Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Tank (La Cisterna), by Nicola Lombardi

I had never heard of Nicola Lombardi before. That's not surprising. He is an Italian horror author and this is the only one of his books translated into English (as far as I am aware). I only became aware of this book because it was in the preliminary ballot for the Superior Achievement in a Novel category of the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards (the same year as one of my books was in the preliminary ballot, though for a different category). I like to follow prizes so acquired many of the books on the preliminary ballot, to discover new authors and titles. And then, of course, it took me a long time to get round to reading them ...

Well, I read a lot, and only two of the books I'd acquired from the list really moved and horrified me. This was one of them. (The other was The Sadist’s Bible, by Nicole Cushing.) I finished The Tank last night and the ending was every bit as bleak as I'd expected.

I'm not going to tell you what it's about, or what the titular Tank is for. No, it isn't the kind of tank with a gun and metal treads. But this story follows a single character through a year of their life, and almost every moment of it takes place within just a few rooms. In lesser hands that could be repetitive and slow, but I never felt that was the case here. I was always compelled to read on, even when I occasionally felt sick. I _had to know_. And the character arc and revelation both rewarded me and punished me for my morbid curiosity, totally in keeping with the contents of the story. Some things are so horrible that they create a sick fascination; the imagination wondering "What would it be like if ..." and refusing to stop prodding and probing. Here the reader almost experiences the same gruesome obsessions as the protagonist. Why are we doing this? What awaits us? Will our soul be permanently degraded by the experience? And what is the worst punishment for a crime?

The story is set within a totalitarian fascist regime, the New Moral Order (NMO). We have the stifling observation and secrecy of 1984 crossed with the moral bleakness of The Road, and told through a perspective that isn't a million miles away from "potentially deteriorating mental stability of a lonely lighthouse keeper" stories.

I thought this book was brilliant. It did everything it should, but with the most important being: make me pick up the book again and carry on. To know the truth even though I suspect what it will be, and it won't be pleasant.

There is one element I haven't touched on. The translation. Much as I hate to criticise things, it sometimes reads as if Google did it. On the one hand we get strange turns of phrase that wouldn't come about from a native English speaker - and that's actually not a problem. If anything it adds to the charm and the alien-ness of the thoughts, and the freshness of the imagery, and I would keep that aspect. However, there are also a lot of typos and incorrect words, and they are all ones that would have been easily picked up by a native-English proofreader (e.g. "the voices were suddenly louder know.") Now, please bear in mind that I am a stickler for punctuation and writing and grammar. I make my living as a writer and editor. I have been known to drop books for far fewer mistakes. So, the fact that I give this five stars DESPITE THOSE ERRORS is a huge vote of confidence. I am sure the original work in its native language is much more eloquent, and the issues are all minor translation issues that could be easily fixed whilst keeping the bulk of the translation exactly as it is. It's as if I am looking at the original story through a dirty window. And the view is enough that, despite the grime, or the barriers to communication, I keep looking. That's actually high praise. This is truly one of the most compelling and horrible books I've ever read.


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Lost Solace On Jera's Jamboree

I love the great reviews Lost Solace is getting. The other day I came across this one, on Jera's Jamboree. Have a read of that first. It got me thinking.

I’m really glad that the reviewer loved the book, and that they commented on some of the things I tried to do. In particular, one of the rules of fiction (or a blurb) is that you have to show the character, what they want, and what’s stopping them – as soon as possible. So I turned that on its head and asked: what if I break that rule and don’t even reveal what the protagonist wants until the final chapter? That led me to think of ways of working with that, hence the focus on immediacy and dragging the reader into a compelling high-risk scenario, and trying to make the characters immediately identifiable. When I work with writers I often instil various rules in them, but always emphasise one that is above everything else: you are allowed to break any rule of fiction at all, as long as the end result works.

I have the story arc plotted out for all three books of the Lost Solace trilogy. I am so excited about writing them and continuing Opal’s quest, since the first book only hints at some of the stuff going on.


Friday, 9 March 2018

The Sadist's Bible, by Nicole Cushing

I had little idea of what to expect with The Sadist's Bible, having never read Nicole Cushing's work before, but I was quickly pulled in. There is no dallying about - we get a strong premise right away, and are dropped into the crux of the situation in a way that inspires confidence in the author. Then there are twists I didn't see coming, and imagination that surprised me - not easy to do - and I was left pondering this fascinating and horrible tale that does not overstay its welcome. My favourite books leave me wanting more, but being denied it. This fits that pattern.

