Having a rethink

Since publishing my last e-book, Earthquake, I have been back to work – back to writing I mean because fortunately I no longer have a day job and can spend my time writing! While I was at work, I still wrote, but it had to be squeezed in among everything else, job, family, housework, stuff, but I completed several novels, and since I have been writing full-time, over the last five years, I have been editing and publishing them.

While I was editing, I found that the fact I was writing in odd bits of time really showed, and I had to really work hard at polishing them up, pruning them severely and knocking them into shape, before launching them on KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing. As well as six or so complete novels, there were a couple of unfinished stories; so, since Earthquake, I have gone back to one of these and have set to knocking what there is of it (about 70,000 words) into shape and getting to grips with completing it.

This novel, ‘The Story of Frederico Milan’ is as you might imagine about a man with that name; three years before the beginning of the novel, his wife left him and has not been seen since. Frederico assumed she had gone off with another man, her parents think Frederico has done something to her… The police have investigated and found nothing suspicious. As you might imagine from this starting point, Frederico is manipulated/blackmailed/forced by his parents-in-law into trying to find the truth about his missing wife.

I pulled the virtual manuscript off my virtual shelf and I have begun to edit it before writing the final part. I thought this would be a good way of keeping writing without all it takes to start a completely new novel (which I actually already have in my mind) However… in the eight or so years since I wrote the first part of Frederico, my writing has changed enormously; although the backbone of my style is the same, I guess (difficult to judge objectively) much else has changed – my voice, I guess you might call it.

The editing is really hard with this story, so much has to be changed, so much rewritten, so much excised… There are parts I really like, but a key factor of the plot is not just weak but unbelievable! The characters who start off being quite engaging seem to have become mere cardboard cutouts, with ludicrous too long conversations, and immature behaviour – doing things which might be believable in teenagers but don’t ring true with adults! … and yet, and yet the core is a good novel waiting to develop and emerge!

I had planned to edit the story so far, write the ending, edit it as a complete novel and then see what happens next! I had a bit of a revelation last night and I have come to a new decision:

  • continue editing (very strictly) to the end of the story as it is
  • rewrite the really poor parts (talk severely to the characters and get them to act their age)
  • describe the characters more fully and more objectively
  • excise the unbelievable and inconsistent parts
  • take a mighty scythe of ‘delete’ to much of the conversations
  • have more action and less chat
  • improve the descriptions of the settings – they are so vivid in my mind, but readers can only read words not what’s inside my head
  • put it to one side and write something else

The last point – putting it to one side, will offer the story one last chance; if when I come back to it I still feel despondent about it then maybe it is time to say farewell to Frederico, Erin, the Burnetts, Dr Goodrich and Father Apinski, and maybe leave Frederico’s wife unfound… However, I have a feeling that if I work hard at it now, with this new end in sight, then when I come back to it at the end of the year or next year, maybe I will do so with more enthusiasm!

Watch this space for news on Frederico, and also for news on my actual new novel!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493393195&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

When is enough enough? Talking about editing…

My next novel, Earthquake is finished… I am just doing all those last-minute things which must plague every author, especially self-publishing authors! I have been publishing my books for the last five years through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, KDP, and it has worked well… but each time, because I’m doing it myself, I have this last-minute fever of tweaking – and at some point it has to stop! (Yes, I know I said last-minute twice!)

Have I mentioned such and such enough? have I mentioned so and so too many times? Do I need a loner/shorter description, do I need any description? Is it clear what has just happened/is happening/is about to happen? Am I consistent with colour of eyes/nick-names/ways of speaking? Do I use too many swear words? Not enough? Are my characters irritating? Do I need to shorten that chapter? So I need to put those two chapters together? Have I repeated the same words/phrases/adjectives etc too often?

At some point I have to concede that either I carry on correcting until doomsday, or I finish and get the book out there!  I will let you know!

In the meantime, here is a link to the books I have published, and I would really appreciate your comments on my Amazon page, or here!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

… and by teh way, my next book s called ‘Earthquake’!

How did Tolstoy do it?

