Monthly Archives: November 2012

Adventures in Writing…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates. Part 13.

 I’ve had many jobs since leaving school. I didn’t become a teacher until I was 35. A wonderful job, I’ve always loved the challenge, the interaction, the opportunity to guide young minds…

But writing. Writing transports me into another world, a world of my own creation. At times of stress or uncertainty, I can ‘run away’ and find solace in my words. Up to a point.

The cover of my PUBLISHED edition of ‘Tales from Animal Rescue’

I write better when I am happy. Happiness brings security. Maybe not financial, but certainly emotional. I recall Stephen King saying something similar. For me, certainly, a stress-free environment enables me to focus in on the make-believe. Unhappiness, uncertainty, sadness…none of those help me. The image of the struggling artiste, poring over words in a Garrick, ripping apart his heart-strings to show the world just how awful it all really is…No, none of that is for me.

I write extremely intuitively. Inspiration often leaps out at me, and the most unlooked for moments. Some days I can write without a break, the words flowing as if every sluice gate were open. Other days, I may only put down half a dozen sentences. When I am in that sort of mood, I often go back to previous works that need some re-working and concentrate on those. Indeed, I usually do work on more than one project at a time. For example, as I write this – in late November, 2012 – I have two works either completed, or nearing completion. Two thrillers, Road Kill and Whipped Up. I love them both and can switch from one to the other with ease. I liken it to watching a range of programmes on television – the human brain has a huge capacity to retain stories. It is no big thing. Really.

The experience I out-lined last time, with my word being shredded by an editor, left me very disillusioned. At one point I even considered giving it all up. Especially when I submitted another story to them. Yes, I know what I said last time – that I would never submit to them again. But this was immediately after that book was finished. At that particular moment, I was fairly buoyed up. The cover of my book was awesome. I loved it. So when I submitted a second novel and they wrote back to tell me that they were not going to consider it, I was totally wrecked.  They ‘admired’ my work, but didn’t feel that they were in a position to pursue another Young Adult novel.

As it was, the rejection gave me time to reflect. Perhaps I really was as bad as they seemed to think. The logical thought, that they must have liked me enough to have accepted my first book, didn’t help. I didn’t even consider it. Depression does that; it blinds you to the obvious, the rational.  I told myself that they were a ‘new’ publishing house and were desperate for authors; that was why they accepted me in the first place. Now that they were established, the must have realised their mistake.

I was in a bad way. I lost all confidence in myself, in what I wanted to do, in what I wanted to write. This really was the darkest hour in my writing career.

Naturally, I continued to write. For a long period, I wrote stories but didn’t submit anything. What would be the point in more rejections? They’d only depress me still further. I completed a novella which I thought had some value. I’d enjoyed writing it and after my third re-working I gave it a try and sent it out into that unforgiving world of agents and publishers. The third publisher accepted it. I was elated! How was this possible? But it was, and the letter they sent me was full of praise and encouragement. In fact, they said there was potential for a series of stories. Would I be interested?

Would I be interested?

 

The editor was very good. She obviously knew what she was doing, but had none of the pretentions of the previous one. She guided rather than demanded, and she valued my opinions, didn’t dismiss them. We worked as partners, and I never once felt lectured to. It was a thoroughly enjoyable process and I learned a great deal from her.

They asked me for ideas about the cover, and I duly wrote back. A mock-up arrived perhaps a fortnight later, and it looked good. I was becoming more and more excited. There is nothing like your work being considered worthy to make you feel good about yourself.

The second part of the series of ‘Tales from Animal Rescue’. Paranormal thrillers for Young Adults.

By the end of the process, my little book was looking good. A publication date was set, and I waited with bated breath to see the preliminary book block. This is the final stage, an opportunity to give the manuscript one last look-over before it goes to publication. There were some minor typos, because after such a thorough editing process, there was now very little wrong with how it was looking.

So I sent it back.

Soon, another book would be added to my growing stable. I’d rediscovered my enthusiasm, the fires relit. Even before I heard anything more from the publishers, I had planned out two more adventures in this series. At last, I had focus.

Then the email came.

From the publisher.

They had gone bust. My editor wrote to me, full of apologies and regrets. It was all beyond her control. The banks had pulled the plug and the consequence was that my book would not be published.

From being taken to heady heights, I had once again, with the end in sight, been shot down in flames. I couldn’t believe it. When was anything ever to go right for me? Perhaps it really was time for me to quit…

 

You can discover my work by visiting my two websites – for Young Adult stories (including the one I describe above) visit: www.glennstuart.co.uk

For my adult work, visit www.stuartgyates.com

I hope you enjoy what you find.

 

 

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Adventures in writing…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates. Part 12.

We can’t write in isolation.

What do I mean by that, as I sit here, on my own, talking to nobody but myself…and tomorrow, I will do the same. I will sit at my desk, with the keyboard in front of me, and I shall create new scenes, new dilemmas for my characters. And I shall do it in solitude, not sharing any of it with anyone. Transported into a world of ‘pure imagination’ as Roald Dahl put it.