Some elements reminded me of The Hellbound Heart, others of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. The book impressed me in both concept and execution. From me, that is high praise. 5*

[I've avoided spoilers, but be warned that this book contains some (well-done) extreme horror and potentially upsetting content.]


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Sources Of Images

Where can you get images to decorate your blog posts? Can any of them be used for book covers, banners or business cards? Here are some ideas. I'll go beyond images and include some other media types.

General Images
If you want to re-use things then Creative Commons is one option. The Creative Commons search is really good, and lets you search different types of media (you can do the same for Flickr).

These sites are the main ones I browse when I am looking for free images or inspiration.
There are also sites where you pay for images. I have reservations about some of these.
Never forget the option of just taking a photo yourself! It is sometimes the easiest way, if you need have a good camera and want something very particular.
Other Media
Image Editing
I favour Gimp for editing images, including book covers. Gimp is a free, community-maintained tool. There are also free online options such as Pixlr, and paid options such as BeFunky - though both of those require crappy Flash. Many people also praise Canva for having good control of image and layout, Facebook/Twitter covers etc.

Always Check Permissions!
Many of the sites I have linked to offer images that are free as in "no money" and also free as in "no restrictions" (or fewer restrictions) on use. Although the quality of images may not be as consistently high as those on professional stock sites, I have often been impressed with the free ones available.

Note that not every image on the sites is available for every use though. Here we get into the issue of "licences" - the rules governing what the photographer says you can do with their image. Always look at the small print and check in case the images are free for personal use (e.g. decorating a blog post), but not for commercial uses (such as a book cover). Most sites will make the licensing information and permissions clear from a link. Do read this, and abide by it - it's not worth breaking the law for the sake of a minute checking what you can do with an image! If in doubt, go elsewhere. And be aware that even on the same site, different images might have different restrictions - some sites let the photographer decide on the particular licence. I usually make a screenshot of the licence and save it in a subfolder along with the image URL, for future protection.

Sites may well have their own licences, but many use Creative Commons, which has a variety of licences with different meanings. There's also public domain and royalty-free works. Even Creative Commons includes a Public Domain licence where the creator surrenders all rights in the work, so you can use it for any (legal) purpose. If you work in education then Xpert can be a useful tool - as well as finding images, it can build in the source, attribution and licence, so also teaches students about these issues.

Any graphics sites you use which other people should know about?

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Karl Drinkwater

Recently I was interviewed on The Haphazardous Hippo. Here's a backup of the interview.

