Find Your Voice: the most annoying advice ever

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Mainly writing ones. In addition to the novel-writing ones, I also love Scriptnotes, featuring John August and Craig Mazin, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. But mainly, I look to those concerning books. First up is the Self-Publishing Podcast, in which Sean, Johnny and Dave shoot the shit for thirty minutes about what they’ve been up to, then get into the meat of that week’s theme. The first part used to annoy me, but once I got used to it, I now need that fix each week. I’m sick, I know. However, the second half has always been valuable. Great advice, with occasional guests. The Creative Penn, a series of interviews hosted by fellow Brit, Joanna Penn. Always punctuated with her endearing giggle and packed with excellent advice, focusing largely on the business side, but also the craft. This was the first place I heard the phrase ‘authorpreneur’, and the rest of the site is also packed with great resources for indie authors. The Sell More Books Show is hosted by Jim Kukral and Brian Cohen, engaging chaps with a lot of knowledge who round up the week’s publishing news and go a little deeper into a specific theme or guest. Rocking Self-Publishing, hosted by another Brit, Simon Whistler. Sage advice and cracking interviews. In 2015 he pledges to ensure his interviews are more focused on a specific topic than they have been to date. And, to date, they’ve been pretty good, so I’m looking forward to 2015. Finally, Writing Excuses, hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinnette...

How Chuck Palahniuk made me a Better Writer with One Essay

I originally planned to release Three Years Dead at the end of January. Why delay it? Well, the simple answer is Chuck Palahniuk. And, to the author of Fight Club, Rant, and Choke, I’m grateful. Palahniuk wrote an essay called Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs that went wide around January, urging writers to swear off those ‘thought verbs’ of the title. That is when in narrative the author writes something like, “She remembered the time…” or, “He knew how his mother felt about…” Palahniuk asserts the verb is almost always unnecessary. He asserts that removing those verbs makes the writing stronger, that by removing the instructive element and replacing it with a natural flow of events, the reader is blessed with a richer reading experience. For example, if my first draft was: “Lawrence sat down beside Susan. He remembered the day she introduced him to Donna, and felt gratitude rising in him, whilst simultaneously dreading informing her of his wife’s death.” I don’t know why I would write that—it’s not an excerpt, just something off the top of my head—but if I did, using Palahniuk’s advice I would alter it to: “Lawrence sat down beside Susan, the woman who introduced him to his wife, who was maid of honour at their wedding, who had helped them through the tensions rife in any marriage. Now Susan’s best friend was dead.” It’s longer, yes, possibly too baggy now, but richer than it was before, I think. It doesn’t always need to be longer, of course. Just restructuring or simply cutting out words like “remembered” or “thought” or “knew”. “Phil hid behind the car. He knew trucks...

When the Creative and the Commercial Come Together

It’s sweet, isn’t it? You have a sudden epiphany that something you’re doing in your current novel might have a negative commercial impact on a different novel. It can make a reader uncomfortable when a writer starts out glorifying a violent vigilante in one story, then switching to a pacifist one who hates hoo-rah gung-ho bullshit in the next. It shouldn’t matter—an author should be able to write whatever story inspires them—but it kind of does. I had such an epiphany recently. A problem that could mean my second novel—the standalone Three Years Dead—might have a negative impact on my third, Reflected Innocence, which I hope to launch into a parallel series alongside the Alicia Friend/Donald Muphy world from His First His Second. So should I sacrifice my creative vision for my commercial one? Well, in experimenting, I discovered something quite wonderful. In worrying about my commercial future (in other words, my future sales and therefore my income) I wrote something that actually made the story stronger. The problem, in a nutshell, was that I was writing Three Years Dead in the first person. Why was that a problem? Well, because Reflected Innocence is also first person. Still, why is that a problem? Okay, because the protagonists are both males and both are white-British. However, while they’re very different in character, in terms of the basic list of characteristics, they’re going to clash a bit. In Three Years Dead, Martin Money is a police officer with no memory of the past three years, trying to unravel a) his own assault that resulted in the memory loss, and b) the disappearance...

Early Reviews – His First His Second

So, I told myself I’m not going to be one of those writers who constantly crows about his great reviews and quotes them every few days.  However, it’s still early in the life of His First His Second, so I guess I have to whore myself around a bit and push my early reviews towards the audience.  For now, here are the links that have come in so far. Suffice it to say I’m pretty happy with them. Warrior Women – 5 stars Undercover Book Reviews – 5 stars Both have been kind enough to post their reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I’ll update this list as and when people review it.     Share...

American-ese vs Britishisms

This week there was a fairly interesting discussion over at KindleBoards regarding why some Americans cannot stand to read British English in novels. Some readers, apparently, go so far as to dish out a one-star review for bad grammar and terrible spelling errors, and the authors took a while to realise they meant the dialect. I found it rather odd, as most American novels that arrive in the UK are written in American-ese and I have never known anyone complain. I once wrote a novel, not currently in circulation I hasten to add, but it was written as a NaNoWriMo one year. It featured an American detective with an all American cast, and I wrote that in American-ese. I went so far as to hire an American proof-reader to banish any Britishisms. It just made sense to me. Equally, it makes sense for me to keep His First His Second and Three Years Dead in British-ese because they are British detectives solving British crime, in Britain. Even if I was pushing it in America in a big way, wouldn’t it jar somewhat to alter the whole novel? I know some books like Harry Potter have American editions, which I think is probably essential since it’s mainly a children’s book, and if every kid whose parents aren’t worried about witchcraft is reading it, translating it to American-ese is a no-brainer. As are other British authors working in the American environment, such as Lee Child, and Irish people like John Connolly. Their books arrive in the UK with the colors and aluminum intact. People even transport their dead bodies in the...