However, when it is all done, the pages formatted, the words polished, I will send it out into the world. And the first port of call could be the editor.

If you are fortunate enough to been taken on board by a publisher, it is usual for the editing process to begin fairly soon. The contract is signed, the heart pounds, the throat is dry. Any moment now your name will be at the top of the Sunday Times best-sellers…Well, a big breath is needed. The publishing house, be it a major, multi-billion dollar company, or a small independent, will work with you closely as your work will need to be edited. You may ask Auntie Gwen to look at it, got the milkman to run his eye over a few chapters, and they may even have spotted some typos, but it is the editor’s job to transform your work into a masterpiece. Or something close to it.

I think it was Ian Fleming who said he never worried about grammar or spelling, that was all down to editor. For most of us, I would hazard a guess that we try and get our work as close to perfect as we can before we send it away. Nevertheless, the editor may well come up with some points other than purely grammatical. They may have some advice, some suggestions…or they may even demand some changes.

Now, it is this last point that I am going to focus on.

I had a novel which I thought was fairly good. I’d put it on Authonomy and I received some interesting comments, which I acted upon and did my very best to re-work various scenes, etc. When it was looking fairly good (in my estimation), I submitted it to some publishers and it was picked up by one.

After that initial euphoria, the editing process began.

I was naïve then, desperate to have my book out, to share it with all those eager readers who were queuing up to devour my words. (Who am I kidding? Hardly anybody read it, except the publisher.)

It began. The editing process. It was intense, uncompromising, and became something I dreaded. Huge swathes of my work were being analysed, questioned, criticised, removed; other pieces included. Suggestions were not given, these were instructions. Orders. I had to do it their way, because they knew best. Not that they had created the story, not that they had even the slightest idea about what I wanted to say…No, their college creative writing courses had schooled them in what was good, and what was not.

Henning Mankell has sold over 25 million books around the world. Imagine that. When you read his pages, you never once stop to say…‘Mmm, I’m a little bit concerned about the use of ‘was’, or the way he includes adverbs, and as for his POV, well…I’m totally confused.’ But I’m not confused. I’m an intelligent reader. I understand what he is telling me. The pictures he has woven with his words come alive in my mind. I love his books, and so do countless others. I see nothing wrong in what he does. I’ve never been to a creative writer’s course. I read, a lot. And I write. All the time. I’m a writer. I’m instinctive. I’ve lived a life. I use my own experiences to inform my characters’ actions. But here I was, being told what to do by someone who has never seen the things I have seen, met the people I have met, but who has dissected Faulkner and Steinbeck until their eyes bled. And all of it in a nice, cosy classroom.

I became resentful.

They changed my book. I should have stood up. I should have said, ‘NO!’ But I didn’t. I was weak, I was blind. Once the contract has expired, I will take that book and I will put it back to how it should be. Mine. And when it is published again, it won’t have those words I have come to hate, written on the front piece ’Edited by…’.How conceited is that, I ask you.

Am I angry? Yes I am. It should be a collaborative process, not a dictatorial one. Nobody knows your work better than you. Yes, it could be improved, it could even be changed, but not to the extent that you no longer even recognise it. Be strong. It is your creation, and it didn’t exist before you put fingers to the keyboard. We are the creators, and we should allow ourselves to be steam-rollered. I did, and I regret it. I’m not saying all editors are like this – far from it. The majority are supportive, informed and insightful people. But some are not. I open up that book of mine, read the opening lines and I shudder. That is not my writing. But one day, I assure you, it will be.

 

I have two websites.

If you prefer stories full of super-natural horror, then visit my Young Adult site:

www.glennstuart.co.uk

If your taste is more for thrillers, action, suspense, murder and mystery, then please go along to www.stuartgyates.com

Either way, I hope you enjoy what you find.

The links to all my work and how to purchase titles are on my sites. Keep reading!

 

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Adventures in writing…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates, Part 11.

I was once asked if I could write with more inspiration, sprit, power, etc if I were upset or depressed, as opposed to being happy. I’m not at all sure what the answer could be. We read a lot about artists suffering for their work, but maybe that is not the same thing. Being depressed could well make ones work dark and foreboding, but I’m not sure if being happy makes the work light and optimistic.

Personally speaking, most of my books are dark already. They are full of murder, suspense, mystery, characters you would prefer not to meet (well, not all of them!), and situations that are fairly terrible. I’m not at all sure if they could be any more dark if, when I created those stories, I was in a bad mood.

The point is, when I wrote ‘Sallowed Blood’ I was feeling very buoyant. It was a story that really rattled along. I had the germ of any idea and now began to plan it out in much more detail.

The wonderful cover of Sallowed Blood

I’d left the UK in the early 80s looking for work. I ended up in Germany. Bavaria to be exact, and the beautiful, fairytale village of Hohenschwangeau. Nestling beside the village was a huge lake called The Alpsee, and watching over us all was Prince Ludwig’s mystical castle Neuschwanstein. It was a truly inspirational place to live and work, and I was there for around 10 months.

