Sunday, 12 October 2014

New book cover?

Proof for the cover of my new novel. I'm not sure it's quite right. Without knowing anything about the story - if you saw this cover, what sort of book do you think it is? What do you think it might be about?

Friday, 10 October 2014

Does it have to be happily ever after?

I’m not talking about romances, here (that’s a whole different ball game), but other genres.
Personally I don’t think it does. In fact, many of the books which have stuck in my mind, and that I remember well, have had unusual or unorthodox endings.  Gone Girl, for instance - the ending was definitely not what I was expecting, but I think it was totally appropriate for the story (although there are many readers who disagree with me).
Gone with the Wind is another. All the way through the book I was anticipating Scarlett and Rhett’s HEA, and it never happened, and I think the story was that much better, and more memorable, for it.
Possibly the most famous love story in the world, Romeo and Juliet (and yes, I know it’s not a novel), has a tragic ending, and the play would be a dismal affair if it was anything else.
Perhaps it’s not the lack of HEA, but the unexpectedness of it, that is the key. And sometimes the technique of leaving future events to the imagination of the reader is a powerful one. It also leaves the story open to a sequel, but that’s another story (excuse the dreadful pun!). As been as I’ve deviated from books, I may as well go the whole hog and bring other media into the argument. The Sopranos – it couldn’t have ended any other way. Leaving it to the viewer to decide is pure genius.

On the flip side – Gravity. What a waste of an ending. How much more powerful would it have been if Sandra Bullock had died on re-entry- or is that just my dark side peeking through?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Those darned characters!

     I've said before that I'm a seat-of-my-pants kind of writer. I get an idea, the start of a story, a premise, and then just run with it. I know roughly what the end is going to be, sort of... maybe, but the in between bits tend to get worked out almost as they are written.
     I started my current WIP in exactly the same way, like a truck driver heading to Timbuktu when he has no idea what continent it's even on. Then I got stuck, which is not unusual, and normally I go and do something else for a while, until the elusive muse strikes again. But this time two months had gone by, and I still had no clue as to what was going to happen next in the story.
     So I joined Scribophile and stuck the first couple of chapters on there to see what other people thought. This rekindled my interest in the manuscript, and I read it through, all 37,000 words, playing with the odd scene and correcting any typos. I got to the end of it and thought. And planned. And worked things out. And had the odd idea or two about how to get my MC from A to Z, with a few of the other letters of the alphabet thrown in to help the story along.
     In other words, I had a plot, a story line. I knew what I was going to write for each scene, and how the whole thing was going to unfold (you can see where this going, right?).
     I sat down to write this morning, my first proper work on this manuscript since July, not just playing with what was already there, only to find my MC has played a blinder. Ruby has decided that she was not too keen on my carefully thought-out planning, and has done her best to scupper it.
     And the darned woman has succeeded. I'm going to have to have some sharp words with her, the next time I'm wide awake at 3am and trying to get inside my characters' heads. It's about time they realised that I write the story, not them!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Readers never read the book the author writes..

I read somewhere that ‘readers never read the book the author writes’.
And to a certain extent this is true. Two readers will have a different experience whilst reading the same book. Each reader brings their own mix of likes and dislikes, expectations, experiences, imagination and so many other factors to the table. No reader is the same, so why should their reading experiences be?

Sometimes, though, when I read reviews I wonder whether we were reading the same book! As an example, I picked a book at random, one I read and enjoyed a while ago. I read it before looking at any reviews, not wanting to be influenced by what other people think, and wrote my own review before checking anyone else’s.

So, to the example – well-known book, well-known author. I checked out the one star and the five star reviews and tried to look for similarities of content (but obviously not opinion!). Here’s what I found

1*  no real conclusion
5*  brilliant ending

1*  shallow
5*  brilliantly disturbing

1*  pretentious
5*  dark and bitter, like good chocolate

1*  boring
5*  gripping

1*  hackneyed storyline
5*  original storyline

1*  predictable
5*  great twist

1*  unlikeable characters
5*  believable characters

1*  talked about irrelevant rubbish
5*  one of the best novels I’ve read in ages

1* I didn’t get it
5*  kept me guessing

I think the moral of the story is – don’t be too influenced by reviews. What you might love, someone else is bound to hate, and vice versa. Though I will say at this point, that if the majority of a book’s rating are 1* and 2* then I might give it a miss on the premise that not everyone can be wrong.
Saying that though, there is a reverse side to this assumption – I was recently asked to review a novel, the blurb was good, the genre one I enjoy and was in the mood for. But I couldn’t even get half way through. To me it was clich├ęd, there were loads of typos and spelling errors (yes, I know, I’ve been guilty of those, too, but I put them right, and learned from my mistakes… I hope), repetitive words and phrases, stereotypical characters, and a weak storyline.  I gave up, then checked out the reviews to see if it was just me. Looks like it was. The book had numerous reviews, hardly any of them less than 4*.

            My conclusion? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are books!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

I've been interviewed!

A lovely lady called Kimi C interviewed me on her blog earlier this week. Check it out - I think she's done a great job (okay, I might be slightly biased...), and she's also got a great blog.
Here's the link:

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Scribophile - not convinced...

     I joined Scribophile a few weeks back, and when I first set eyes on it, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. I even joined the paid version, but after using the site for a little while, now I'm not so sure...
     It may be the perfect tool to hone some people's writing skills, but I'm having some problems with it. The main one (and please correct me if I'm wrong, or have missed something obvious on the website),  is that WIPs are fragmented. I know this is part of the process for Scribophile, but I prefer to critique whole novels. I'm not bothered about whether they are first or second drafts, I just want to read the completed thing, to see how it hangs together, how the characters develop and how the plot pans out. I find it impossible to jump into a random chapter  in the middle of a novel and be able to critique it, and I don't see how anyone else can, either. It's probably me being anal, or something, but I'd be worried that I would make a comment about something that had been covered in a previous chapter.
     I have done a few critiques, trying to find WIPs in their early stages, but I know full well that by the time the next chapter is released for critiquing I'll have totally forgotten what happened in the previous one I read.
     And as for having my own work critiqued, again, I have some issues. The main one is the speed. I'm aware I have to be prepared to critique alot of stuff in order for mine to be in the spotlight, but I simply can't get through that volume of work, especially when I feel the need to start at chapter 1 all the time!
     I do see a great deal of value in critiquing first chapters - these are the words that hook the reader into the story, giving him/her a vested interest in reading beyond chapter 1. If this first chapter doesn't work, then the odds are the reader will give in, give up, go read something else, but as for jumping into chapter 20 because it has more karma points...
     I'll stick with it for the time being, especially since I'm now part of a writing circle (don't want to let the others down), but I'll plough on with my writing, and not depend on critiques to move it along, then send it out to betas in my usual way, and offer my services as a beta in return.
     Anyone want any help?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Prologues - hmmm

Personally,I loathe prologues. I never read them, unless I'm beta reading or critiquing, and then my advice is to get rid of it.

Anyway, if you are thinking of putting a prologue into your novel, check out these links below - I've tried to be unbiased (and probably not succeeded), but these explain the issues with prologues much better than I ever could.

Foremost Press  -
Kristen Lamb's Blog -
Book Riot  -
Pretentious Title -