Respect your readers

I’m always very ready to accept ideas or to listen to good suggestions – for most things, but writing in particular! I write on my own (although I belong to a very helpful and friendly writing group, we share specifically written pieces rather than discuss on going projects!) and I self-publish so I don’t have an editor (but I do have a proof reader, plus kind friends who give honest criticism) … so any advice or suggestions I can find elsewhere I give serious consideration to!

I came across this headline:

5 Essential Pieces of Advice You Need Before You Publish

I immediately read it through, and although some of the advice was more relevant to me than other bits, it was all sound. The ‘5 Essential Pieces of Advice’ are:

  • Editing is VERY important
  •  Marketing can’t be avoided!
  • Reach out to other authors for advice
  • Research publishing – what’s a good fit for you?
  • Respect your readers, and the craft itself

This is the order in which they appear, but if I was to put them in order of importance to me – just my thoughts, you understand, they would be like this:

  1. Respect your readers, and the craft itself 
  2. Editing is VERY important
  3. Reach out to other authors for advice
  4. Research publishing – what’s a good fit for you?
  5.  Marketing can’t be avoided!

I was thinking about the first point – writing is about the audience as well as the writer! it took me a long time to understand the importance of ‘audience’ a very long time.

Here is something I wrote while ago but I think it is still very true:

I made a commented recently about the importance of not falling in love with my characters… and I had some great comments which I really appreciated, but it made me realise I need to make it clearer what I mean. I sometimes think that writers, particularly of a series of novels, that they become so close to their characters that they are no longer objective about them and become almost indulgent. I don’t wish to criticise P.D. James  heaven forbid! She actually is an old girl of the school I attended in Cambridge and a wonderful writer, a great writer. I, along with other people  will never forget the way she took apart the Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, when she interviewed him in 2009… however… however… I think she is too indulgent with her detective, Adam Dalgliesh. I haven’t read her latest Dalgliesh mysteries so I may need to retract this statement!
Someone commented that a fiction writer is the creators and so makes the rules… I suppose that is true to a certain extent, especially for great writers… However, but I’m just an ordinary writer, a story-teller, and I want people to read my work so like it or not, to a certain extent I have to conform to a certain structure and convention. It’s the same as if I were a performer, I would want people to watch me, so maybe I would have to compromise in order to get that audience. As a writer, especially an unknown writer seeking an audience I might sometimes have to adjust what I write to catch people’s interest, and then sustain it… and yet I must continue to be  my own person and true to what I want to do.
I do love my characters, I really do, in fact there is one who I am almost ‘in love’ with! If you have read my three published novels you might like to guess who that is! I guess what I mean by not falling in love with them is that I should also try and see them objectively so they behave within the context of the plot in a consistent and believable way. maybe I should have used the word indulgent, perhaps I believe I shouldn’t be too indulgent with them.
My characters are important to me, really important, they live with me after all! They continue on with their lives long after the story has ended… just because there is nothing more for my readers doesn’t mean the characters don’t continue their lives and adventures!
As a reader I love it when characters stay with me…  and so they do when I write; I just don’t want to become too close to them!

In this piece I mention I’ve published three novels – well, I have now published twelve as e-readers, and one is available as a paperback. I would really appreciate your comments, and criticism, so here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_8?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+els%2Caps%2C140&crid=3A6GAQYMCT6PP

Here is a link to the article ‘5 Essential Pieces of Advice You Need Before You Publish’ – I really recommend you read it!:

http://services4authors.com/2017/05/23/5-essential-pieces-of-advice-you-need-to-hear-before-you-publish/

From Brighton to Great Yarmouth

A couple of days ago I confided here that I had got myself in a bit of a pickle with the book I am writing at the moment. I suddenly realised there was a great flaw in the family history of one of the characters; I’d made a bit of a blunder and written a whole series of episodes based on a premise which was wrong in various ways… it doesn’t matter what the ways were, the point I was pondering was what I should do.

I do a lot of thinking about my writing when I’m doing other things, driving somewhere, waiting for something or someone, in the hour or so before I fall asleep and a similar amount of time as I wake up the next morning. So, I stared at the screen a lot, reread the thread which would have to be rewritten, played about with various history sites and a few genealogical ones too… then this morning I got it!