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Karl Drinkwater

I’m hanging out with an author who writes several genres of books ranging from horror to contemporary fiction and I’m delighted to welcome Karl Drinkwater to The Hippo today.
Lost Solace is Karl’s latest book so let me tell you a bit about it.
Sometimes spaceships disappear with everyone on board – the Lost Ships. But sometimes they come back, strangely altered, derelict, and rumoured to be full of horrors.
Opal is on a mission. She’s been seeking something her whole life. Something she is willing to die for. And she thinks it might be on a Lost Ship.
Opal has stolen Clarissa, an experimental AI-controlled spaceship, from the military. Together they have tracked down a Lost Ship, in a lonely nebula far from colonised space.
The Lost Ship is falling into the gravity well of a neutron star, and will soon be truly lost … forever. Legends say the ships harbour death, but there’s no time for indecision.
                                                     *    *    *    *
Lost Solace has got some fabulous reviews so I think it’s well worth taking a look at but don’t rush off and do that just yet as Karl is here now and I know you want to know more about him.
Photo courtesy of Karl Drinkwater
Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but has lived in Wales for half his life. He's a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers, and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics, and Information Science.
He writes in multiple genres: his aim is always just to tell a good story. Among his books you'll find elements of literary and contemporary fiction, gritty urban, horror, suspense, paranormal, thriller, sci-fi, romance, social commentary, and more. The end result is interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.
When he isn't writing he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake, and zombies. Not necessarily in that order.
Karl is a professional member of the Horror Writers Association, and an Author Member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
                                                      *    *    *    *
What book/books made you cry and why?
Harry Cat's Pet Puppy by George Selden. I read it as a child when I was coping with the death of my guinea pig. The portrayal of all the animals and the way they suffered from neglect really hit me. I was probably about eight years old. I remember crying my eyes out, wanting all beings to experience love and protection. Along the same lines would be Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and Watership Down by Richard Adams. All kids should read those books, then maybe we’d have more compassion in the world.
As an adult, I cried when I first read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. To see our world of such potential beauty destroyed by human choices, actions and cruelty … I think it hit home quite hard.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes. As a child I hated my surname, and wanted to change my name to James Bond. I’m glad that never happened: can you imagine the bullying I’d have endured? Anyway, I eventually made peace with my quirky surname. And since I was about seven years old I told people I’d be a writer; it then seemed better to use the name they’d recognise, so they could see I’d stuck to my obsession.
It can be difficult using a single name when you write in multiple genres as I do. I try and make it clear from each book’s description what genre it falls into, so my horror fans don’t pick up a quirky contemporary love story, or my litfic fans don’t pick up a sci-fi thriller. Then again, if it is my writing and ideas that people connect with, then perhaps having some crossover is a good thing.
What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
So many. The writing community is a supportive one, and we all help each other to improve. All of the literary editors I’ve used are also authors, since authors best understand the processes and methods – when something doesn’t work, we will have suggestions to fix the problem. My friend Julie Cohen has given all sorts of useful pointers over the years, to me and many other authors, so I count her as one of my main mentors at the moment, but there have been lots of others. I also learn from the authors whose work I edit. The process of analysing text in close detail, identifying issues, and how they can be improved: doing that for other people also makes you a better writer. And the end result is the circle of friendship and support grows.
Do you often hear from your readers and what do they say?
I do get emails, blog comments, messages and so on, and they say things about my writing that make my heart swell. As with reviews, it’s a more intimate affirmation than quantitative royalty statements and sales. My last book was Lost Solace and not only has the feedback been amazing, but I’d say 90% of the praise in messages and reviews is about the main character Opal, and her artificial intelligence companion/friend/spaceship Clarissa. People fell in love with them and their relationship, their strength. And that is something that makes me proud, because in an experiment that could have backfired I had decided to write a novel that, for the bulk of it, features only those two characters. To feel the love from people’s words … that means I succeeded.
What do you think is more important: characters or plot?
Which is more important in a painting: shapes or colours? You can’t separate them, because they are both equally important overall, even if different individual works gain an effect from focusing more on one or the other. Without characters that intrigue the reader, and who face obstacles to their desires, it is hard for a reader to connect. Without things happening as a result of how characters react to the obstacles (which forms our plot), you have meandering introspection and random chance. A good book needs both. Lost Solace is praised for the characters, but without a tense and fast-paced plot (made up of obstacles to their desires, of course) the characters wouldn’t be able to show their strength and become interesting. The two elements of plot and character are entangled and mutually supportive (then ideally overlaid with other elements such as style and voice).
You get a brilliant idea/thought/phrase at an inappropriate moment (eg in the shower or driving) what do you do?
Happens all the time. I keep a pad by the bed and jot notes in the dark. Or I grab my phone and record an audio file with the ideas in. If I am in the shower I will repeat the idea until I get out and can record it; or if it is complex, I’ll develop a mnemonic that fractally compresses the concepts for decoding later. I often think of things on the verge of sleep, and am quite good at repeating then storing the idea, so that when I wake up it is the first thing in my mind and can be recorded.
 If a genie granted you three wishes what would they be?
The first one would be something to do with compassion. Maybe if humans felt the impact of their choices we wouldn’t be so selfish and thoughtless. If we felt the pain from any action that causes pain, then it would destroy selfishness and thoughtlessness at a stroke. I don’t see the point of free will if it leads to suffering. So I’d do this, and humans could be united with each other and with all sentient beings.
I’d implement a guide so that humans would restrict ourselves and our impacts to a percentage of the earth – maybe 30-40%. The rest would be left to nature, with interconnected corridors for wildlife. The problem is that currently humans and human law see the whole earth as belonging to us, just one species, and unfortunately the most destructive one. Our level of consumption increases year on year, as does our population (even when birth rates drop slightly, they still result in an overall global population increase). We’d have to voluntarily restrict our population to sustainable levels to achieve that. Covetousness of all that the eyes behold is not an endearing trait.
For the third, it would be gifts resulting from those above. Reduction of pollution. Increase in compassion and community connections. We’d have support networks, more natural lifestyles, better diets, reductions in disease. Minds that are surrounded by beauty and love and support, rather than obsessed with time pressures and hemmed in by concrete and alienation. We’d have peace. I don’t think there’s any point looking to expand to other planets until we can learn to live sustainably and at peace within the beautiful one we have already.
I love your three wishes Karl, if only we could find a genie that could grant them! I thought that the above quote fitted in with them very well and I hope you do too. 😉

