October time.  My editor has been enthusing about what a good read it is, so I am feeling encouraged.


I’ve been busy with the publicity train this month, with two guest appearances in the first half of June, and I’m talking about DEATH SCENE and my writing process in both.  Marsha West features me as her Tuesday author chat and I’m also chatting to fellow crime writer Joan C Curtis this week on her Joan Says blog.  Joan and I are clearly on the same wavelength – not only do we both write crime, but we have both got the same idea for blog names (since mine began life as Sara Says).

Next month I will also be attending the Theakstons Crime & Mystery Conference at Harrogate, Yorkshire, to hang out with other crime writers.


I am nearing the end of the first draft of the 1960s crime thriller.  As this is a collaboration with my husband, I will be handing it to him once the first draft is done, for him to do some work on it.  We’ve never collaborated on a project before and this one is in an early stage, so it will be a bit of a learning curve for both of us.

And the third Shara Summers book is currently demanding quite loudly to be written.  So I would like to get started on that soon.

That’s about it for this month.  Further updates to come in July!

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.

Crisis of Confidence

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

In the last three years, I’ve had three books published.  I had two unpublished novels doing the rounds when Lyrical Press picked up SUFFER THE CHILDREN, and so DEATH SCENE was already finished when my editor asked me if I had anything else she could take a look at.  And the short stories in SOUL SCREAMS were also written – it was just a case of compiling them.

Since I finished writing DEATH SCENE in 2004 I’ve started four novels.  None of them I’ve managed to finish.  The original sequel to DEATH SCENE was an homage to Agatha Christie’s TEN LITTLE INDIANS, but halfway through the first draft I decided it wasn’t working and I shelved it.  Then I started work on my urban fantasy novel.  I did manage to finish draft 1, but after giving the first half of it to beta readers, I decided that one wasn’t working either and I never finished the second draft.

Then I started working on another Shara Summers book – this one with Shara investigating the case of the defenestrated rock star.  I have managed to get to the end of draft 2, and then I sent it out to beta readers.  Once more the message I’m getting back is that there is so much wrong with this book I should scrap it and start over with a new idea.

I’m also working on a new horror novel.  I am about a third of the way through draft 2 of this one. To be fair, I have not let anyone else read it yet, so I have had no third party comments. But as far as I’m concerned, it still needs a lot of work. So much so that I’m getting discouraged.

Now I’m getting quite depressed. What if my writing really is rubbish and I’m never going to write anything again of publishable quality? What if I’m deluding myself that I can write at all? It’s not as if my published books are selling in huge quantities. I’ve had some very nice comments from a few readers who have really enjoyed one or more of my books, and they’ve all had a handful of good reviews. But the vast majority of readers out there either don’t know about my books or don’t think they’re worth bothering with.

It’s times like this that I think no one who’s sane would choose to be a writer and put themselves through this heartache, and life would be a whole lot simpler if I could not be a writer anymore. The problem is, it’s not that simple. Writing is not something you can turn off when you get bored with it. And I also know that this the ‘down’ phase of the ups and downs of the writer’s life, and it will pass in time.

That doesn’t make me feel any better right now, though, when I just want to finish the damn book. Any damn book…


(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

When my first novel SUFFER THE CHILDREN was published, the whole process was one thrill after another. The first time I saw the cover. The first (and second, and third) occasion I had a reason to say “I have to email my editor”. Every round of edits was exciting.

And then the complete published novel arrived, in the form of a zip folder containing all the available e-book formats it was available in. That was an incredibly exciting moment – knowing that my novel was Published. I got so excited I tried to open all the files at once and crashed the machine. There was no hard copy, it was e-book only, but it was thrilling nonetheless.

SOUL SCREAMS is the first of my books that is being made available as a print version, and this means there’s been a new round of ‘first time thrills’. The first time I saw a JPG of the whole cover, front and back, was an exciting moment. It was also the first time I’ve had ‘celebrity endorsements’ on a cover, too – very exciting.

And then I was told the proofs had been ordered. Just the thought that there was a paper book out there, with my name on the cover – for some inexplicable reason that got me rather excited.

Then my editor at Stumar Press informed me that my uncorrected proof was on its way to me. He took pictures of the book before he put it in the post and emailed them to me. Monday afternoon, he told me, it had gone in the post. So I awaited its arrival with baited breath. I got home from work yesterday – Tuesday – a little hopeful but not really expecting anything. The Post Office is not usually that reliable. I figured it was going to take a couple of days to arrive.

But then, as I stood on my doorstep fumbling for my keys, through the frosted glass of my front door I could see, sitting on the door mat inside, a white jiffy bag. Exactly book-sized. I knew then that it had arrived. I was so excited I had trouble putting my keys in my own front door.

I dragged out that moment for a while. Savouring the envelope, before ripping it open and holding in my hands, for the first time, a paperback book with my name on the cover. And then I felt the urge to take a photo, and post said photo all over the Internet broadcasting the fact that my book has been brought to life (attached herewith).