During that time I sketched out various stories, but never actually wrote anything down. A lot of those sketches are still with me, and I will use them one day. Of that, I am totally convinced. When I had found myself published, I began to develop a tale of a young man who had inherited a castle. And what better place than Hohenschwangeau. Although the village is not named in the book, it was where I placed the story.

The fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein…I worked in the hotel beneath it

I’ve always loved those old Hammer horrors. I still do. I wanted to write a book that had the same sort of atmosphere, one that would transport me back to those wonderful Monday nights when, after the News at Ten, Granada would air a truly fabulous film. My brother and I would settle back and become immersed in all of that glorious gothic mist of mystery and mayhem.

By the time I’d finished the book I was really quite pleased with it. My hero was suitably vulnerable, and the villain (or, to put it more accurately, villains) grotesque. I sent my hero on a wandering journey that took him from Cornwall to Edinburgh and finally to Bavaria. I loved every minute of it, and thrashed out 65000 words in a frenzy of unchained imagination.

Then I had to find a publisher. It wasn’t that I was unhappy with my first. They were supportive, helpful, and had got me started on this arduous road. I simply needed to know if somebody else thought I was any good! I need that affirmation, because my self-confidence is not good, and I’m easily deterred. My books weren’t selling, nobody seemed in the slightest bit interested, and I began to wonder if any of it was worth it.

So, I went through the usual routes and found a list of publishers and began to submit.

Within a few tries, my book was accepted. I couldn’t believe it. Over the Moon with joy, I waited for the editing process to begin.

And when it did, it almost finished me off completely.

Just how, exactly, I’ll let you know next time.

All of my work can be found in my two websites. I write YA horror under the pen name Glenn Stuart, and you can visit my website and found all of titles, including my very latest INTERLOPERS FROM HELL at www.glennstuart.co.uk.

My adult and cross-over work, with links and extracts, is www.stuartgyates.com.

I hope you find something of interest on either of those sites. Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading!

 

 

 

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Adventures in Writing…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates, Part 10

Today has been a good day. I’m off work for half-term, so that’s allowed me time to get down at least 3,000 words. It’s not always so easy, however. Trying to juggle my work as a teacher with my passion for writing is a difficult act to accomplish successfully. Holidays times are always best for me; I begin at 8am, and write until at least 1pm, breaking off somewhere for a quick bite to eat. However, the words always pull me back, which I love. Work time, however, is different. I have to try and write at least something, either in the evening, or in my lunch hour. Yes, I can do that. Thirty minutes when the inspiration hits me.

With the publication of ‘Accursed Dawn’ I now had to settle down and write a sequel. I’d always longed to write historical based fiction, possibly because I love history so much. I teach it, so it seemed the natural thing to do. I’d always had a yearning to write stories based around William’s conquest of England from 1066 onwards, but this particular storyline simply wouldn’t fit.

As I read through some books, it began to dawn on me that I could link in my tale with that of Vlad Tepes. The Impaler. Dracula. And why not? Everybody else seemed to be getting on the bandwagon of writing fiction wrapped around the vampire legends. The more I researched, the more things developed. The villain of my previous work – Accursed Dawn – had escaped at the end of the book. Now it was up to the hero to track him down. So I made him into a vampire. As a young man he had worked for the Medici family, cataloguing work for them in their extensive library. He was sent to meet Michael Corvinus, the ruler of Hungary who, of course, had connections with Vlad Drakul. All of this is historical fact. Corvinus owned a magnificent library, so my villain found himself there, working for the king. But Corvinus had a problem – and this again is all documented fact. His daughter had fallen in love with Vlad Tepes. Corvinus believed Tepes was insane, and he was concerned that it might be hereditary. How to stop his daughter marrying him and having his child?

Interesting, eh?

Well, I hope it is. And if you’ve kept up so far, you’ll want to know what happens next.

Well, the answer is simple. The villain becomes a vampire, and our hero has to destroy him. But by so doing, he too becomes embroiled with Tepes…and so it goes on.

The final part of the trilogy of terror, Death’s Dark Design

The plotting of stories is, for me, one of the great joys of story writing. Bringing all the threads together, weaving a tale of mystery and suspense that will have readers guessing right up until the end.

I do this with my recent thrillers too. Now that I am writing adult material, I still follow the rules of mystery, intrigue, puzzles and red herrings. I love it, plotting out a time line of events and fusing all of it into a believable and satisfying read. Perhaps ‘Death’s Dark Design’ is not believable; it might be if you are fourteen or fifteen, but I still think it is a cracking tale. You have to believe in your work, see it through. For me, ‘Death’s Dark Design’ is the best thing I’ve written for young adults. I loved writing it, doing all that history, bringing it all together so the final, dramatic page would leave readers gasping. There are things I would change, perhaps. One day. But for now, I still think it packs a punch.

All of my work is available on Amazon, and you can find details of what I do, as well as my latest published works, on my websites.

For young adult readers, visit: www.glennstuart.co,.uk

For adult material:  www.stuartgyates.com

Keep reading and thanks for dropping by.

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