You can find out more about Karl, his books and connect with him using the links below:
I'd like to thank Karl for hanging out with me today. It's been great getting to know you better. 🙂


Friday, 2 March 2018

About Me, 2010-2015

I have an "About Me" page that lists all sorts of biographical stuff along with publications, interviews, awards etc. I decided it was getting too long, so have removed the entries from before 2016. The removed stuff has been transferred here.

Interviews / Guest Appearances
Other Stuff

Sunday, 18 February 2018

How To Avoid Writing Boring Stories

I often edit other people's work. I point out flaws and suggest improvements. A common request is for me to help make the work more engaging: the author may have received feedback that it is a bit slow, but they don't know what to do to fix it. In these cases the same underlying problems tend to recur, so I thought it might be useful to give examples of some of the concepts authors need to think about, using one of my works as an example. Issues such as voice; what makes a story; language and story elements need to work on more than one level; characters need to act; character actions lead to an increase in stakes.


Voice is partly made up word choice, style, pauses, and favourite phrases. Voice is also what the character focusses on. We're all different. Make your character's voice come through so we feel their individuality. This is especially important in first person POV. Often I read things where there is a flat, characterless voice, because the author was writing words to move the plot, not because the author got into the character's head and let the character speak. That's what authors often mean when they refer to stories writing themselves.

Lead Characters

Don't make a boring character the lead. We've all done this. We aim at an everyman/everywoman, and end up with a bland nothing, with no life. As a result a subsidiary character steals the limelight. That subsidiary character should probably be the main character [MC], because an MC must be compelling. The reader must feel they want to know more, and they only feel that if there is depth, if there are mysteries to unravel.

Note that I say the MC must be compelling, not that they must be good. Sympathy comes about because the MC has some quality we admire. They could be evil, but maybe they are so intelligent that we're left breathless when they work things out in ways you and I never could, and come up with plans that wow us so we read on to find out how they will overcome the next, even greater problem (an example of this would be A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin). Maybe the MC is lazy, but their observations and thoughts are so funny they leave us in stitches. Sure, maybe they are virtuous and their resolve and goodness is put to the test in horrible circumstances, but they don't have to be good. Just compelling. The greatest crime for an author is boring the reader.

Characters Have To Act

Too often the MC is just thinking. They ponder X. They ponder Y. And pages go by without them doing anything.

It does not have to be action action, with explosions and bullets. A decision can be an action. A character in a life that traps them can still act. A brain in a jar can act. So what do I mean?

All characters want things. Ideally, like you and me, they want lots of things. But some of the things are more important than others. "Sure, that bar of chocolate would be nice, but defusing this bomb takes priority." "Yes, I want to get the dishes done by 5.30pm, but more than that I would like escape from this life of drudgery." There's a hierarchy. But we are not just describing a life in a story. A snapshot may be lovely, but it isn't a story.

A story is a story because a character tries to fulfil their needs and goals - they do things (act) in order to do achieve that. But then something gets in the way. So they do something about it. Maybe that's The End, or maybe (better for the reader!) the world reacts and things may be even worse. A more critical need or goal, or a more important one. Or even one that is truer to their real goal. At the start of Star Wars Luke Skywalker wants to go shopping for new underpants. Then he wants to rescue a princess. To do that he needs to learn to fight. Then he wants revenge. Then he wants to rescue all his friends. By the end he wants to overthrow the Tories. But each change is tied to his actions, and - massively important - the scale increases every time. This is what makes a reader read on. They are already on the edge of their seat, then they realise there are even greater things at stake. Back to another Ira Levin book, This Perfect Day: at the start the MC has no strong goals, apart from a vague interest to stop taking drugs. However, over the course of the novel, that grows to other needs, other actions, greater risks: eventually the scale increases to his life, soul, self respect, and possibly the fate of society.

So a story = characters who want things, so they act to achieve them, which may lead to new problems or discoveries and new actions needed. Repeat this until the story is told, but with an increasing scale to what is demanded of them.


