Hooray for the rewrites!

A common question people ask me when I tell them I’m writing a novel is whether I get frustrated rewriting the same story over and again. The simple answer is: No. I find it fascinating how, by making a few changes, you can alter the quality of the story so dramatically. A few extra sentences can help the reader understand a character better, by including the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) you can transport the reader into the scene rather than just letting them see it. And, as my recent experience shows, reshuffling a few scenes and cutting back the word count can improve the pace dramatically.

A few weeks ago I posted a blog celebrating the fact I had *finished* the novel. After ten rewrites, countless edits and a bit of rejigging I was happy with it. And I was!

Until…

I had a proofreading epiphany.

I realised I could make it better, far better, by rewriting the last bit. Again.

So, I sectioned off six chapters and pretty much deleted them. I rewrote the section, combing the action, twists and plot drivers into three chapters and, in doing so, managed to speed up the pace and reduce the word count.

Then, whilst re-reading to make sure I hadn’t missed anything out, I discovered I could delete a later chapter entirely just by adding a few sentences to the previous.

Far from being frustrated I found the experience challenging and hugely rewarding. The book’s in a much better shape and offers a greater reader experience, making it more attractive to the reader.

And the more attractive it is to the reader the more attractive it will be to agents and publishers!

 

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Call me…Super Dooper Chapter Hooker!

This shall be my superhero name. Hmmm, maybe it’s a tad inappropriate…

The hook. That jazzy little nugget that keeps your reader reading past the first few pages. But you can’t just stop there, oh no no no! You have to keep on hooking until your book is like the scratchy side of Velcro and your reader the fuzzy fur that sticks.

Oh, I do like an analogy.

Anyway. This week, as you may have guessed, I’ve been all about hooks. More precisely (after some much needed advice from the writing guru that is Simon Hall @thetvdetective) I have been looking at the hooks in my chapter endings.

I have a habit of ending chapters. And that, my friends, is not how a chapter should, errr, end. You don’t want the reader to put the book down at the end of a chapter; you want them to read the next one. And if, heaven forbid, they do put the book down you want to make sure that they damn well pick it up again.

Remember my foreshadowing angst? I do. I really do. Even more so now that I am having a similar angst in the shape of chapter endings and getting that gosh darn hook just right. I’m terrified that I’ll give too much away. Or, worse, I won’t give enough away and the reader will give up. Give up!

A final sentence phrased just so, a hint that something big is coming, something you really don’t want to miss. A little promise to your reader: read on, you won’t regret it.

I’m ready C L Taylor’s new book, The Missing, at the moment. Taylor is intimidatingly good at chapter hooks. Each ending makes you want to read on, or makes you second guess everything you thought you knew, or leads you to believe you have the answers before mercilessly ripping them away and leaving you gasping for air. I told you, she is SUPER good at chapter hooks.

And, as the best way to learn to write well is to read well, I’m going to delve back into this bad boy and see if I can’t learn a few tricks!

A sofa of one’s own

Office, study, a room of one’s own.

This space, call it what you will, features heavily in my daydreams at the moment, particularly those “winning the lottery” fantasies. A light room with high ceilings, bookcases on each wall, a window with a view. A space to write.

But is it really necessary? Do you have to have a space of your own, quiet and private?

I certainly don’t at the moment.

I am writing this on the sofa, next to my two children who are having their daily dose of cartoons (because, as well as a writer, I am quite clearly mother of the year.)

Later, when they are blissfully asleep and dreaming of the day Mummy’s book is published and they can finally go to Disney Land (why did I promise this, WHY????) I will get some more time. Then, it will be my husband on the sofa beside me, his headphones plugged into the television so I won’t get distracted by the noise.

I affectionately call the sofa my office, as it’s the place I’ve been writing for the past two years. I set it up with pretty much all the cushions (Dominic gets to keep one for himself, the lucky devil) and block out the world so I can concentrate on my work.

My writing space is hardly the beautifully antique-furnished office of my dreams. My view is of the silent television and my patient husband. If I look to the right I see the toys we couldn’t be bothered to tidy up.

And I’m writing this all on a laptop stuck together with gaffers tape.

But, though it’s far from a daydream, my writing space does prove something very important. I can write anywhere. Peace, silence, space, privacy…these are all bonuses, but far from essential.

The only essential thing is that, wherever you find the time and a place to rest your keyboard, you write.

And maybe daydream a little, too.

PICK ME! I’ll make all your dreams come true….

Aaaah, agent hunting. The weird experience of trying to find someone who likes my work enough to sign me up to their agency.

It’s the publishing equivalent to internet dating. The agents all smiling their most beguiling smile, with bios that sound attractive, listing what they’re looking for in prospective authors. Choose me, they cry, we’ll be a perfect partnership, a publishing dream team! Take a look at my other wives and see if you’ll fit in….

Because, unlike internet dating, you aren’t looking for someone to whisk you away and form a monogamous relationship. You’re looking for someone who, ideally, already has a few successful marriages on the go and wants to add you to their polygyny.

But how, in God’s name, do I choose? Not only are there sooooooo many but, more infuriatingly, they all pretty much describe themselves in the same way. The agencies all proffer a list of bestselling novels, award winning authors and agents who go above and beyond to make sure your work gets the best representation possible.

So, what am I looking for? Whose slush pile to I want to dive into head first, screaming PICK ME PICK ME!? In my ‘A’ list I’ve been concentrating on those who have existing relationships with my favourite publishers, have worked with authors I admire and write similar novels to myself, who actively use social media to promote their authors and are (obviously) accepting submissions.

Even then, my A list is too long.

I could go soul searching, I suppose. Stare at my reflection with a whimsical look on my face. I could enter my favourite of favourite places, my Sherlock-esque mind palace, and search for the answer there.

Or, I could face up to the less romantic truth.

I’m an unpublished author. I just want someone to say yes!