How to finish a novel

 

So I just finished typing THE END on my fourth novel, and I’ll be honest with you, it feels a bit weird.

I was beginning to think I’d never get here! My amazing spreadsheet, that calculates my likely completion date (based on how many words I’ve written since the start of the project), reckoned I’d be done by September – October at the latest. But that was assuming the novel would come in at 80,000 words – average novel length, and more or less what all three of my previous works of fiction weighed in at.

However, as I reached that epic word count the story was nowhere near done. It was the writing equivalent of running a marathon only to have someone tell you after twenty six gruelling miles that the finish line has been moved. I had to keep going.

Never mind. At least the majority of the book had been written. And the last time I ‘wrote a novel’… and the time before that… there was something about having the end in sight that propelled me forwards. A sudden sprint to the finish line. But this time, the closer I got to the end of the story the slower I got.

Part of that was because I wasn’t entirely sure how the story should end. In fact, if it hadn’t of been for my chums in my writing group I might still be searching for that elusive ending.

Even when I had the ending, those last couple of chapters were extremely troublesome. This morning I spent almost 5 hours writing approximately two hundred words. That’s 40 words an hour. Less than a word a minute.

But…

It’s done.

Finally.

Except of course…

It’s not.

Starting next week I’m editing: I already have a pile of ‘go back and fix this’ notes. Then I’ll print the whole thing off, and do ‘the big read through’. When I’m done with drowning my sorrows (because traditionally at this point most authors think they’ve written a massive pile of horse poo), I’ll take my big red pen and start slashing and hacking.

I’ll be honest with you, the last two times I quite enjoyed this part – this is the moment when it actually starts to feel like I’ve written a book, something I can be proud of. But I suspect books might be a little like children; you might have had something to do with their creation, you might have created others, but it’s a mistake to let your guard down.

When I’m finally done slashing and hacking I’ll give the book to the half dozen trusted folk who have been waiting patiently to read it. My ‘first readers’.

And when I’m done working through their comments (which could easily range from ‘not sure she should be wearing a yellow dress in this scene’ to ‘this ending doesn’t make any kind of sense’) well… then I’ll send it to my agent.

And that’s when – ‘scuse the language – sh*t gets real.

In my experience, feedback from Agents tends to fall into two broad categories: Either they like your book, but have two or three suggested changes (those changes being ‘the beginning’, ‘the middle’, and ‘the end’), or… they don’t like your book, and would rather you’d written something else.

But that’s a long way off. Months away.

For now I’m just going to celebrate the end of this stage, and feel proud that I got to this point. Again. My fourth novel. My eighth book. That in itself, isn’t bad going.

So, check back again soon to see how the editing’s going. In the meantime, if you’re a writer, feel free to share your experiences of getting to the end of a first draft. And if you’re not a writer, but have always fancied writing a book, feel free to ask me a question or share your novel writing attempts in the comments.

Now then, where did I put my red pen?


Struggling for Christmas Present ideas? Then why not solve all your Christmas Present Conundrums in one hit by visiting The Novel Coffee Shop (98 London Road, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1PG), on Saturday 1st December 2018 between 1:30pm and 4pm, where I’ll be signing copies of all my books, along with Sci-Fi author Claire Buss, and Children’s Fantasy author Daisy Bourne.

Click the flyer below to see a bigger version!

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No More Sitting On The ‘Reserve bench’

If you follow me on facebook, twitter, even instagram, you might have seen the occasional picture of me, grinning like a maniac, in front of an audience of similarly manic, arm-waving, happy folk (although usually there’s one lone woman, sitting there , arms folded, steadfastly refusing to take part – bless her).

I take these photos perhaps once or twice a week – whenever I’m asked to entertain a Women’s Institute, or a U3A, or a Townswomen Guild, or some similar group, with tales of my writing adventures.

People sometimes ask me how I got into the public speaking lark. I blame my Dad.