Okay, here's the opening of my short story Web, seemingly about a Somalian woman and her unhappy life in the UK. The story is from They Move Below, and a few reviewers said it was their favourite story from the collection.

This country is three things to me. I list them. First, it is cold. I shiver. I think I have not stopped shaking since I was made to come here. Two, is dark. I have lost the sun that watched me grow up. This one is small and mean and is so far away it has no interest in the people here. Three, is damp. I know heavy rain, yes, but not this always-water thing. Black mould grows along tiles in the bathroom, even if I scrub, scrub a lot, it come back quickly. There is a thing in the kitchen (cupboard? But it has no cups in?) and it is not wood, it is made of something like pieces of wood, all mashed together, baby-food furniture. And where it touches ground it gets bigger, splits, crumbles, and I sweep up the bits. That is what I mean! Damp!
And things you call creepy-crawlies, they like it. They always here. They run in lines along the edge of the carpet. I get up in morning to make Husband breakfast, I see curvy slug trails drying on the worktop.
And every day I clean up thick old web. So much. This, up in the corner. I have to use long duster, it try to hide from me. I push it in, turn it, and all the sticky grey and dead bits wrap around. It remind me of something I see on your television once, called candyfloss. Your fairgrounds make people smile, but this is like making evil candyfloss as I twist sticky horrible onto it.
I would not eat this.
Many spiders in this house. Especially when it rains. That is often. And they hide from me. Leave webs in corners and cupboards and wardrobe and shelves. Laughing, saying, “This is more work for you to do! And you cannot see us!” Their voices would not be squeaky, like a fly. Spider voices are serious quiet, go straight into your head, when they watch you with all their eyes. But you can find them if you are clever. I know woodlice. We have them in Somalia too. They crawl into cracks. And there is a spider here that eats them. Easy to find – look for a pile of dried-up, dead, grey woodlice. Then look above. You will find a spider, with long legs that are fragile like hair, and mouth that can go through shell.
I squat down to see this one. I blow on the spider, let it know I won, I found it; and it go all angry, shaking its legs, shaking the web, like child having a temper tantrum. It has something in its mouth. I think it may be eggs, but no, it is dinner. A woodlouse. The spider is sucking on its face. I look more closely, my eyes are good. There are things on the woodlouse. I think they are parasites at first. The world has rules, and it is common that big things hunt smaller, but smaller ones live on bigger – danger from above and below, outside and within. But these are not parasites. It is baby woodlice. Teeny, yellow, trying to move on their mother insect, alive but trapped in strands of web, stuck to a parent that is having its juices sucked out. A noise outside startles me, like I am guilty, and I hit my head on the top of this cupboard. It is only the postman, pushing all the papers junk through letterbox. I will not look at the baby yellows again, it makes me sick.

I cannot sleep. I keep thinking of what I find hidden in this house. I am getting to know every inch. Cracks, holes, corners, shadows. Always little eyes watch. In the morning I sometimes get strands of web in my hair, from across the doorway, when I get up first. I comb it out. But that tickle, I feel it now. In the bed. Husband is sleeping. He snores when he is on his back like this, rumbling through his nose. Not aware of what is in the bed with us. But I feel that tickle, near my ankles. In the dark I can imagine the things creeping. They are getting brave if they are coming into my bed now. They must know I am awake. I do not like that they invade here. It is my last place. And now I cannot sleep because they crawl up, wanting to go up my legs, my belly, maybe to suck my face …
I move too much and wake Husband. He sounds angry.
“What is it? Why must you be fidgeting? I need my sleep, woman.”
“Please, there is something in the bed,” I tell him. “I feel it crawling on us.”
He grumbles but puts a light on. Pulls back the sheets. I brace myself to see the things moving below them, staring up at me, all cold eyes … but there is nothing. He shows me, his hand jabbing at the clean sheet.
“But I felt it.”
“It was just the hairs on my legs,” he says.
I look at them. They are hairy. Dark, hairy legs. I shudder.
“Your legs seem thinner,” I tell him.
“I must be losing weight,” he say. “I work too hard, not like these bloody English. Or you do not feed me enough. Not feed me right. I need my sleep.”
The light is out. Only the dark. I imagine little eyes watching me. Laughing at me.

Okay, let's now think about it in terms of some of the concepts I mentioned.

