Famous writers, writing: Agatha Christie

If you like to write you should visit Sandra Danby’s blog.

sandra danby

agatha christie 20-10-13Agatha Christie
“If you are to be Hercule Poirot, you must think of everything.”
In other words, you’d better have thought of everything, every twist and turn, every character trait, every possible and impossible plot angle… or your readers will catch you out in unpredictability, spot your mistakes. And then there are the things that happen out of your control. So beware!

Click here to read The Guardian’s article about bloopers in books…
… and here to read how the UK edition of Jonathan Franzen’s Corrections had to be withdrawn from print because the wrong version was printed.
Click here to read The Bookseller’s report on how Penguin had to pulp copies of Lolita because of a missing foreword.

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Writer’s Reflections – Jane Isaac

For the second post in the Writer’s Reflections series I am pleased to welcome Jane Isaac, to talk to us about her latest novel.

 

Thank you so much to Rachel for allowing me to guest on her lovely blog. My second book, THE TRUTH WILL OUT, was released last month. I started this novel in the spring of 2011 and it took me almost eighteen months to research and write, six months to find a publisher and another twelve to work with Legend Press to transform the pile of paper that it was into the book that sits on my shelf today. THE TRUTH WILL OUT is a police procedural/psychological thriller crossover, the second in the Detective Chief Inspector Helen Lavery series, although written as a standalone novel and sees her biggest case yet.

Why did I write the Truth will out? Aside from being a crime fiction fan for most of my life( I was raised on Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie which later broadened into Peter James and Jeffrey Deaver), my main interest lies with people. I’m fascinated by putting ordinary people into extraordinary situations and watching how they react. In this novel Eva Carradine witnesses an attack on her best friend over Skype and, due to a shared secret, is unable to go to the police. Fearing she will be next, she goes on the run. We follow the police investigation into her friend’s murder through the eyes of DCI Helen Lavery and the other side of the story through Eva’s eyes.

I researched extensively into Helen’s character for my first book, An Unfamiliar Murder, and interviewed police officers at different levels in my local force to create a character that is based on reality. She is not a lone divorcee, that role has be carried out by so many other authors – she is a single parent of teenage sons, juggling her home responsibilities with carrying out a murder investigation.

I genuinely like Helen: she is a strong, focused character with a vulnerable side. She is not interested in promotion or management, more in making a difference to the people of her town by catching the really bad guys and that often pushes her to pursue unorthodox methods to solve a case. When I finished the first book, I found it hard to leave her behind and it wasn’t so difficult to find new challenges to stretch her further.

What did I learn from the experience?

First drafts should be viewed as such – a rough diamond to work into shape. I set out to write page turning roller-coaster rides with characters that feel real and twists and turns aplenty; a book that I would like to read myself. My biggest challenge is unravelling a plot and developing characters while keeping the pace fast and the tempo high, and it can take several re-drafts of each and every scene before this is achieved. 

Much like your last reflections post this book may never have been published. I decided to switch from an American publisher to a UK one to help distribution, but I received several knock backs simply because it was the second in a series. Luckily it was picked up by the lovely Legend Press team, who have been great to work with.

It can be difficult to write a second book featuring the same character. There is always the worry that people will be disappointed in their further development, but so far we have been blessed with wonderful reviews and it’s great to receive  messages tweets and emails from readers who have enjoyed.

I wish your readers all the very best with their own writing and look forward to reading about their experiences in future weeks.

Jane x 

http://www.janeisaac.co.uk

Twitter: @janeisaacauthor

Facebook: Jane Isaac Author 

Coffee Break – With a Writer

Hello, come in and take a seat. I’m just taking a short break from work, it’s a great time to chat. What have I been working on today? Well, I’m writing a short story in which my protagonist has quite a distorted world view. He may or may not have killed a man and I’m not sure that I’m going to find out in 6000 words or so but he certainly believes that any action he took was inevitable. It’s quite nice to write in first person as a different character. It gives you a bit of a break from the self and lets you explore other people’s motivations and thought processes. I suppose it could be viewed as quite a dark story but the tone is deceptively light because the narrator isn’t particularly concerned by his actions. It works well because it’s a nice juxtaposition.
I’m enjoying writing in short story form at the moment. Every day is very different. It allows a lot of time for play. I like to play about with words and ideas and the whole format works supremely well for that.
Yes, I probably should get back to it too. Good luck with your current piece. Drop in soon.

