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…

Sea stories

Yesterday I was commenting about how much naval and sailors idiom and slang is still in our language. I was actually writing about writing, but I deviated into thinking about words.

Here is what I wrote yesterday, and I have highlighted all the phrases and words I’ve used which have a connection with our maritime hertiage:

Over the last few days, I’ve had a good think about the story I’m at present writing… I started in about January and was soon underway and the narrative was raced ahead; all was flowing well and I’d been working at it off an on while editing another book; however I was a bit taken aback when I was checking it, tallying the wordcount etc, suddenly realised I was 4/5 through the expected length of it. There were so many plot lines which need to be tied up that I ran the risk of completely missing the mark, losing my readers and it was just going to be too long. It gradually began to dawn on me that I’d over reached myself, and I felt a bit overwhelmed. Actually, I felt utterly stranded, marooned in a sea of words. Was I just flogging a dead horse? Had I written so much for so long – especially with the long novel I’ve just finished – was I actually flaked out?

When I read it through some of it was fine, but to be honest, if I stepped back, stood off from it, some of it was rubbish, junk, bilge – if anyone still uses that word! I felt a bit adrift actually, in my heart I knew it needed a complete overhaul; I could see that some of it if not quite first rate, was ok, but some of it was just flimsy flannel!  I fiddled about taking little odd bits out here and there (I do overwrite! I get carried away with something in my head and go off on another tack and before I know it there’s a thousand words I don’t need!) I was getting a bit frustrated, and to be honest I was beginning to feel I hadn’t a clue where to go next with it! There were so many loose ends! The story was just drifting! I was feeling a bit despondent, and to quote ‘Groovy kind of love’ by the Mindbenders (remember them?), I was ‘feeling a little blue…’ So what could I do?

Suddenly I saw in a moment of clarity that a story line had to go! I excised it, and pasted it into a new document to keep for another time… and then last night, I realised that another story line was supernumerary… it too was cut out and saved. Suddenly, my dramatic action has put a new slant on things, and I felt ready to get cracking and attack the keyboard again! With new found emerging, powered by coffee I set to work and suddenly I was forging ahead, the words were flying onto the page/screen!

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

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Alois+elsden&keywords=lois+elsden&ie=UTF8&qid=1477396341

Clearing the decks

Over the last few days, I’ve had a good think about the story I’m at present writing… I started in about January and was soon underway and the narrative was racing ahead; all was flowing well and I’d been working at it off an on while editing another book. However I was a bit taken aback when I was checking it, tallying the wordcount etc, and suddenly realised I was 4/5 through the expected length of it.

There were so many plot lines which need to be tied up that I ran the risk of completely missing the mark, losing my readers, and it was just going to be too long. It gradually began to dawn on me that I’d over reached myself, and I felt a bit overwhelmed. Actually, I felt utterly stranded, marooned in a sea of words. Was I just flogging a dead horse? Had I written so much for so long – especially with the long novel I’ve just finished – was I actually flaked out?

When I read it through some of it was fine, but to be honest, if I stepped back, stood off from it, some of it was just rubbish, junk, bilge – if anyone still uses that word! I felt a bit adrift actually, in my heart I knew it needed a complete overhaul; I could see that some of it, if not quite first rate, was ok, but some of it was just flimsy flannel!

I fiddled about taking little odd bits out here and there (I do overwrite! I get carried away with something in my head and go off on another tack and before I know it there’s a thousand words I don’t need!) I was getting a bit frustrated, and to be honest I was beginning to feel I hadn’t a clue where to go next with it! There were so many loose ends! The story was just drifting! I was feeling a bit despondent, and to quote ‘Groovy kind of love’ by the Mindbenders (remember them?), I was ‘feeling a little blue…’ How could I get over this… what could I do?

Suddenly I saw in a moment of clarity that a story line had to go! I excised it, and pasted it into a new document to keep for another time… and then last night, I realised that another story line was supernumerary… it too was cut out and saved. Suddenly, my dramatic action had put a new slant on things, and I felt ready to get cracking, ready to attack the keyboard again! With new found energy, powered by coffee, I set to work and suddenly I was forging ahead, the words were flying onto the page/screen!!

As I was getting showered this morning, I was thinking about this, and the expression, ‘cleared the decks‘ which  originally came from sailors literally clearing the decks. Just yesterday I was listening to the radio and in a news item, nothing to do with the sea or sailing, the presenter used two nautical expressions, ‘calm before the storm‘, and ‘on an even keel‘.

I’ve thought this before, but it’s amazing how many words and phrases we still use in everyday English, and many of us don’t even realise they come from our maritime heritage. There are some words which come from hundreds of years ago and wouldn’t have any bearing at all on boats, ships and the navy now… ‘bearing on’ that must originate from being on ships and using a compass!

Here is just a selection of phrases we use everyday – I’ve taken them from a longer list from a great site to do with the sea and our maritime history:

  • Take someone down a peg or two
  • Three sheets to the wind
  • Take the wind out of someone’s sails.
  • Touch and go
  • Try a new tack
  • Under the weather
  • Under way
  • Weather the storm
  • Whole nine yards
  • Windfall
  • Zigzag/ zigzagged

If you haven’t read my novels yet, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=loiselsden

… and here is the interesting site about our long association with the sea:

http://see-the-sea.org/

By the way… If you’re interested, I’ve actually used lots of naval/maritime slang in my first few paragraphs… Watch this space to find out which are which!

I’ve just had another thought!

A couple of days ago as I was working on my next Radwinter novel, provisionally entitled ‘Earthquake’, I had a sudden realisation that it was just too complicated – there were just too many story lines.

There were two main stories – a genealogical investigation by my main character Thomas into a possible crime committed nearly ninety years ago, and a haunted hotel which he was also looking into. As well as this he was  researching his half-Tobagan wife’s English ancestry and as a family they were dealing with a niece who had come to live with them. So that is four story-lines, oh and there is an amnesiac woman, plus the ongoing stories about Thomas’s brothers Marcus, Paul and John and the various situations they find themselves in…

So, a couple of days ago I suddenly realised it was too much! The wife’s family tree could be saved for another story! Using modern technology, i.e a computer, it is simple to go through the manuscript and take out what you don’t want and then save it somewhere else for future use. Because of the way I have written the story, the different strands are separate, so it wasn’t too tricky.

Back to work today, working on the haunted hotel line… and another thought came gradually upon me. There is still too much to squeeze into one novel; my last novel which I published, ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ was long, and complicated, and took a lot of writing and a lot of editing… My Thomas stories are shorter – not sagas, but normal sized novels. I was pleased with ‘Lucky’ and think it was the right length and with enough strands for the story it told… but ‘Earthquake’ needs to be shorter.

So this afternoon I took out the amnesiac woman – she is intriguing enough to feature in another story, so she’s quite safe in a file saved here for another time.

Now back to my writing… oh, and if you haven’t read ‘Lucky Portbraddon‘, my Radwinter stories, 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