Finish the first draft

I’m a writer who finds it impossible to plot out the entire story before I begin, and I’ve found that the best way to work is to keep writing to the end (no matter how rubbish it is). I don’t go back to polish what I’ve already written, otherwise, I’d never finish the damn thing. Once I have a first draft, then the real work begins.

Silent Voices

Silent Voices

Editors are guardian angels

When I secured my first Bookouture publishing contract, I had no idea what the editing process was all about. I soon learned, and in time I embraced it. My editor, Lydia Vasser Smith, is my right hand at the moment. She can see things I thought I’d written but hadn’t; things I wrote but were unnecessary. You get the gist. My editor supplements my writing by possessing skills I don’t have. Team work is everything.

Write every day

What works for me is to write every day. I have an awful memory and if I leave the story for a couple of days (or, God forbid, a week) I honestly can’t remember what I’ve already written just two or even ten chapters earlier. And that causes me untold misery. What happens when I can’t remember what’s gone before? I end up writing the same thing twice. Word for word. There must be a name for this affliction! But to keep the story fresh, I sit at the laptop each morning and write. Every day. My deadlines are too tight to be writing the same thing twice!

Character names

I tend to create a lot of characters in my multi-layered plots so naming my characters is very important. I need the reader to remember the characters by name even if the physical description is sparse. So how do I get names for these fictional characters? Sometimes I sit in front of the TV watching the multitude of names at the end of a film scroll before my eyes. I write down a forename from one, and a surname from another and so on. Another device I use is when I’m strolling around the cemetery I read the names of long dead people inscribed on headstones; I can resurrect them in my novels. I mostly mix up surnames and forenames and try to keep a log of the names I’ve used in previous novels.

Find and replace – use with caution

I’ve learned the hard way to stop and think before I use the Find and Replace tool on Word. I had a character called Ted in one of my books and his name was Ted Bannon. Somehow I kept imagining Ted Bundy so I had to change it. I clicked Find and Replace and OMG, every single word in the book that ended in ted, changed to Giles, the new name I’d picked!

Imagine it. She waited became she waitgiled. He wanted became He wangiled. You get the picture. After a lot of tearing out of hair and gnashing of teeth, and frantic phone calls to my tech savvy friends, I succeeded in correcting my error. I won’t make that mistake again.

Back up like there’s no tomorrow

What would happen if I lost my laptop? What would happen if my work became corrupted? I’ve had days where I’ve stared open-mouthed at the screen and nothing is happening. Where the hell is the document? I’ve read of instances where an author has exited a train without their laptop (with a year’s worth of words). Things that can go wrong are limitless. Moral of the story… back up your work every day to the cloud (I had to ask my son to show me this and I still don’t understand it but I do it). Alternatively, backup to an exernal hard drive and keep it in a different place to your laptop. Or email your days work to yourself. Believe me, it will save untold angst and trauma if you somehow lose the document or the laptop.

The proof is in the proofing

The final stage in the writing process that I have with my book, is proofreading. I find this such a chore as I’m no longer creating something new but reading over what I have already created and edited, while at the same time I’m itching to get working on the next book. I’ve been with these 110,000 or so words for at least six months and no matter how careful I do the proofreading, something will get through and being a perfectionist, that fills me with horror. On the flip side, I’m seeing the book laid out in typeset for the first and last time, and it gives me a sense of achievement that after my eyes go over it this final time, the next eyes belong to the reader. I then let my baby go and hope that you love it as much as I do.

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