I must admit I thought it would be a massive rewrite and lots of checking, but in fact, I’ve managed to rescue quite a lot… The scene changed from Brighton to Great Yarmouth and a couple of places in Norfolk; a convalescent home which became an asylum, and then a home for soldiers wounded in WWI, then a school, then another convalescent home for WWII soldiers and then a complex of fancy apartments (yes a complex thread!), became a tuberculosis sanatorium which was then bombed in WWI (yes, Norfolk and other east coast places were bombed in the first world war); details of the patients, the doctors and nurses, the neighbours who lived near the sanatorium also had new identities… and I think these changes have made the story better, more interesting, and with a greater scope for intriguing story lines and plot twists.

Much greater writers than me have had disasters, losing manuscripts, servants burning them, leaving them on trains etc… nothing a dramatic or disastrous for me, but I have realised that sometimes out of things going wrong, things going very much better can happen! … actually that’s a bit like life really!

Here’s a link to my novels… I’ve had to do a few rewrites on them too, I can tell you!!

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

 

In need of a rethink

There’s an awful lot of thinking that has to happen before I can get writing… Sometimes it is a sort of subliminal thinking, a sort of mental playing about with a few scraps of ideas, the sort of things I mention when I’m writing here – a ragbag of odd names, unexpected facial expressions, ‘what if’ moments, fleeting glimpses of things, overheard scraps of conversation, vague and tenuous drifts of leftover dream on waking, misunderstood or misheard comments, graffiti, juxtaposed images, memories, odd news items, strange weather, rivers and seas and rivers meeting seas…

Then, for me, there’s a gradual coming together and the beginning of some form, and then I start – and usually when I start (which may not necessarily be at the beginning of the story) words come out in a stupendous rush, and ideas coalesce and form and reform, and strange branches of thought go off in all sort of directions. Sometimes I’m taken up with an idea – sometimes it needs a lot of research and I plunge into that in a fury, and write and write.

Then comes the more staid workmanlike work (is that tautology?) All the other things continue – the mental playing about, the coalescing, the sudden spurts of enthusiasm and inspiration, but it’s more formed now, following the pattern of the narrative.

And then… and then sometimes comes a realisation that there has been an error – maybe it’s something simple like a character’s name or description isn’t right, or that two characters have become confused, or there is a gap where a crucial explanation is missing, or something is written so badly it just has to come out and be rewritten, or there is a whole thread which doesn’t fit at all and needs to be extracted and maybe saved for another story. These things are a bit annoying, but only a bit… lots of work, but it’s all OK.

And then… and then and then there is the major blunder. I am about thirty thousand words into a new story so it’s not a disaster – at least I haven’t finished the first draft and suddenly seen the major blunder!  I have several story lines, a family history, a stalker, the looking for/finding/buying a new house, a jealous ex-husband, not a missing but a found person – a found person who is also amnesiac, and then there are all the general plotlines around characters – their lives and loves etc.

As I was doing some extra research for my imagined family history, it suddenly came to me that I had made a fundamental error of judgement and would need to rethink the whole story of this family’s genealogy. Not a disaster, of course, I can do that… but it’s just irritating that I spent so much time working it out and researching it in the first place, and now not only do I need to unpick it, but also create a new history for them!

Here’s a link to my books which did make it through to being published – they all had a lot of rewriting in them, I hope you can’t see the joins! My novels are all e-readers, except ‘Radwinter’ which is also published as a paperback:

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

Piecing it together

I guess each writer has their own way of working, and what seems the most obvious and straightforward and sensible thing to do for one person, seems eccentric to say the least for someone else. Some people like lists  and flow charts, tick sheets and filing cards and have planned the whole thing meticulously before they even start writing the introduction, others just plunge in completely randomly and make it up as they go along… I am not exactly a plunge right in at random person – but neither am I a plans and lists person.

I guess I do a lot of planning before I actually start (most of the time – but there have been stories which I just randomly started writing!)  but my planning is mental, I spend car journeys, or waiting in queues, or pondering as I drift into sleep, I think of characters, and situations, and puzzles and coincidences, and weird things which happen to ordinary people. During this period I might do a little bit of prospective writing, maybe a few pages, maybe a few chapters; usually these embryonic starts are abandoned, sometimes they get rewritten, sometimes they become something else completely, sometimes they are included almost as they were first written.