I’m working hard on editing my next novel Earthquake – and I think I’m in the last throes. I am on about the fourth complete read-through, plus various other ‘reads’ I did while I was still in the midst of it. Even with the extra help writers get these days from things like spell checkers, I have still found quite a few little errors, typos, not counting the other tweaks I’m doing as I go along.

My book is relatively short, less than 120,000 words… but think of Tolstoy with his monster books, think of Dostoyevsky or Dickens! Even if they had secretaries to write down their immortal prose, and really literate type-setters for printing the books, they must have had to read their works, they must have had to go back and forth to change little inconsistencies, let alone if they suddenly decided to change a character’s name from Igor to Ivan or Bessie to Betsey. I really do wonder how they did it in the past. They must have whole teams of editors and editing staff to check it all – no scrolling through pages on a screen, but rustling through real actual paper pages!

When I looked up long books it seems that some long books are actually several volumes of one narrative – I’m not sure I think that actually counts; something with twenty-seven volumes can’t really be counted as a single novel – in my opinion. The twenty-seven volumes I’m referring to is Men of Goodwill by Jules Roman, written in French and with over a million words.

Here is a really interesting blog about word-counts in books:

https://indefeasible.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/great-novels-and-word-count/

According to this, Tolstoy’s war and peace is over half a million words long and Crime and Punishment a mere couple of hundred thousand words… when you think of all the other published writing both these authors achieve d in their lives, it really is truly remarkable…

Here’s a link to all the books I have managed to edit and publish! Earthquake is the fifth in the Radwinter series, so if you haven’t read any of the others yet, you can catch up now!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

Exciting news! Nearly there!

It’s getting to those last few days, weeks of editing, sorting, checking, working on Earthquake, my next Thomas Radwinter story. I’m not completely sure the ending is quite right, those last few paragraphs and sentences are crucial, and it seems a bit flabby somehow… so I’m getting the feeling  I’ll need to think a bit more on how to actually write those last few words.

I’ve come across silly little errors, ‘gate’ instead of ‘gait’, those sort of things as well as words missed out or repeated… just typos really. There are other things I have had to change too. Because this is the fifth novel about Thomas Radwinter, there is a balance between making sure new readers understand the history to the family situation, and why Thomas is as he is, but not boring people who have followed his story from the beginning.  I also have to make sure I don’t give too much away to new readers about previous novels so it won’t spoil the excitement for them when they go back and read them – which I hope they do!

Right from the first book, the plots have been a mixture of Thomas’s personal life, genealogical mysteries, and other story-lines – and that too is a balance. Because I’m writing in the first person as Thomas, in the first drafts there is a lot of detail about his personal and family life, which actually is quite tedious. I need to write it so I have it clear in my head what is going on – but then it needs to be excised and the waffle slashed out, and just the outline of it. Having said that, there is a personal crisis in this story, so there needs to be a proper context for it – a tricky balance!

This may be the last Thomas book, but if it isn’t, I really think his home and family life needs to recede into the background a little – otherwise it will be more of a family saga than a mystery!

If you haven’t yet read any of my Radwinter books, or my other books, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

 

Just, actually…

I’m working on my mainly finished story, the next Radwinter e-novel to be published, doing what I suppose you could call housework, or housekeeping. I’m not changing the structure or reconfiguring the chapters/rooms, but I am dusting the window ledges/sentences and shelves/paragraphs, and hoovering the carpets/ eliminating repetitions.

When I write, I seem to have favourite words which I keep using over and over again – once it was ‘utter’ and ‘utterly’, another time it was ‘wow’, another time people kept sighing… this time, so far it’s the little words, ‘just’ and ‘actually’.

This is where spellchecks are so useful – imagine what it was like for Charles Dickens, or Tolstoy! I  used  search to find every time I used ‘just’… in fact it also called up ‘justified’, ‘justification’, ‘adjust’ and ‘Justyna’. I did keep quite a few ‘justs’, and some I changed to ‘only’ or ‘nearly’ or another word, but over three hundred (yes 300) were eliminated altogether. Although not nearly as tiring as reading the whole thing to find those repeats, it is still time-consuming and wearying – each one has to be weighed and considered before being kept, altered or cut.

