Adventures in Writing – two thoughts

Two items this month, which I hope interest you.
A few days ago, I received the final edits from my publisher of my latest novel ‘Whipped Up’ (the second in the Paul Chaise series, which began with ‘Burnt Offerings’) and it started me thinking about the whole editor/author partnership and how vital it is.
Nowadays, with the explosion of self-published books, an entire industry has surfaced, one which I assume has always been there, lurking in the deep shadows, but which now is everywhere to see. I am bombarded by emails, as well as adverts on Facebook, for book-publishing services, editors, gurus, marketing advice, videos and blogs telling me how wonderful it is to be self-published. I’m not going to get into all the pros and cons of that, I’ve said it all before, but what struck me are some very simple facts.
For a book to be even moderately successful, it not only has to have at its core a good story, it has to readable. This means fundamental aspects of grammar, syntax, spelling. No matter how good we might think we are, a second, or indeed third eye looking through our work, is essential. But nothing beats a good editor. Someone who has the knack to notice what you never did, even after the fourth draft. Stupid things like ‘an’ when it should have been ‘and’, or, what I am particularly guilty of, mixing up people’s names. My editor has such an eye; she asks such incisive questions, forcing me to think deep about my reasons for writing a particular line, or even using a particular word. Whatever your level, you need and editor, and a damned good one at that.
So, how do you find one? I have no idea. This is one of the many reasons why I steer clear of self-publishing. It’s a minefield. Do you put in a search, look out for recommendations, what? I read somewhere there are now almost as many writers as there are readers. You only have to go on Amazon to see the numbers. It’s mind-blowing, all the wannabees out there. And they’ll all be using these ‘services’, so the opportunity to make lots of money is so easy. The vast majority of self-pubbed writers will never write a second book, some will write more and they will be as dreadful as the first, and a tiny few will work hard, improve their craft, and make a modicum of success. This demands hard work, determination and, most fundamental of all, a love of writing. It’s not something you can be taught to do, not matter what the hype or the power-salespeople tell you. Read good fiction, not ‘How to be a Writer’. Be consumed with the desire, work at it, treat it as a job, and always carry a notebook. Write, write, and write some more. But please, don’t pay attention to the so-called experts. Ever wondered why they’re not writing fiction? How many great authors have written how-to books? I mean books, not articles. Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, a few others. But not many. Best thing, write your book as if your life depends on it and get yourself a publisher and with it, a good editor. It’s all free and that, in this mad, mad world in which we live, has got to be a good thing!

I’ve been writing a novel recently, one which explores the fascinating world of reincarnation, parallel universes and how our present is shaped by the past. I included some scenes from the reign of Richard II of England, the king who, at the tender age of fourteen, stood up to Wat Tyler during the Peasants’’ Revolt, lied and succeeded in maintaining his power. Well, he was much more than that. It appears he was easily led, may have been in lust with one of his favourites (how many times does that happen in history! My God, what a list it is, of kings having it away with their bosom pals!) and struggled ceaselessly with the nobility. He fell out famously with one Henry Bolingbroke and that, ultimately, was his undoing. When Bolingbroke invaded England to claim the throne from the deeply unpopular Richard, he had the former-king incarcerated in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire. He was never seen again.
Shakespeare, in his play, had Richard murdered whilst imprisoned. Historians have cast some doubt on this, but the truth is nobody actually knows. In my book, I played around with this idea and came up with one of my own. And as I wrote, I gained quite an affection for Richard. A tragic figure who simply faded away. I teach history, and his story is never touched upon in school, but I see him just as worthy of investigation as William II’s death, or the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. One of the joys of writing historical fiction is we can play around with the facts. We don’t know everything and never will. It’s too long ago. And there lies the opportunity for our imagination to be let free! I love writing historical fiction and can’t wait to get my teeth into the third volume of my Hardrada series. My first volume is doing quite well, so why not check it out for yourselves over on Amazon. ‘Varangian’ is a fast-moving tale of double-crossing royals and generals, of fighting men and servant girls, all set in the magnificent city of Constantinople. The second volume, ‘To be King of the Norse’ is now with the publisher and should be out in the autumn. After that, I think I might just delve ever more deeply into the tragic world of Richard II. Sounds like a plan!
Thanks for stopping by and please, if you get the chance, take a look at my website for more information about my work. http://www.stuartgyates.com.
Keep reading everyone!

 

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