Reminiscing

I was sitting down discussing with my granddaughter how we’re going to approach what will become an author interview.

We were talking about how old I was when it was I first wrote a story, and what was that story about.

OK, that sent me back a long way into the distant past.

There was also a trick question; “What was the first story you read that put you on the path to wanting to become a writer”.

That was easy, Alistair Maclean’s HMS Ulysses.  I showed her a copy of the book.

But, back to the main question.

Grandparents are old, I said, older than your parents, so that should give you some idea.

When did I start writing, that required a little thought, and there were several triggers that gave me a date, where we lived at the time, the fact I used my mother’s old portable typewriter, and the fact I had not been long out of school.  I was, in fact, about 17.  It was 45 years ago; I’ll let you do the math!

What was it about; that I couldn’t tell her, but I said I had rescued a lot of old scribbling of mine and put them in a box to look at later when I had the time.

I guess that time had arrived.

And, yes, there was the book, the individually typed pages, some with corrections, unfinished.

The pages were brown with age.

The story, well, I read the first few pages, and it seems I’d started down the thriller path then, the story so far, an agent comes ashore from a trawler to a bleak and isolated village, perhaps on the Scottish coast,

The next question, understandably; “What was the first book you ever finished?”  That was The Starburst Conspiracy, soon to be published on Amazon.

It also led to a few more discoveries, including a book I had forgotten I’d written. And all of the short stories I’d written when at University.

The interview is proceeding.

The memories it is bringing about my earliest forays into the world of writing are priceless.

Conversations with my cat – 6

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This is Chester.  He is giving me the ‘Come back when you’ve rewritten the start’ look.

Yet another ‘disagreement’ over such a small matter!

Here’s the thing.

Like many authors with cats, I like to use Chester as my audience of one, my sounding board.  It is better to be reading to him, rather than reading out loud by yourself.

Reading what you have written often points out tongue tangling or ‘drippy’ dialog, and  unfortunate mix ups in words.  Proof reading sometimes misses these.

Hitherto, Chester has been patient, lying on the floor, or sitting on the couch.

I guess a few pats doesn’t go astray in the process.

But, this morning, reading him the new start to ‘First Dig Two Graves’ the sequel to ‘The Devil You Don’t’, he just gave me one of his angry ‘meow’s’ and left.

Obviously he didn’t like it.

Of course, after I re-read it again, I could see the problem, so the days writing is not over yet.

It’s all about the Cover

And, of course, the description.

Probably one of the hardest things for a first-time author is not so much the writing but what is needed after the book is written.

You need a good description.  Short, sharp, incisive!

There’s a ream of advice out there, and I have read it all.

And, still, I got it wrong.

Then there is the cover.

I wanted simplistic, a short description to give the reader a taste of what’s in store, and let the story speak for itself.

No.

Apparently, a good cover will attract the reader to the book.

When I tendered my books on various sites to advertise them, sites such as Goodreads, and ThirdScribe, all was well with what I had done.

Then I submitted my books to a third site and they rejected the covers as too simplistic and the descriptions mundane, and wouldn’t post them.

Wow.

There’s a huge blow to the ego.  And just the sort of advice that would make a writer think twice about even bothering to continue.

But…

Perhaps the person who wrote that critique was being cruel to be kind.

At any rate, I am changing the covers, and rewording the descriptions.

Will it be a case of ‘what a difference a cover makes’?

Schedule, what schedule?

There are good days and there are bad days

Today is a bad day.

You know how it works, the night before you set out everything you’re going to do.

What could go wrong?

All those irritating little things have been taken care of, especially so you could spend this one day so you can ‘stick to the schedule’.

Those re-writes you were working on last night are just not coming together.

The three phone calls, the urgent request for a small job, the family member with a crisis (and how often is that crisis a storm in a teacup) and to top it off, the cat got shut out is now howling at the back door.

Concentration?  Gone!

Picture next morning.

No distractions.

Computer on, pages sitting in front of you, phone off the hook, no annoying calls, ideas are flowing.

You start…

The monitor dies.

Maybe tomorrow…

 

Typing those words ‘The End’ isn’t exactly ‘The End’, is it?

Can you actually say you know the exact moment a story is done, finished, and that’s it?

For me, the end never quite seems to be the end, that point where you finally draw a line in the sane and say, that’s it, I’m done, step away from the typewriter.

But are we ever satisfied the story is done, can we not make one more change, it’s just a little tweak, it won’t take long.

Please!

My editor tolerated three ‘minor’ changes.

Firstly, a change of name for a character

Secondly, consistency of word use, such as times and contractions

Thirdly, I wasn’t happy with the overall story, and it needed some more action.  More writing, more editing, more prevaricating.

It took three weeks to sort out all of those issues, and last night I send the final draft to the Editor.

It’s like watching your child go to school on their first day.  Not knowing what will happen but expecting everything will be fine.

This morning I sat in front of the computer, a blank sheet of paper on the screen.  I know it’s not a matter of starting the next story from scratch; I have so many started and finished, sitting in the wings to be ‘tinkered with’.

It’s my way of savoring the moment.

Just before I dive back into the murky waters.

I am my own worst enemy!

I think most authors are.

Just when you think that the story is done, and you’re on the third re-read, just to make sure…

Damn!

I don’t like the way that scene reads.

It doesn’t matter the last three times you read it, it was just fine, or, the editor has read it and the scene passed without comment.

What is the matter with me?

I find sometimes after leaving a finished story for a month before the next reading, the whole picture must formulate itself in my head, so when I re-read, there was always a problem, one I didn’t want to think about until the re-read.

Even then it might survive a second pass.

I know the scene is in trouble when I get to it and alarm bells are going off.  I find anything else to do but look at it.

So, here I am, third re-read, making major changes.

At least now I am satisfied with it.

Only 325 pages to go!

I’m in training for NaNoWriMo

It’s frightening to think that I have to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Yet I have done it before, last November in fact.  But I believed then I couldn’t do it but persevered and I surprised myself and finished up with a novel titled ‘The Enemy Within’.

Rather apt I thought at the time, writers are always battling those inner demons!

But this year, I’m in for the challenge once again.

Usually, I sit down and start writing, not sure where it’s going to take me.  Some say a book needs to be meticulously planned,

Characters planned down to their foibles,

Plot lines to drive the characters, adding twists and turns until the surprise ending that no one saw coming.

Even me.

All in 30 days?

Another issue I have is that when I start writing, it is not necessarily the ‘start’.

Some of my stories in the rewrite, or even when I’m halfway through, suddenly cry out for a new start, something relative to the plot earlier, or a missed detail will come to you, usually in the most unlikely place, and this for me is the shower.

This can cause a cascade of rewrites of earlier chapters.

Nothing a little planning might have resolved, but there will not be time.

Once again, it’s going to be a challenge.

At least I have a title, ‘The Document’.

I have the basis for the central character, a man who’s been existing, not living.  I have a clear idea of where it will end, but that could change as the story progresses.

I basically know where and when it will start.  I’ve always like the start to the James Bond films, that short period when the action of pulsating just before the credits, a small slice of what’s to come, but not today.  This is going to be a gentle nudge.

What’s in between?

That will be topics for November.  What I’ve written and where it’s going, if I have time.

Stay tuned.