Stronger than we Look

Writing is a strange profession. It calls for a certain amount of stubbornness, a dogged bloody-mindedness, that keeps you writing and working when it all seems hopeless, and that isn’t all. The stubbornness has to be met with an equal if not greater desire to learn and the ability to accept and weigh criticism when it inevitably comes our way. That isn’t an easy thing to do. Writers put a level of self into their work which sometimes leaves them feeling very vulnerable. Add to that the financial constraints of working in the Arts and you can see that it takes a very special balance of qualities to make a writer. It amazes me sometimes that so many people succeed. Ray Bradbury puts it like this, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

The one thing you can guarantee about those who do succeed is that they love to write. For many of those writers the act of writing is the end and purpose and the finished article almost serendipitous, to be put aside as they move on to something new. There isn’t really any lesson in this other than a call to love, love, love what you do. Love it. Love the pattern of the words as they fall onto the paper. Find joy in the phrasing. Because the love of your work will take you through whatever comes your way and out the other side.

Writer’s Reflections: Rebecca Mascull

This month I am starting a Guest Post series on my blog. I want to ask writers not so much how they wrote what they wrote, but why, and what did they learn from the experience. The marvellous Rebecca Mascull has agreed to be the first writer to ponder.

( If you are interested in contributing to this section of my blog then feel free to contact me @stirlingwriter or by leaving a comment and contact after this post. )

Rebecca Mascull: A Writer’s Reflections

My latest book is my first to published, THE VISITORS. It came out in January this year but I wrote it from January to May in 2012. I was researching it for about a year before that. Time can move in a stately fashion in the world of publishing. Since, then I have finished my next novel and started researching another one( but I’ll save those for future blog posts…) This book is about a deaf-blind girl called Adeliza living on her father’s hop farm in late Victorian Kent, her relationship with her teacher Lottie and the mystery surrounding the Visitors.

Why did I write THE VISITORS? Well, I’d worked with deaf students when I was teacher training and loved the experience. I also watched a Hellen Keller bio-pic as a child and was fascinated. I wanted my character to learn to communicate, to experience friendship and love, and to go on an adventure. I also wanted her to learn some truths about herself and the world. I’d written an historical novel before this one and it was a huge learning curve. I taught myself how to research, how to find what was required and resist the temptation to waste time down fruitless avenues. I learnt how to record my findings efficiently so that I could find them easily when I was writing; to always look for at least two sources for every key fact; and that I needed to leave the research for the second half of the book until I came to write, as otherwise I’d forget it all by the time I got there. All of this came to fruition when I wrote THE VISITORS. Files of research were distilled into an intensive five-month period of writing.

I’d written three other novels before this one, and two text books. The novels I wrote before THE VISITORS were not as good as this one. They were very good practice though. Some lucky writers get it right the first time, but for the rest of us who try, try and try again, it’s encouraging to note that. I thought it felt good when I was writing it, but I had no clue if it was good enough for publication. I was more surprised than anyone when Hodder and Stoughton made an offer. I’d had a good few years of publishers( and agents) saying No Thank You and you get kind of jaded about this stuff after a while. But now THE VISITORS is out there, and I’ve read some lovely reviews from people who have been moved by the book, have perhaps looked at the world a little bit differently after reading about Liza, and at the very least have enjoyed it as a good read. And that’s been wonderful and made it all worthwhile. It really has.

Keep Writing, my friends!

Rebecca

 

Rebecca Mascull author of THE VISITORS published by Hodder and Stoughton Jan 2014

http://rebeccamascull.tumblr.com

@rebeccamascull

http://www.facebook.com/RebeccaMascull

NaNoWriMo Isn’t Proper Writing

I’ve heard this many times and often with some venom behind it. Of course it isn’t true. If you write then you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting studiously in a library or running naked in Bermuda, if you write, you are a writer. And please note here, those of you who’ve produced several thousand words so far, if you do it, you are it, no ifs, no buts, and no Aspiring.

But, the mind splurge of Nano produces some truly awful work, you say? Well, yes, yes it does. It produces first drafts, which as Hemingway always reminds us are…horse apples. But some of those pieces of work will be edited and revised and turned into really great work. Some won’t. Some people have the temerity to enjoy the whole experience and miss out on the angst altogether. Some people just aren’t ready to be edited. 

But, some of them are so proud of sub-standard stuff, you wail. Well, yes. Of course they are. So were you before you learned to handle an adverb. You can’t tell me that you haven’t looked back at your early writing and cringed, properly cringed. That’s okay though, because you were learning. And that is what all of the Nano writers are doing without any concern for the level of craft they have reached. They are all learning. And they are writing. And that’s a good thing.

Some people don’t want to be told they are anything less than a genius – those people will learn slowly regardless of the task.

Other people seek out the errors and hunt them down with a scary level of commitment, because they know that they are never above a mistake. –  those you need to watch, because they will get there. They will get better. They will be good. And one day the Aspiring Author, will be an Author.

None of this should rattle any Writer’s cage. You know why? No one else in this world is you. No one has your thoughts, your life experience, Your voice. We can look around at other people and say, he’s not this or she’s not that. That is just so easy. But we’re not in a race with them. Writers are always in competition with themselves and on their own journey. Our own journey.

So let other people be….Not You

And show me what you can do.