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Just looking through old writing projects that never really took off, generally because I had too many things happening at once and readers wanted a more structured piece.  I’ve always loved a good psychological thriller.

In the following section, set in Dorset and Hertfordshire, a man in his mid twenties becomes increasingly obsessed with the woman whose family were responsible for the break up of his own fifteen years earlier.  At this point in the story, he heads back to his room in north London and crashes out:

He began to drift away into a mishmash of unsettling dreams; dreams of meadows and orchards and abandoned farmhouses; of chickens feeding on sawdust and maize by a fence of barbed wire in the midst of an August heat wave; of petrol cans and parched grass and an old wooden barn in the centre of a field. The scene changed and he saw Laura once more, her raven coloured hair damp after her early morning swim. His beautiful Laura had come back to him after leaving without a word. She was standing in front of him near the boat huts on the shore, her face close to his, almost touching his, her hair smelling of the sea. Then, the scene changed again. He and Laura were a few miles from the old farmhouse. He saw himself chasing her across a wild stretch of heather in the rain. Laura was running in diagonal lines, screaming as she tried to get away from him. She tore along a muddy trail down a hill towards a solitary grey house with smoke coming from a tall chimney beyond the trees in the distance. He was pleading with her to stop, telling her that it wasn’t how it seemed, but she continued to run.

He bolted forward with a shout.

A Summer That Lingers

A lingering, humid summer – that’s how I would describe this one.   Still waiting to hear on my third novel, a Young Adult thriller about a group of music students.  In the meantime, the heavy weather continues, electrical and sticky.  I practise piano most days and spend my free time studying foreign languages – Russian, French and German.   I’m learning Liszt’s 12th Hungarian Rhapsody and trying to get fluent in French. 

Not a bad summer, but quite tedious.

I’m taking a short summer break from blogging and other online activities.  Recently, I sent out my third novel, and now I have little to do in terms of writing.   I’m concentrating on piano playing and languages.  Just started Russian.  Very difficult.

Back soon.

I’m a day away from an important anniversary – two years of not smoking. That means complete cessation, no secret cigarettes or drags of cigarettes. As I sometimes tell people, yes, I smoke, but only in my dreams. A pretty unpleasant dream that occurs from time to time.

I took up smoking in my early teens and continued for years – I’m reluctant to give an exact figure.  I smoked during a serious bout of pneumonia and several of flu. In fact, I couldn’t envisage the thought of never having a cigarette again.

Then, two years ago, I went on a special quit-smoking program that required total abstinence from any tobacco product. Everyone had to undergo regular breath tests to see if they’d stuck to the rules.  We also received Nicorette prescriptions to help with withdrawal symptoms, and admittedly I do use small doses of Nicorette now.  People have strong opinions on the use of Nicorette,(for and against), but I personally don’t see how Nicorette can carry any of the risks associated with smoking.  Pretty safe, in my opinion.

Which brings me to the next point. A person has to have a compelling reason to give up smoking.  For me, health mattered more than anything else, especially when a nurse measured my true lung age and found I had the lung function of a seventy-five year old!  Decades out, but horrifying, and this give me the determination to stop smoking and never touch another cigarette.  Since then, the lung function has increased substantially – in fact, after three months of not smoking – and I lost my long-term morning cough after just twenty-four hours of stopping. Pretty impressive.

 

Indie…independent publishing.  Indie bands.

In the last few years, the Indie publishing has really taken place as digital technology advances and gets more sophisticated.  But what are the pros and cons of going Indie?

The pros:

Relatively easy to get into motion

Relatively cheap

The artist has full control

 

The cons:

Hard to market

Huge competition

Requires expertise in IT

Writing instructors frequently urge their students to show, not tell.  Showing deals with sensory input as experienced through the eyes of the viewpoint character.  Showing leaves a lot of the work to the reader. Guessing a character’s background from the way they speak.  Sensing tension or danger from subtle hints in the story or, alternatively, from the acceleration of events part of the way through a story.

Telling, on other hand, is obvious.  The writer spells out the details.  No room left for the imagination.

But should an author always show rather than tell?   Possibly not.

For instance:

  • Sometimes, a chunk of information is so crucial that the story wouldn’t work without it.  Simply using dialogue to cover this might not work.  Sometimes, better just to outline the facts as briefly as possible.
  • A character pays a return visit to a place that has played a significant role in their life.  Short chunks of background information about some past major event connected with the place might deepen the immediacy in the present. 
  • Lots of dramatics events, one following another.  I think taking time out and bringing the reader up to date with a short summary of what’s happened can help calm the pace.

Just a few of my thoughts.

 

 

I’ve sent out the opening chapters of my latest novel and am waiting to hear back.   In the meantime, I’ve ended up with a major bout of writer’s block and haven’t written any fiction of several weeks.  Just concentrating on music and language studies while I decide what to do next in regards to the writing.  At this rate, I will be tri-lingual!

I thought I would reblog an article from over five years ago concerning the editing process, particularly the earlier stages of writing a novel when story ideas can go awry, leaving the draft manuscript muddled.   Having worked on three novels, I tend to believe that less is best – fewer exciting or thrilling events told compellingly have a greater effect than lots of things happening.

Here is the article from five years ago.

Editing and Revision: The Importance of Story Questions

I’ve been using a new technique in my novel writing to keep the material from losing focus – something that tended to happen a lot in my earlier drafts. Up to recently, I’d been reading through the manuscript with a pen and working with groups of fifty pages, jotting down ideas and story questions as I read.

I’m experimenting with a new technique where I work backwards by writing down the story questions from the previous chapter or two until I have a small list of story questions. I do this from memory before attempting any new chapters. (In this particular novel, a psychological thriller, each chapter is told from a distinct viewpoint, so the recording of story questions helps keep me up to date with what each character is doing.) The method also helps with pacing. Pacing itself is a huge nightmare in writing – too little tension and the story gets boring, too much tension too much of the time and the tension is spent.

I’ve also noticed that revising a story line by line doesn’t really work and can actually make the story worse. In adding and improving sentences, the original immediacy can easily get lost. Even inserting dialogue to bring something out in a character can upset the flow of the narrative.

The best editing, I believe, centres around relevant story questions and knowing your characters well, particularly their deepest conflicts and their most powerful desires. These drive the story. Two of the best questions to ask about a leading character are – 1) what do they fear most? and 2) what do they want most?

During the revision process, I tend to cut a lot of material. Yet, I always end up with more. This is because getting rid of material that plays little or no function in a story frees you up to develop new ideas.

Some ideas to try:

  1. Read through a synopsis, sample chapter or blurb like summary and circle in red any words that capture your attention.
  2. Ask your main characters some questions – e.g. what are they doing on Saturday evening?
  3. Describe an incident through the eyes of three people.
  4. Problems narrating a section? Write it in second person, then rewrite the new version in the original viewpoint.

Further tips can be found in Creative Writing Headaches and Writers Bock

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