Years ago, my father used to run a U3A ‘discussion group’. Each month the group would invite someone along to speak on whatever topic they liked, and then afterwards a discussion would ensue. That was the idea anyway. My Dad loves a good discussion. In reality someone would put the kettle on, a packet of biscuits would be emptied onto a plate, and twenty minutes later my Dad would be washing cups and stacking chairs in the corner, wondering why no-one had actually ‘discussed’ anything.

Dad used to try and plan his group’s programme a good year in advance, presumably in the hopes of attracting a few new members with his trove of twelve tantalising topics. But a year is a long time. Stuff happens. And every now and then a speaker would cancel on dear old Dad, and he’d be forced to do some frantic phoning around in order to find a replacement.

Which is how I got my first gig.

Out of sheer desperation Dad called me and asked if I could step in and do a talk. He’d even decided what my topic would be! Could I speak for thirty or so minutes of “how banks make their money” – thanks very much – see you Thursday – don’t be late.

Now fortunately for me, I had at this point been in credit card banking for about twenty five years, the last ten of which was as a freelance consultant. I could have spoken for several days on how my clients separated the man on the street from his hard earned wedge. But I concentrated my talk on some of the sneakier, lesser known, less ethical tricks, that go on in the banking community.

My talk was a huge success: There was almost a riot when I announced that “in a few months” the banks would be announcing the ‘end of cheques’. “How will I pay the milkman!?” exclaimed one woman – at which point, for the first time ever, a proper discussion ensued. Dad was pleased as punch.

From that moment on I became my Dad’s ‘reserve man’. Each year, for about three years, I’d get a phone call whenever a speaker cancelled and would always be told what my topic would be. For instance, I did a talk entitled “How will I pay the milkman?” – forty five minutes about, amongst other things, how the banks really wanted to get rid of cheques, but at the last moment had changed their collective minds. I promise you it was more interesting than it sounds.

But after a few years I was fed up with being the flippin’ understudy. “Dad,” I said, “I want my own slot in the programme, but more than that, I want to be able to pick my own topic!”

“What do you want to talk on?” asked Dad.

“How to do everything, and be happy,” I replied.

“Hmmm,” said my Dad. “I’m not sure anyone’s going to be interested in that.”

Several years on and I’ve given that same talk – or a version of it – about two hundred times.


If you’d like to hear me speak, or if you’d like to invite me along to your group or society, drop me a line here, or visit my speaker’s website; PeterJonesPublicSpeaker.com

1983

So, here’s the thing. I’ve been working on a new novel.

That probably hasn’t come as much of a shock – that is, after all, what
novelists are supposed to do.

Here’s how my writing regime currently looks.

  • I average 2 writing days, per week.
  • I average 5 hours per writing day.
  • And I average, 200 words per hour.

Now, I used to post these kind of writing stats on facebook, along with my expected completion date and a funny or curious picture relating to the scene I’d been working on but then I stopped.

“Why?” I hear you ask (okay, okay – you didn’t ask but I’m going to tell you anyway.)

Because those writing stats aren’t really very good. Two days a week!? Only 200 words per hour? That’s pathetic! Most of my writing chums could equal what I turn out once a week, in one sitting.

So I stopped.

Although that’s not the real reason I stopped.

Want to know what was? (Okay, okay – you didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway!)

Because I’m afraid of completing this novel.

Right now, I think this book is probably the best thing I’ve ever written, by far.

BUT I am taking a few risks:

It’s quite a deviation from stuff I’ve written before; for one thing it features a female protagonist. Who’s 18. And I am, in case you hadn’t noticed I’m a man.

It’s also darker, less comedic, and based on a true story.

It’s set in 1983 and at the moment, there’s no clear happy-ever-after… blimey.

So if I finish this thing, and no one likes it well that’s a LOT of time I’ve just wasted!

Hence my procrastinating!

Fortunately however I have YOU!

How d’you fancy being part of my personal cheer leading squad? It’s quite a simple job. All I need is for you to ask me, every now and then, how the book’s coming along. Ask m how many words I’ve managed to churn out recently. Ask me if I’ve started editing yet. Ask me if the book will be finished by Christmas.

