Friday, February 28, 2014

A Writing Change is as Good as a Rest...

A change of location is a good thing when you're writing. It can inspire you to craft, create and encounter new possibilities within your writing.

When I wrote my most recent novel, ‘Beneath a Sicilian Sun’,  I wasn't in Sicily where the majority of the novel takes place, but in Lanzarote which is one of the Canary Islands.

Actually, I'd started writing the novel the previous year while holidaying in Tenerife, another Canary Island. Did I tell you I love to go to the Canary Isles?

Anyhow, the settings in both locations were great. I'd get up in the morning in Tenerife, leaving my husband snoozing away in our hotel room and sit on a lounger near the poolside with a cool drink, my body slathered in sun protection lotion and a pair of shades slapped on my forehead, in case the sun came on too strong. When it rose high in the sky, so did I, and I'd head indoors having written about a thousand words or more.  I did that most days, so had quite a few thousand words under my belt and a good plot underway by the time I arrived back to a snowy white Wales that January.

I set that novel to one side for a time but then got inspired to pick up a pen and write again the following year.  This time it was an April time in Lanzarote and my husband and myself were sharing a villa with our grown children and their partners.  They all loved a good lie-in in the mornings, so I’d get up early and take my leather bound writing journal, pen and cup of coffee to sit at a table and umbrella near the poolside.  I’d get around an hour or more precious writing time to myself, so it all built up. 

We arrived back to a snowy Wales
Most of the book was written in Wales when the weather wasn’t so hot.  Where rain clouds are more prevalent than blue skies.  Yet, being previously in such warm surroundings gave me a feel for how Sicily would be under the sun.

Hearing people speaking in Spanish in the Canaries gave me an impression how it might have felt for Joanne, my heroine in the novel, when she heard people jabbering in a foreign tongue around her in Sicily.  In one scene, she feels like a round peg in a square hole and wonders why she bothers to stay there.

The villa in my novel seems similar to the one Dante lived in.  It even had its own pool and tiled floors.  Although as a multi millionaire, ours could have fitted into a corner of his no doubt.    A coincidence perhaps?  Or just my subconscious taking over and helping to fill in the dots?  That Sicilian villa though is the setting for a crucial life changing scene in the book and propels the reader into the hope that maybe true love will eventually conquer all.

When I began writing ‘Beneath a Sicilian Sun’ I hadn’t written a novel for a few years and wondered if I ever would again.  To be honest, I doubted it.  Would I have the patience to sit down and discipline myself? Not only that, risk submitting a novel anywhere again?  After all, rejection is never easy for any writer least of all when you fear you've lost your mo jo.  But when I proved to myself I could finish it, I also went on to complete another couple of half written novels and have since written a brand new one.  So I know I am capable and back in the groove.  I got kick started again by a Facebook writing group called ‘Merthyr Writes’ that a very good online friend suggested I start up.  The feedback and positive encouragement from members helped to inspire me to begin my writing career again. 

‘Beneath a Sicilian Sun’ is the novel that will hopefully re-launch my writing career.  I’m really grateful to this book and the fact I spent those holidays beneath a hot sun getting up to write early in the mornings, even if it didn’t happen to be Sicily, it certainly helped that the sun shone…

** Beneath a Sicilian Sun is due for release 14th April 2014 - Taliesin Publishing

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Coming Soon...

My latest novel, 'Beneath a Sicilian Sun', will be released on the third of April. Can't wait. Looking forward to seeing the cover art which I'll post here when it arrives. Meanwhile, here's a photo of Lipari [which is the largest of the Aeolian islands off the coast of Sicily] to whet your appetite! It's where some of the steamy action takes place in this story. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Putting Those Pesky Edits to Bed

As an author, the absolute worse part of the writing process for me is the edits.  Not so much the editing and revision before I submit my novel to the publisher but the rounds of edits after the book is accepted for publication.

Too often we’re precious about our words because we think a sentence sounds great as it is but what we’re doing in effect is adding superfluous words.  I was going to add a ‘just’ to that last sentence but it wasn’t necessary!  See what I mean?

This is written assuming you’ve gone right through your story to check for any plot errors and inconsistencies first, the plot is tight, there are no obstacles that stop it flowing from A to B and you’ve spell checked, then these are the other things you need to watch out for.

So before you even think of submitting your work anywhere contemplate the following, as it will save more work with your editor in the long run:

1.  Omit useless words and phrases like ‘just’, ‘felt’, too many ‘that’s, ‘so’s, ‘exact replica’, ‘attach together’, ‘added bonus’ etc.  They add nothing to your work and are often used as fillers.  

2.  Watch out for overuse of modifiers.  These lessen the impact of your prose.  Words to watch out for are: obviously, positively, utterly, probably, quite, simply, really, etc.  To strengthen the sentence leave them out.  For example, “She was utterly beautiful” might sound fine but “She was beautiful” is stronger.  There are occasions when you might need to use them but use sparingly is the best rule of thumb.

3.  Are you telling and not showing?  ‘Showing’ is to demonstrate emotions, actions and dialogue via the story, bringing it to life.  ‘Telling’ is doing what it says, the story is lifeless.  Here’s an example.  Telling: She looked very angry and wanted him to leave the house. Showing: Her heart beat a tattoo as she gritted her teeth and balled her hands into fists at her side.  “Get out of here now!”  She pointed toward the door.

4.  Have you repeated yourself too much?  This can slow down the story and makes it monotonous as the reader thinks: “I’ve already read that once!”  Ensure you delete any repetitive words and phrases.  I once read a novel by a best-selling author that used the same phrase in one sentence.  It was: “She rolled her eyes!”  She rolled her eyes and then she rolled her eyes some more?

5.  Why use lots of words when a couple of words will do?  Some authors love using grandiose words and phrases.  They think flowery language will impress the reader.  Unfortunately, all that happens is the reader gives up reading as it slows the book down to a snail’s pace.  Who wants to read a book with a dictionary by their side?

6.  There is a thought that it’s possible to edit about 20 % out of a manuscript and it will still be readable.  That’s one fifth, a sizable amount.  An editor requested I remove 4000 words from one novel and it made for a tighter read in the end.

7.  Avoid clichéd writing.  A cliché is a well-known saying that has slipped into our everyday vocabulary.  For example, ‘He had an axe to grind’, ‘She was worth her weight in gold’.  If I write something like those examples I try to find an original way to say the same thing instead when it comes to the edit.

8.  Avoid passive voice. In sentences written in passive voice, the subject receives the action expressed in the verb; the subject is acted upon.  An example of this is: 'We were invited by our friends to their wedding'.  To make it active voice, change it to: ‘Our friends invited us to their wedding.’

9.  Check your tenses.  It’s easy to slip into the wrong tense, sometimes past to present and vice versa. 

10.  When in doubt delete.  Don’t become so attached to your work that you can’t delete.  If I’m stuck on a paragraph and I try rearranging the words and it still doesn’t work, I often delete the sentence so the paragraph makes sense.  Sometimes less is more.