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’!

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