You can also help inspire me. If you were around in 1983, what memories do you have of back then? What clothes did you wear? What music did you listen to? Did you have big hair? All this stuff is useful to know.

Leaving a comment below, or on facebook, or even on twitter.

In the meantime I best get back to writing.

Chatting to Michelle Ward on Phoenix FM…

Last week (ish) I was invited back to Phoenix FM to talk to Michelle Ward about my latest novel ‘My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend’.

Now I know you’re probably all sick to death of me plugging the latest book (this’ll be the last one for a while – promise!) but the interview was such fun to do that I couldn’t not share it with you.

I’ve done a fair few radio interviews over the past few years (you can find them all here or on youtube), but of all the radio shows I’ve been on, Michelle’s interviews are my favourite. Yes, she takes the mickey out of me on air, and yes, she keeps me on my toes with her completely random comments or questions, but it’s all part of the fun.

This interview was quite long (about twenty minutes), with breaks for commercials and traffic and all that jazz, so I’ve broken it into two parts, and Michelle’s rather cleverly edited out all the ads for double glazing.

In this first part, Michelle asked me how I became an author in the first place, which somehow ended up in a discussion about how to meet the man or woman of your dreams on facebook. See what I mean? You wouldn’t get that on the Radio 2. If you can’t see a big PLAY button in an image below, click here.

In the second part we finally got around to discussing My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend. I told her how the story came about, why the cover was such a pain to get right, and who would play the three main characters should the book ever get made into a movie.

Again, if you can’t see a big PLAY button, click or tap here.


Click or tap here, to visit amazonThat’s enough now! 

This’ll be my last plug of My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend for a while, which means two things:

  1. Your email inbox is about to get a lot less interesting and
  2. that the price of my third and arguably best novel will be going back up very, very soon. To avoid missing out on getting a fantastic laugh-out-loud read that costs less than a cup of coffee, click or tap here to visit amazon – or type BuyTheBook.TODAY into your web browser.

And remember, you can follow me on social media via the links below

The difference between male and female book covers…

Book covers.

I hate them!

No really, I do. Because the age old advice – never judge a book by the cover – is universally ignored.

Recently my third novel, My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, came out and I couldn’t be more delighted. Like my previous two novels it’s sort-of a romantic comedy, only this one’s about… well, you can probably work it out from the title.

I went through hell and back with the designer working on the covers for my first two novels (you can read about those experiences here and here), but when it came to this book, I was pretty sure it would be a walk in the park. And here’s why:

In the opening chapter of My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, there’s a silly joke about our hero’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend being soooo perfect that there’s probably a Tibetan temple dedicated to him. It would be your standard Tibetan temple; chanting monks, a sixty foot golden statue – only obviously the statue would have an extra pair of arms so that Sebastian (the perfect ex-boyfriend) could hold various symbols and representations of all the wondrous gifts that he brings to the world.

That, I thought, would make a great cover for the book. I put all this in an email to my wonderful designer and this is what he came back with.

I was pleased. Okay so it’s not perfect by any means. It’s quite difficult to read some of the words against the patterned background, but as a concept it’s pretty darn close to what I had in my head. However, even though I really like covers that wrap around the spine and continue on the back, it seemed a shame that we couldn’t see all of Sebastian. Plus I had a nagging feeling that despite the cartoon style grin, this cover didn’t necessarily scream romantic comedy at anyone casually looking for a new book to read.

So with that in mind I decided to familiarise myself with covers of other women’s contemporary humorous fiction, written by male novelists, and from a male viewpoint. And here’s what I found:

I think you’ll agree, there’s definitely a style. Lots of flat colour. Slightly cartoony. Silhouettes seem popular. Oh, and all of them (with the possible exception of two) are EASY TO READ – particularly when reduced to a thumbnail. So – Mr Cover Designer Man – would it be possible to take that original design for my cover, and tweak it so that it wouldn’t look out of place when filling that gap in the bottom right hand corner?

Oh, and could I have a couple of ideas to pick from? Thank you.

Here’s what I got back.

