Sunday, 18 April 2010

You'd think it would be easy... Help needed!

After a while, book promotion takes on a momentum of its own. I just received an invitation to Havant Festival in October 2010 - more of this later. It's lovely to receive invitations, but I don't want to be like the "gal who can't say no" and have turned down a couple of requests for talks during National Crime Fiction Week (14th-19th June). I'm already giving two talks after work that week, at Ruislip Manor Library on Tuesday 15th and Ickenham Library on Wednesday 16th, as well as my normal weekend bookshop events.
My second book, ROAD CLOSED, which hits the shelves in a couple of months, has already been selling well with preorders on amazon, which I'm absolutely thrilled about as I'm assuming these can only be readers who enjoyed CUT SHORT so much they're looking forward to ROAD CLOSED. So far so good.
I'm now busy writing (of course!) and am around 3/4 of the way through the first draft of DEAD END, the third in my series. I want check it, and research the fourth book in the series, over the summer.
When it comes to writing, creating a ficitious reality in words comes easily to me - I absolutely love doing it. The words just roll off the keyboard. Sometimes when I'm trying to get to sleep, an entire chapter unfolds in my head and I have to jump up and jot it down. Where I struggle is with the organisation (shudder). When I wrote CUT SHORT, it's no secret that I didn't plan. I just sat and wrote, for fun, for myself, with no idea anyone else would ever read my MS, let alone publish it. When I had to knock it into shape as a coherent book I got into a terrible muddle.
With ROAD CLOSED I was determined to make the process flow more smoothly and devised a detailed plan on a sheet of A3, writing down what each character was doing on each day through the investigation. Couldn't go wrong? Well, everything was going fine until I had to move a few chapters around. Muddle and mayhem, some tearing of hair and a few choice expletives, but I sorted it out in the end.
So, twice bitten... I wrote a 9 page detailed synopsis for DEAD END before I even started writing the MS...
... and here I am, 3/4 of the way through, and I've just shifted a chapter. This means about ten other chapters have to be moved around, and others reworked. Muddle and panic again.
Why not leave well alone, you might ask. My books (as I hope you know...) create authentic realism shot through with drama. If the day to day realism goes on for too long, it becomes dull. Who wants to read about boring the daily life of a police investigation? On the other hand, too much drama and terror in one section loses its impact. I'm very keen to make my books terrifying without becoming implausible. If my readers can really believe in the world I create, I think that's more frightening than if I pile on the horrors. There's no right or wrong about this. It's just my opinion. So the balance between realism and drama is crucial.
I was happily writing DEAD END and my agent suggested there was too long a patch of investigation, and then two hugely tense scenes built up at once. Of course I saw the sense in what he said. I would have reached the same conclusion myself when I come to review the whole shape of the book once the first draft is completed.
So I'm shifting chapters around again... with all the consequent changes. I can't have a character reminiscing about a scene before it's happened... or a Saturday night party taking place between Wednesday and Thursday... oh heck! I wish I was more organised!
The MS isn't due to be delivered until after the summer for publication in 2011, so there's no rush, but there are so many demands on my time. I don't have the luxury of being able to devote myself full-time to writing, and will be back at school tomorrow. And then there's the book promotion to fit in ...
Do other authors plan their books successfully before writing? And if so, HOW?

10 comments:

Star said...

I am in the initial stages of a romantic novel. That's new for me. I've always written mystery before. Now I want to diversify and try a different genre. However, I think a little mystery will creep in somewhere. I have my two main characters in my mind, but what will happen to them is still undecided. I know enough about romantic fiction to understand that they will want to be together but be unable to for some reason...the story will be about how they overcome the obstacles to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Which obstacles? Now I have to decide. I will make a list of possibilities and then choose...thinking cap on!
Blessings, Star

Leigh Russell said...

I like the idea of a little mystery creeping in somewhere... It sounds like fun, making the list of obstacles, and choosing. It sounds like you have the planning under control, Star. Good luck with it. I haven't played with other genres yet - haven't had time - but one day...

Hearth-mother said...

I have finished a draft of my first crime novel and have begun work on the second. No agent or publisher in sight, but hey ho, why should that stop me? But I am completely with you on the changing chapters thing. It plays havoc with the continuity and I find it really tedious to sort it all out!

Jennee said...

I've only ever finished writing one novel (still has massive editing needed...) but I really enjoyed just letting the story tell itself. I just wrote the words and did very little thinking and planning. It makes it a little more fun that way (atleast for me!)

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Hearth-mother - I agree, agents and publishers are great, but the really important aspect of all this is the writing.

Leigh Russell said...

Jennee, it's such fun to just write and let yourself go with the flow. Once you find a publisher and an editor gets his or her hands on your MS, you'll have a lot of work to do, editing and revising it for your readers. it sounds like hard work, but it's still fun!

Pat said...

I can't advise you but I know some writers find having a large wall surface as a blackboard useful - sounds a much better idea that sheaves of paper and one can easily shift things around, delete and add to it.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Pat - what a good idea - but I think I might end up doodling... and accidentally erasing something vital...

Guillaume said...

I guess my comment is more observations than help, but here it is. I for one like the "boring" aspect of police procedures and investigation techniques in a crime novel. It gives the whole thing more authenticity, I think. Ed McBain made his success with it, and so did the TV series The Wire. I also think investigation as a process in itself brings suspense.

Leigh Russell said...

Yes, Guillaume, I agree. In theory the detail of daily routine racks up the tension. The challenge is to write it without being boring!