I am now going on to ‘actually’…

My Radwinter stories are written as a first person narrative, and Thomas who recounts them does have a particular style of speaking as we all do; I want the reader to ‘hear’ his voice and get a sense of his character, but I don’t want the reader to be come fed-up with him because he does go on at such lengths about things. It is a very difficult balance…

back to actually…

Here is a link to where you can find my novels if you haven’t already read them!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

By the way, the featured photo is of a knitted balaclava with earflaps

The mumbling has stopped!

I am in the process of editing my next novel, called Earthquake; I just have a summing up sort of chapter to do, the cover, all the bits and pieces, and then I will send it to my proof-reader (my husband) then edit it myself again… and then… and then it might be ready, ready to swim out into the world!

It’s difficult to be objective about something you’ve been writing for so long, and thinking about it, and dreaming about it for even longer! I have different ways of checking and rechecking – and with this book in particular it is really complex, an abandoned child, a ghost story, and maybe a murder with twelve suspects (yes twelve, I must be mad!) I have finished the main body of the novel – just the last chapter when all is explained and all the loose ends tied up.

I have read it through once, and then I have read it through again – out loud! Yes, I sit here in my work room and read the whole story out loud, not murmuring but aloud as if I was reading to an audience. It is a really good way to spot errors and inconsistencies, boring and waffly bits, nonsense bits, and just plain silly or pretentious bits. This story is told in the first person so it is also a good way of making sure the ‘voice’ is consistent too.

My husband is working downstairs, and all he can here is a mumble from me up here. Well, the mumbling has stopped! Now back to work  correcting all the things I noted were wrong as I was reading. Simple spellings or errors I correct as I go, but where there are major mistakes, I just jot them down and come back to them so as not to break the flow.

Mumbling over, now back to work!

Crossing the ‘i’s and dotting the ‘t’s

Apart from a final finishing off chapter, a sort of postscript, I have finished the first draft of my next novel; now I have the editing to do.

There are the obvious checking for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors and peculiar punctuation (I’m an expert in all of these!) and then the more complicated, such as continuity, deleting bits where I (or my main character Thomas who is the narrator) have wandered off into the irrelevant (I blame Thomas), little bits of story line I started which led no-where or might be used in another story. I look for inconsistency, and whether the whole thing makes sense and will carry the reader along. This last one is crucial – even if the events in reality are preposterous, the writer should be able to carry the reader along and make sense of it within the fiction.

‘Earthquake’ is probably the most complex of Thomas’s investigations; It begins in what I hope will be a familiar and comfortable way for the reader, his wife asks him to research her family. Then a client rings him up with a most unusual and seemingly possible commission, to find out what happened at a small private boarding school nearly ninety years ago which resulted in the death of two young girls. A third commission is to do a bit of ghost hunting, an ex-partner asks him to investigate the apparent haunting of a small hotel she has just bought. Interwoven with this is a domestic family problem of his own which Thomas and his wife must come to grips with.

So… Thomas – and I – have worked our way through these different challenges, and all has been resolved, with, I hope an exciting ending – now I am worrying in case the ending seems too far-fetched? But that is the skill of the writer (I hope) to carry the reader along through what in real life would be impossible situations and events, and come through to a satisfactory conclusion.

The ninety year old mystery is a complex story; the way I write is usually just to start at the beginning and work my way through to the end with only a rough idea of where I am going. This might seem horrifying and really stupid to some writers, but for me, I feel that I can properly feel the confusion, surprise, bewilderment, thoughts, ideas, and course of action that my characters will take, just as in real life. We never know what is just around the corner, and nor does Thomas.

Now I have to check on the story lines of the girls from the school, check their names and dates, and relationships with each other, to make sure that when I changed things as the story progressed, the back story is complete and consistent – that, for example, someone’s name doesn’t get inadvertently swapped, that their family background doesn’t alter, and for these girls at school so long ago, that their friendship groups are constant, the ‘houses’ they are in are the same, and that looking back from the conclusion, there is a clear and unmuddled line back to the first event, the Earthquake which seemed to trigger all that followed.

If you haven’t read my other Thomas Radwinter books, or my other novels, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

My featured picture, by the way is our view over Hobart from our hotel room while we were in Tasmania…