 

Wow!

Now remember, these are just rough-and-ready sketches, so any weird blobs or lines wouldn’t be there on a final finished version, but even so, my gob was well and truly smacked. I loved them. All of them. Not equally of course, but each one was a massive improvement on the original, and I was utterly convinced that with a bit of tweaking we had a finished cover. All I had to decide was which one.

It was an easy choice.

Now obviously this one is a clear winner. No doubt in my mind. I was a little worried about my name getting lost at the bottom there, but really the title’s the more important thing.

However, just to be absolutely sure I’d picked the right one, I decided to ask some other authors. Specifically romantic fiction authors. Specifically female romantic fiction authors. I uploaded all six new designs (plus the original design) into one of the private facebook groups for the Romantic Novelists Association and asks my fellow novelists to vote.

I’m not going to lie to you… I was shocked at the result.

With the exception of one person (Hello Sue Lovett), every single woman chose one of the following:

This left me scratching my head. I was so sure my choice was the better cover and yet here I was being out-voted by 10 to 1! (Incidentally, Sue chose the original, first design).

So I asked my partner what she thought. Along with all her (female) work colleagues, she too picked one of the two covers above, with the majority of her colleagues picking the version on the right.

Not only that, but almost every woman I’d asked took the time to tell me that, although they liked the design, they hated Sebastian’s orange tie! One woman (Hello Virginia) said it reminded her of Halloween!!

Still reeling from this new information I decided to ask my male friends which one they would go for. With the exception of one person (Hello Patrick – there’s always one isn’t there) they all picked the same one I’d chosen, or a near relative.

So this left me with a rather interesting conclusion and a potentially troublesome conundrum.

Conclusion: Different covers appeal to male and female readers.

Conundrum: Do I pick a female cover, or a male one?

It really wasn’t a hard choice if I’m honest.

I write Women’s Contemporary Humorous Fiction. 90% of my readers (possibly more) are women. If I’m going to continue trying to make a living out of this writing lark then I had to choose the cover that the RNA ladies and my girlfriend’s colleagues had gone for.

Thing is, I didn’t like it.

The strap line seemed sort of lost at the bottom, and my name seemed a bit lonely up there at the top. And the two new silhouettes (which are supposed to represent Adrian and his girlfriend Paige), well they just seemed to be plonked either side of the word PERFECT for no reason.

I went back to Mr Cover Design Man with these thoughts and a couple of days later I went back to my girlfriend and novelist buddies with these four variations:

At first glance there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between them so let me talk you through the key points.

  • In three of the designs Adrian and Paige have been resized to create a sense of perspective. Now we have a ‘scene’ being illustrated. In fact, in two of the designs they even have their own shadows!
  • Two of the designs obviously have borders whilst two don’t, but in all of them the colour of the tie has changed to match the word perfect, and my name has been tinkered with to make it look more ‘fun’.
  • Finally in one version the grin has made a reappearance, because I like the grin. I thought it was funny and would make people laugh. Turns out I was wrong. Most people told me the grin was off-putting and scary.

Everyone liked the pink tie though. And aside from comments about my name being hard to read, and the strap-line being too long, everyone chose either the second or third version.

And those comments were easily addressed.

I present to you, the final version:

 

And I have to say… I love it. Of all the covers on all my books, this one is most definitely my favourite.

It’s perfect.

Or is it? Let me know what you think in the comments.


Click or tap here, to visit amazonHot news! 

My latest novel, My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, is just 99 pennies for a limited time only. Click or tap here to visit amazon or type BuyTheBook.TODAY into your web browser.

And remember, you can follow me on social media via the links below

Blog Tour!

Blimey.

I’ve never had a blog tour before.

But all of that is about to change!

Starting this week I’ll be making a guest appearance across the web on all sorts of writing related blogs. Sometimes I’ll be giving an interview, sometimes there’ll be an extract from my latest novel (My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend), and sometimes, just sometimes, there’ll be a searingly honest review. That’s right. If you haven’t already splashed out the 99 pennies needed to download the fruits of my labours, you might want to wait a day or so to see if it’s worth it.