It’s these thrills that make all the heartache involved in being a writer worthwhile. But I’m wondering if I’m marking myself a rank amateur by getting excited at every step. Does one become accustomed to success? When you’ve got a dozen published novels under your belt, does laying eyes on the first one off the printing press no longer give you a thrill? I’d like to think that it’s always exciting, no matter how many books you get published, but maybe I’m being idealistic.

I still hold onto the dream that one day I’ll be in a position to know the answer to this. When I am, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Writing Processes – Part 15: Professional Attitude

(Cross-posted on WriteClub)

Seventeen years with the T Party means I’m accustomed to my work being eviscerated. As far as writing groups go, we pull no punches.  When I workshopped DEATH SCENE, it got a fairly harsh review.

In most cases, however, I found I couldn’t disagree with the criticism. I tried to address these problems in later drafts; my editor came out with very similar comments during the editing process.

Understanding that my writing is far from perfect, then, I tend to take on board criticism and suggestions during the editing process and most of the time I change the manuscript accordingly. Hence, during the editing rounds on both books, my editor sent me suggested changes, I made them, and sent the manuscript back to her. I didn’t know it at the time, but this apparently is helping me build a reputation as a good writer to work with. It seems that not all writers take suggestions for change to their manuscript with as much cheerful acceptance as I. Some make a whole lot more fuss.

And this brings me onto the subject of this post: professional attitude. Now, if you’re a mega best-selling author, and your publishing company is making gazillions from your books, you can probably afford to be a diva who throws tantrums all over the place and people will still fall over themselves to work with you. For the rest of us, however, it pays to have a professional attitude. Editors and publishers are much more likely to want to work with you if you prove yourself to be easy to work with, willing to take on board the changes they want to make and return edits and all the paperwork in a timely manner.

Being a professional writer is about attitude. If you were an employer and you hired someone who never did what they were asked to do, who never turned up to work on time, and who whined on and on about not being in the right mindset to do what was asked of them, chances are they wouldn’t be your employee for very long.

Being a writer should be regarded in the same way. It’s a career. OK, it’s not one that pays the bills for many of us, but it’s a career all the same, and if you want people to take you seriously, you should treat it as a serious business

Maintaining the attitude is in itself is a full time job. You never know when you might run into someone socially who might be a potential punter for your book. They’re much more likely to buy it if they find you an agreeable person. This is why I carry my ‘writer’ business cards everywhere I go. Unlike the day job, which I can leave behind at five o’clock, I try to remember to weary my ‘author face’ whenever I’m out in public.

Being a writer is more than just creating the words.  It’s about being the kind of writer publishers want to work with.  About being a a writer with the right attitude.  These factors all become important when you build your brand.

And that’s a topic for a future post…

What I Learned From My Editor # 3 – “Stop Burbling”

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

The two e-books I have on Lyrical’s list both went through a rigorous editing process.  I tried to take on board what my editor told me.  In fact, I find when I write now, my “inner editor” has taken on her voice.  “If it doesn’t move the plot forward, take it out” is what I hear most frequently.

My amateur sleuth, Shara Summers, has a habit of “burbling”.  When I am writing about her, I find myself with pages and pages of self-reflection that are really no more than her opinion on things and do nothing to move the plot forward.  Or I’m focusing on too much detail.  I’ve talked about this before.  if Shari gets out of a car she’ll remove the key from the ignition, take her seat belt off, open the door, get out, close the door, lock the door, and so on, when all she really needs to do is get out of the car and the reader will assume the rest.

I’m currently working on Draft 3 of the second Shara Summers book, and when I get to the end of this draft, I hope it will be ready to present to beta readers. As I work on it, I am hearing this voice in my head, and I’m sure it’s my editor’s. “You don’t need all this detail. What’s important in this chapter? The six paragraphs you’ve got before that are slowing the story down. Cut to the action.”

It used to be that when I was working on Draft 2 onwards I’d be adding words, feeling the need to pad out the story. My editor has taught me that this isn’t necessary.

However, this means that I’m writing much shorter novels. Both SUFFER THE CHILDREN and DEATH SCENE lost over 10,000 words in the editing process, and neither of them were particularly wordy tomes to begin with. The current WIP was less than 60,000 words by the end of Draft 2. At the rate I’m going, it’s going to come in at less than 50,000 words when it’s finished.

I always thought I was a novel writer. Maybe I’m more a novella writer. Perhaps it’s fortuitous that I’m an e-author. There’s far more scope for short novels with e-books than with print books.

What I Learned From My Editor #2 – “Show, Don’t Tell”

(cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

If you’ve ever watched “Star Trek – Next Generation”, you will be familiar with their writers’ technique of using the ‘personal log’ voice-over to set a scene. But although this might work on “Star Trek”, you can’t get away with it when writing a novel. When the voiceover says, ‘Worf’s personal log. I have discovered what ship my brother Kern is serving on. I have arranged to meet him’, it smacks rather too much of “telling, not showing”.

This is a cardinal sin in the writing group and I am well aware of this. That doesn’t mean I never do it myself. I’m a linear sort of person. I like beginnings, middles and endings, and I like narratives to follow a chronological line. I have a bad habit of indulging in the urge to over-explain things to my reader, especially when I’m writing in first person.