As my writing proceeds I do occasionally do jottings on paper – when I wrote my first Radwinter novel I had huge sheets of paper with family trees, because it was so complicated – for me, not the reader, I hope! I had tried to follow the pattern of a lot of families, with recurring names – names from parents, grandparents, ancestral and maternal surnames included, but I had to make sure it was clear in my mind, in order for it to be clear to the reader!

In the sequel to ‘Radwinter’, ‘Magick’ – the maternal line of the family, I also had mighty sheets of paper with family trees, because at one point a family changed its name, there were several branches of the family which interwove, there were all sorts of complications – for me – once again, I hoped the story was clear and uncomplicated for people reading it!

In the new, as yet untitled Radwinter novel, which I’m getting into, there is a genealogical investigation, but it is quite linear and so not too complicated (although there are mysteries, of course!) but I have another task which needs to be sorted out before I get full-on with the actual writing. You see, in my previous book in the series, ‘Earthquake’, there were as usual several story lines – but a couple too many! I had done a lot of writing, so, with the wonders of modern technology, I was able to cut out the extra storylines, and save them for another time.

This is what Earthquake was originally:

  • a family tree/history/genealogy
  • the mystery of a school girl who died in 1931, and her twelve classmates
  • an earthquake (of course, since it’s the title of the novel!)
  • a new arrival in the Radwinter family, a new arrival who has an unhappy history
  • two of the four Radwinter brothers struggling in different ways with what I guess you could call ‘personal issues’
  • a young woman with amnesia
  • a haunted hotel
  • the everyday story of Thomas Radwinter and his family
  • an old cake-making gentleman

… so you can see it would have been far too long and far too complicated! The main stories I cut out were the family history  story, and the girl who had lost her memory. I had written nearly forty thousand words on these, so you can see it would have been a very long book indeed.

Now, in my new Radwinter story, there is plenty of room, to use these story-lines, much slimmed down I have to say, but there are also other new ‘adventures’ too!

  • one, if not two stalkers (of different characters)
  • house-hunting
  • obsessive jealousy/possessiveness

Because most of my stories are set in the small imaginary seaside town of Easthope, it has struck me that characters from different novels must ‘know’ each other. The manager of the bookshop (owned by a character from ‘The Double Act’) in the town, must know or at least know of, the most famous local writer who was a main character in my 2016 novel, ‘Lucky Portbraddon’… and somehow in this new novel, characters from ‘Night Vision’ have started to appear! I don’t know how they sneaked in!!

So… back to my weaving!

Here are links to my books:

Radwinter:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B00IFG1SNO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1496132827&sr=8-3&keywords=lois+elsden

Magick:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00OHV4MR0/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

night vision:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1496132827&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

The Double Act

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1496132827&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

Lucky Portbraddon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=pd_sim_351_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=H7BX6ANG1G2CJJHPG62N

…and all my stories:

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

 

 

Farholm Island again

Most of my books are set in an imaginary location; they centre round the small seaside of town of Easthope, which is quite old-fashioned and doesn’t have that many visitors, a little backwater really where the residents just carry on their own lives. nearby is the small city of Strand which has a new marina, an old harbour, and an old old harbour at the small neglected suburb of Hamwich. There are other villages around and about, a forest, some hills, and another post-industrial town, which is falling into neglected decline. Off the coast is an island called Farholm.

The first novel I published as an e-book on Amazon through KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing, was set on Farholm Island and called just that ‘Farholm’!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1493885514&sr=8-8&keywords=lois+elsden

I have been editing a book I wrote many years ago; it isn’t finished, and I’m in two minds whether to finish it now, or once edited, put it aside for a while – there needs more work on it than I intended. I will finish it and publish it one day, but maybe not just yet.