Her Voice

The MC's voice is very much her own: what she focusses on and gives importance to, how she sees it.

There is depth, because she hints at things. We feel there's more to her, things yet to be revealed (even if we worry we may not want to know). Also there's a strangeness to her that compels us to find out more, where she's going, where she's from, what made her, what this strange person will do. Maybe we even wonder if we can care about her, identify with her, or if she is too alien. But we feel that there is a rounded and complex personality behind the words - perhaps enhanced because we may not even be able to trust some of what we are told.

As the story continues beyond the sample, we come to suspect she has some issue relating to babies/children/mothers/women. But it is not explained yet. There is stuff going on beneath the surface, things the reader can focus on and ponder.

(Aside: always trust the reader. A common beginner fault is over-explaining, rather than letting reader grasp things for themself. An active reader is an engaged reader; a passive reader puts the book down. You know that we developmental editors say "show don't tell" a lot? This is one of the things that rule refers to.)

She Acts

It seems she cares about the house and its tidiness/cleanness at the start. A hint that she wants to have some control over something - maybe a more powerful motivation than first appears when just thinking of webs. That's a key element in stories - things should work on two levels. So here we have a surface level (the goal of tidying things) but also a deeper level (a goal, not yet acknowledged, of wanting to have some control over the world, some impact on it).

She has already made efforts to achieve this goal before the story begins, and it has been fruitless. But the effort led her to focus on spiders and their webs: and, in turn, their young. This leads her to have bad dreams and begin to relive events from her past. So her actions lead to reactions, and now things are even more serious.

So now she wants to control web and the spiders, since maybe tackling the cause of the mess would help. But she also has a lot of suppressed anger and needs an outlet for that. She has very few outlets available in her life. Spiders become one. And so, after the sample above, the heat of her anger lashes out and she burns the web and some of the spiders.

So a single action (burning the web) is actually working on two levels, trying to achieve two goals. One is tidying the house in a more extreme way (scale goes up from a duster to a lighter); but it is also dealing with her anger, trying to release it.

Writing is always best when it works harder, with multiple things going on.

I said the world must react. So this is not the end. It does not solve her problem. The house will still be messy. She is still angry. Worse: she feels guilty too, since the spiders aren't her enemies - they could be seen as vulnerable immigrants to a place that does not accept them, and she identifies with that; she also identifies with the loss of children, and that increases her guilt. So things are now worse than before. The scale of the problems has increased. If she wants to overcome these problems (for which the web is a symbol, as well as a literal problem - remember, things, must work at multiple levels) it will take more drastic action; or she will be trapped in it forever. Again, the scale of the problem and the solution goes up. But it also leads to developments. She identifies with the spiders. They are not the right target. She picked on a victim, not a persecutor. That realisation can then drive her next actions, which become even more critical. Her stakes now become break free or slowly die inside. Things have scaled up from the original desire to clean the house, and that scaling came directly from the main character's attempts to achieve modest goals.

In a short story like this we may only have one or two escalations. In a novel we may have ten, or a hundred. Some may be very small, but without them a story is flat.


Hopefully that example helped to illustrate these concepts, whilst avoiding using a story full of action in the traditional sense - to show that the concepts apply just as much to literary character pieces. If your book or story isn't compelling, if the feedback is that readers get bored, it is likely to be connected to issues mentioned in this post.

Oh, and cuts. I rarely see a book that can't benefit from cuts - every unnecessary word, sentence, paragraph, and scene slows it down, hides the good stuff. Don't show every transition, every movement. Don't use three adjectives when one would be better. Don't pad with irrelevance. But cutting is another topic for another day. For now think in terms of the other issues in this article, and you may find the thing that's turning readers off. Change the brake to an accelerator and you're off.


Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Rewriting is ...

Rewriting is deleting half the words you wrote because less is more. Because you were telling, not showing. Because first drafts are clunky. Rewriting is putting a few new words in, better words, but far fewer in number than those you delete. Rewriting is shifting things round to an order which achieves each effect in a better way. Rewriting engages a different part of the brain from the part that wrote that first draft. Rewriting takes just as long, or longer. Rewriting is more than minor tweaks. Rewriting is vital.

The image is from some rewriting I did the other day for my next book.

Draft 1 was 5,797 words.
After my first pass it was 4,571.
I cut 1,226 words, or c.20%.

(And more since then - another 200 words.)

Authors, you have to be able to do this without regrets.