One aspect of this is the “Too Much Information”, syndrome I talked about in the first post in this series. But I’ve also had to learn to “show, not tell”. If my character is angry, I shouldn’t need to say so. She should be stomping around slamming doors or throwing things.

Writing about emotion can be difficult. A character who slams doors is one thing, but how do you show your character falling in love? Well, I’m still struggling with this – at least on paper – so I’m not the best qualified person to offer advice here. But it seems that what a character does and says in the presence of another character, if written well, can make it very evident that these two people are falling in love, without anyone having to directly refer to it.

I think as far as characters are concerned I’m better at doing “angry” than “love”. But working on the edits of DEATH SCENE, my editor advised me to to work a bit more on the relationship between my MC and her love interest, so I was obliged to get in a bit of practice. And judging by the direction my character’s been taking in the second book in the series, I suspect future books about my amateur sleuth are going to offer plenty more opportunities for further practice….

Guest Blogging at Julia Knight’s Blog

Author Julia Knight is running a series of guest posts on her blog, “Turnips at Dawn”, on the subject of “How to…” for writers.

Today, I am the guest blogger with a post regarding what I’ve learned about “How to Keep Your Editor Happy“.

Happy editors make for happy writers…

What I Learned From My Editor #1 – “TMI”

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

I started keeping a diary when I was nine years old. In the early days, the entries read something like this: “Went to school. Came home. Went to Brownies. Came home. Went to grandma’s. Came home”. When my mother, viewing this over my shoulder, asked me why I always put “came home” after every outing, I explained it was so anyone who might read it in future years wouldn’t be misled into thinking I might have stayed at school all night. It made perfect sense to me at the time.

Working with my editor on what is to be my second published e-book, I am realising that some of that need to describe every detail is still with me. When my character gets in a car and drives, that’s not what she does. She unlocks the car, opens the door, gets in, closes the door, puts on her seatbelt, puts the key in the ignition, turns it, puts her foot on the clutch and the brake, puts the car in first gear, takes foot off brake and onto accelerator… and so it goes.

What I have learned from my editor is that if my character gets into the car and drives away, all of the other details are already implied in that action. It seems that OCD part of me that felt the need to record the fact I came home from school every day when I was nine years old is still sometimes feeling the urge to list every action.

I am working with my editor on copy edits for DEATH SCENE. Many of her comments in the margin start with ‘TMI’ (or ‘too much information’).

I hope, despite appearances, it will eventually become evident I am taking her advice on board. One day there might be an occasion when she is editing a novel I have written since I have been working with her, and perhaps then she’ll find fewer occasions to have to add ‘TMI – condense’ or ‘can cut’ in the margin.

Done Editing

I received the galleys for SUFFER THE CHILDREN last week. Galleys, I learned, are the final proofs of a book before it goes to publication.

I don’t know what format galleys take for a print book. Mine arrived in the form of a PDF document, that had the acknowledgements, dedication and back cover blurb included as well as the manuscript. It arrives in PDF format is so you can’t mess about with the formatting. I was also sent a separate word document in which to list any changes I wanted to make.

Read the galley very carefully, my editor told me. It’s the last chance you get to make changes. I took this advice on board, and took a day off work so I could give it my full attention. By 9am yesterday I was at my computer, ready to read my galleys – just like a proper writer.

I thought at the time, how many changes can there be? The manuscript has gone through countless edits already. I’ve read it so many times the text has burned itself onto the back of my eyelids. It’s also gone through a copy editor (several times) and line editor.

Even so, on first reading, I picked up rather a lot of things that needed correcting. Missing punctuation. Punctuation in the wrong place. Missed words.

So I went onto the second reading. And picked up even more errors. More missing words. More errant punctuation. Even glaring consistency errors that had somehow managed to slip through (I have one of my major characters in black-framed glasses near the beginning of the novel, and gold-framed glasses a bit later on).

By the end of the second readthrough, I was starting to think that the mistakes were somehow reproducing themselves. And the more I read it through, the more would magically appear. By that point, though, it was gone 11pm and my eyes were getting blurry. I decided to bite the bullet. Anything I’ve not picked up by now, I’m not going to see. And I emailed the worksheet back to my editor.

I fear that a mistake or two (or three) will have slipped through. But I’ve read many published books with editing mistakes in them, and I now have a new appreciation of the editing process. No matter how often you edit a manuscript, you will still find mistakes. In fact, it seems the more you read, the more you find.

So, now I am done. The manuscript is now out of my hands, and I no longer have any influence on the version that will appear with publication. I can live with it. Maybe there’s still a misplaced set of punctuation marks in there somewhere, but if there is, it’s not the end of the world. Maybe I’ll get some vigilant reader emailing me with a list of mistakes. I can handle it. At least it will prove they read it.

And on a further positive note, SUFFER THE CHILDREN is now on Lyrical Press’s ‘Coming Soon’ page. Check it out (it’s right down the bottom, with the other 19 April releases).