Cover Release

When it comes to writing fiction, I can happily spend a whole day planning writing and editing. Blogging has been a very different story. Thoughts of my paltry efforts to date are there at the back of my mind. In part, it may be because I am a fantasy writer, an imaginer of the mystic, the fantastic, the surreal. Blogging is about as far from that as you can get, grounding the writer in just the opposite, in the here, the real, the mundane. In part, it is because I believe so many others have already detailed their thoughts on writing in competent and interesting ways. For the main part, it is, however, that my aim is to write novels, and blogging does not directly lead me towards that aim. Not a great excuse for a blank slate over months, I admit, but having written approximately 100,000 words this year as well as editing two manuscripts (and working a day job), I believe I can safely say I have not neglected writing.

Regardless of the reasons for my sparse jottings, the cover of my upcoming novel, The Grotesques, is an irresistible motivator to blog. I think the artist, Heather Dickson, has done an incredible job, depicting the creepy atmosphere surrounding the church in astounding detail.

The editing process is now complete. It involved a little to-ing and fro-ing of the manuscript between myself and publisher Margaret Curelas at Tyche Books over the last couple of months. Emerging writers are frequently cautioned to make their manuscripts as perfect as possible before sending them out. We usually only get one chance to impress a particular publisher, after all. But I venture to say that a work the length of a novel is impossible to perfect without the help of an editor.

At the end of June I attended a crime writing weekend, which included a workshop with Gabrielle Lord, who was quick to say that editors save authors from looking bad, picking up both inconsistencies in plot and language errors. It has been an eye opener to find this out for myself. From preciseness about where a character is standing to correcting mistakes in time references, the editing process has improved the story. Then there was the realisation how many times I used the word ‘back’ in the manuscript – mostly superfluously. I have banned myself from using the word, or at least promised myself I will mull over whether it is essential to the sentence. While I doubt I have erased all trace of poor repetition from the novel, I am at least now much more aware of it than I have been to this point.

The reality is all writers are guilty of repeating words too frequently. Doing so, particularly within a paragraph, creates boring, lifeless writing, and gives the impression of writer with limited skill. Different writers overuse different items of lexis. The ‘find’ feature of Microsoft Word is an invaluable tool to help determine how many times a particular word appears in those four hundred or so pages.

With the proofs read, I am looking forward to the publication of my first novel. I am thrilled there will be a paper version as well as an e-book. Call me old-fashioned, but holding the physical culmination of years of hard work, smelling the crisp leaves and flipping through to favourite passages is a writer’s dream.

 

Contract and Competitions

The past few months have been very exciting for me, writing wise. Circumstances have kept me off this blog for a while, so it’s well past time I shared the best news possible. I have a contract for my urban fantasy novel The Grotesques with Canadian publisher Tyche Books.

It’s been a long road towards that contract with this manuscript. I rewrote the ending twice, and couldn’t help tweaking the rest of the manuscript and adding new chapters along the way. I am fortunate Margaret Curelas believed in the story and my main character, Ella, enough to take a second and third look at this book. I’ve posted a blurb on the home page and will keep everyone updated as it progresses.

Almost as exciting (I’m pretty sure any emerging writer will tell you nothing can beat a contract) is that my current fantasy manuscript Ivory Wish has done well in a couple of competitions. It was shortlisted for the 2013 Impress Book Prize under the, I admit, lame title Riding Free. (I can rarely name a story or manuscript before I’m at least halfway through and know the characters, world and plot intimately. My writing group is well aware of my handicap with titles but I think Ivory Wish both has the right ring to it and reflects the theme of the book.) It also won one of the Breakout Novel Scholarships. I was incredibly disappointed when the latter was cancelled but I am pleased with the way this manuscript is turning out, and it’s not long off completion. This one is set in a primitive African-based society and tells the story of a boy soldier who dreams of flying on a pegasus.

In between these two manuscripts, I wrote a high fantasy series, the Djinn’s Rage Triolgy.  The three books were an ambitious project that have turned into full length epic fantasy. As they stand, their word count is beyond what most publishers will consider from an emerging author, but I truly (as the very biased author) believe in these manuscripts, so I hope at some point I might divide each book and turn the trilogy into a series of five or six books of a more acceptable length. If anything develops from this, I’ll be back with a new post. Until then, it’s back to work on Ivory Wish.

 

Page-Turner or Page-Keeper?

Have you ever had a conversation about what kind of novel you like? The conversation that goes beyond genre? It’s a conversation I have found myself having frequently of late. Surprisingly, there is more variation in favourite genres than in what readers seem to be crave in a book.

So many readers I talk to crave a ‘page-turner’, a book that makes them want to get to the next page to find out what happens next. I, too, love a good page turner. These books, however, are not and never will be my favourites. I’ll read them once, then never open them again. Their drawcard, the suspense of What Happens Next is blown.

It’s what I term a page-keeper that makes me excited to read. It’s the books that make me reluctant to turn the page, that make me want to read sentences or whole paragraphs again and again, even though I’m desperate to find out what happens next. I’m not referring to books whose message is hidden or whose use of language is so obscure as to be indecipherable without migraine inducing focus for at least fifteen minutes. I’m referring to books in which the language is so artfully applied that I marvel over the uniquely beautiful way they render images. Or those where the voice is so vivid it evokes an emotional reaction (as opposed to a mental one).

Books that have me hurrying to turn the page make me think I can write. Books that induce me to linger over a page make me want to write. They also induce every doubt that ever existed that I could ever match that writer’s skill. This is not a bad thing. I know I can learn from these works. On reaching the final word, I often flip to the front cover and open it right back up. I re-read, this time as a writer.

I think this is something all writers should do. I admit I don’t do it often enough. Time spent reading is time stolen from writing. But at every workshop or seminar I have attended, the commandment Read is right up there with Write. Reading indiscriminately is probably useless– I just don’t have the time or inclination to plod through a story I’m not enjoying, whether it be poor plotting or poor expression. Despite feeling of guilt, I close the book. When I consider a novel a good read, I get to the end. When I find a novel that thrills me, that make me want to linger, there’s not much can pry me away from it. And in my rather biased opinion, my writing is stronger after I’ve read such a book. (Almost no hope of writing while I’m reading these kinds of books!)

My favourite author is Guy Gavriel Kay. If anyone ever penned a page-keeper it is he, and in every single one of his novels. A couple of local authors with recently published anthologies are also enticing me to return to their pages. Midnight and Moonshine by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter is crammed with superb imagery. It’s been a while since I’ve read sentences that can say so much in so few words. The old world style is both evocative and charming. The stories in Everything is a Graveyard by Jason Fischer have a strong voice. I’m not an avid fan of horror, but the three dimensional characters and unique Australian settings keep me engrossed.

Finding new authors whose books I can’t wait to open is a joy. So, when faced with the choice of page-turner or page-keeper, I’ll take the page-keeper any day.