Seriously though, I’d like to thank all these wonderful blogs for taking part, and the lovely Rachel Gilby for organising it.

(Clickable links to all of the blogs are below the image)

Book Tour

24th Oct 

Vikbat

Ali – the Dragon Slayer

Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews

25th Oct

Book Lover in Florida

Everywhere and Nowhere

My Eclectic Reads

26th Oct

Dash Fan’s Book Reviews

Turdah

My Reading Corner

27th Oct

Sal’s World Of Books

Books, Life and Everything

Kim The Bookworm

28th Oct

Little Ray of Sunshine

The Quiet Knitter

Bookaholic Confessions

29th Oct

Novel Gossip

Writing Around The Block – Christina Philippou

30th Oct

Whispering Stories

Black Cat Book Reviews

Short Book and Scribes


Click or tap here, to visit amazonHot news! 

My latest novel, My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, is just 99 pennies for a limited time only. Click or tap here to visit amazon or type BuyTheBook.TODAY into your web browser.

And remember, you can follow me on social media via the links below

Where do you get your ideas from? (Part 2)

 

So. Book titles…

hate them!

Specifically, fiction book titles.

Why? Because they’re so important, and so much rides on getting them just right. You might spend 10 months of your life writing circ. 80,000 words, but unless those half dozen words on the cover are absolutely perfect, you could quite easily have been wasting your time.

Non-fiction book titles are easy; just describe what your book is about and make darn sure you have a key-word in there (something that people looking for your book might type into google). So for instance, a book about finding happiness in this ever increasingly busy world might be called How To Do Everything And Be HappyThat would work.

But fiction? That’s a whole different ball of wax.

Take for instance my last novel; The Truth About This Charming Man. Not a bad title. But not particularly good either. Unless you saw the cover it doesn’t really tell you what the story is going to be about. Some have argued that even if you DID see the cover, you still wouldn’t know what it was about!

And my novel before that: The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The GirlTerrible title! Awful! I mean okay, it’s quite funny, a bit of alliteration can’t hurt – and the cover helped a bit – but having previously published four self-help books, most people assumed it was another self-help book! What was I thinking choosing a title like that?

Anyway, fortunately the same cannot be said for my latest fictional offering. This time I’ve cracked it! This time I have a title which is both funny, AND gives the reader a hint of what’s to come. And what’s more I can’t really take any credit for it.

I met my partner Valerie about three years ago.  Val had just come out of a long term relationship with… well, let’s call him Steve. It had been an amicable split so it wasn’t uncommon for her to mention Steve occasionally. I’d say something like, “I’ve made some fresh bread this weekend,” and she’d say, “oh, Steve used to do that.” Only bloody Steve would have made the bread from flour that he’d milled himself. From a stone that he dug out of the ground. Whilst building his house. Single handedly.

One day I got so cheesed off hearing how fantastic Steve was I said, “if you don’t shut up about Steve I’m going to put him in a novel and then kill him off!” To which Val laughed and said, “what would you call the book? My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend?”

Well. It was a such a good title, how could I resist?

“No!” said Val, seeing the light bulb hovering above my head. “You can’t! Absolutely not!” But this was Friday. And you know how this works – by the end of the weekend we had renamed Steve, morphed him into this completely unbearable character called Sebastian.

We’d also decided that the protagonist would be a down-on-his-luck school teacher called Adrian, and that his girlfriend would be a sassy American PR executive called Paige. More than that a plot was beginning to emerge that was just too fun not to write!

Now obviously it’s all made up. But that said, I really hope Steve doesn’t recognise himself in it.

Come back tomorrow and read the entire first chapter for FREE, or subscribe to this blog and have it arrive in your email…

Enjoyed this post? Read how I get my ideas (part 1) here.


Click or tap here, to visit amazonHot news! 

My latest novel, My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, is just 99 pennies for a limited period. Click or tap here to visit amazon or type BuyTheBook.TODAY into your web browser.

And remember, you can follow me on social media via the links below