The plot follows the main character Frederico Milan, whose wife, Susannah, left him three years ago and has never been heard of since. He thought she left him for another man, her parents think he killed her. His  mother-in-law is about to have a very serious operation, and his father-in-law is sent off the rails a bit by this. He threatens to hurt Frederico’s friends if he doesn’t either say where Susannah is, or find her! There are various reasons why Frederico can’t go to the police, so off he sets on Susannah’s trail, helped by his friend Erin, who he calls ‘E’. They’ve heard that Susannah maybe on Farholm Island… So they go to see if they can find her…

Here is a little extract:

Erin was secretly amused at the childish side of Frederico. They’d bought their tickets and parked up in the ferry terminal carpark and were now they waiting by the slipway. He kept wandering off, down the pier to look across the channel to Farholm, to peer over the end as if hoping to see fish, back to Erin then away again to look at what the notice said above the ancient sea-mine painted red and with a slot to take money in aid of bereft mariners.
“The ferry’s coming!” he exclaimed, excited.  He looked better than he had for weeks, the bruises fading, shaved and having slept well. And he was off on an adventure.
“But it’s so small,” Erin looked in alarm at the small vessel slowing to dock.
“What did you expect? A cross-channel ferry?”
“Well, I thought we could have a coffee to pass the time,” she said.
“And do some duty-free shopping while we were there?”
To Erin the ferry wasn’t just small but tiny! The back end came down with a crash and two vans reversed slowly even as the couple of dozen foot passengers swarmed busily off the ferry.
Frederico saw her expression and hugged her.
The small group waiting to board the ferry moved forward in a gaggle; Erin had bullied Frederico into planning and insisted he brought an overnight bag, just in case. He seemed to think they would go to the hippy village, ask if Susannah was there, receive a ‘no’ and come straight back. His overnight bag was a plastic bag with a toothbrush and clean underwear.
“Oh God, I don’t like this,” said Erin, feeling the boat move beneath her.
Frederico laughed; they found seats, stacking chairs reminiscent of the classroom but he guided her to the side of the boat and began to point out features along the coast.
“It’s ok, Ferdy,  he’s just being a pain in the arse  – Hey! Look!  Is that a seal? Look Ferdy, over there?” she was distracted and excited as she pointed out the small grey head with inquisitive eyes watching the boat.
The engine revved and there was a grinding and groaning as the back end closed and a shuddering clang and then the small ferry lurched off the slipway with a grinding squeal of metal against concrete.
“Oh shit, I don’t like this,” Erin grabbed Frederico’s arm as the boat rocked and the colour fled her face leaving her grey.
“Oh dear, E, you don’t like this, do you?” Frederico was trying to be sympathetic but he was laughing. “We haven’t even left the harbour,” he chuckled. “Look you can see the island!  Can you see the cliffs at the west end? That’s where the bird sanctuary is, there are fantastic views and the birds are just wonderful. I wonder if it’s the right time of year for puffins? They are so cute –  and can you see the humpy bit that looks like a whale’s back? Can you see it E? Look, look at the island, can you see the cliffs and the humpy bit?”
Erin dragged her gaze from the churning grey sea and stared at where Frederico was pointing.
“Well, it’s about there that the Community is.”
“Do you really think Susannah is there?” Erin asked distracted from the sea.
“I don’t know E, I was thinking about that last night. Trying to remember what she said… But it’s no good. You’re right on one thing though, something I’d sort of forgotten, she was really into all this new age stuff. She’d taken to casting her runes each night. I tried not to be sceptical but it just seemed so silly.”
“Well, lots of people cast runes or read their horoscopes…”
“Yeah…  I thought it was just an interest, but looking back now…  whenever either of us was ill, it was flower remedies, shiatsu massage, crystals… I mean crystals… I lay there starkers with semi-precious stones all over me!”
Erin burst out laughing but the boat turned as it came to a current, yawed and rolled and Erin’s face lost any remaining colour as she hung over the side. The boat settled into a more regular roll and ride, and after a while she stood upright.
“Keep talking,” she muttered.
“I didn’t think it was weird at the time, it didn’t happen overnight, but at the end, she was different.”
The boat bucked and quivered as the engine vibrated and Erin leaned over the rail and was sick. All Frederico could do was to stand with her and commiserate, a slight smile on his cherubic features.
To Frederico the crossing was quick; to Erin it was endless, and all the time she was aware that there would be a return journey. The crossing took fifty minutes until, to Erin’s  enormous relief, the boat grounded on the slipway of Farholm harbour.

Here is a link to my other e-books:

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

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’!