Peter Jones – Author & Public Speaker

Official blog & website

Where do you get your ideas from?

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One of the questions an author is sometimes asked is “where do you get your ideas from?” My answer is usually “anywhere,” which is, I admit, a bit glib. The answer should really be “it depends which book you’re talking about.”

I came up with the idea for The Truth About This Charming Man many years ago when I was part of a small theatre company that ran Murder Mystery events for discerning clients. One evening a fellow actor walked into the dressing room and told us that he was off to Australia for a week. ‘Very nice’ we said, but he didn’t share our enthusiasm. Jeremy was flying half way around the world to claim a body.

It turns out that in Australia, a body can’t be released until it’s claimed by a blood relative. It didn’t seem to matter that Jeremy had never actually met his Great Uncle, the Aussie Authorities just needed him to fly out and place his signature on a piece of paper. A task which was not only costly, but extremely inconvenient for our Jez.

Which was when I had an idea: Did it really need to be Jez that flew out to Aus? Couldn’t one of us take on the role of Jez, and fly out on his behalf? Would anyone notice? Would anyone… care?

More than that, perhaps Jez was the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps there was a whole slew of potential clients in need of the services of professional actors. After all, haven’t you ever needed to be in more than one place at the same time? Haven’t you ever wanted to send someone to a boring social event or meeting in your stead? Haven’t you ever been tempted to hire someone to play your boyfriend for the evening in order to keep your colleagues, family, and everyone else, from asking why you’re always single?

Those are the sort of thoughts that make me want to sit down, and write a novel…

And if you’re a fan of Nick Hornby, or Mike Gayle, Rom Coms or Heist movies, or theatre, or just a bloody good read, then The Truth About This Charming Man could be right up your street.

Read the opening chapter for free…

Still need more convincing (to part with less than a quid)? How about a sneaky look at the first chapter?

Read the rest of the opening chapter, for free, here.

Charming, fabulous, witty and easy to read book,
cannot wait for the sequal!

says amazon reader Lynn Wedge

 

Reading this in an email? If there’s a gap above that’s where a video would normally appear. Jump over to youtube to watch it.

 


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The Truth About This Charming Man is 99 pennies for the month of May 2017. Download the book for your smart phone, tablet, or kindle, today.

Visit BUYTHEBOOK.TODAY to buy the book… today!

(The FREE kindle reading app is available for everything. Seriously; EVERYTHING.)

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Who could be in a movie of ‘The Truth About This Charming Man’?

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Back in those early heady days of bashing out my first novel, my friend Wendy criticised me for being a little scant on my character description.

“I don’t know what these people look like,” she said.

I mumbled some rubbish about wanting my readers to make up their own mind and she probably gave me one of her looks, because I went straight home and spent the next few hours on google finding images of actors & actresses that reminded me of the characters I’d created, and could make a pretty good job of playing that character should the book ever be made into a movie, or turned into telly. I printed those pictures off, stuck them on a notice board in my office, and glanced at them frequently whenever I was writing.

It’s a trick that I’ve adopted ever since. Right now, hanging just to the right of my computer screen, is a cork board with a picture of Martin Freeman on it. An actor who would be absolutely excellent in the lead role of my third novel.

Yes, third.

My second novelThe Truth About This Charming Man came out mere days ago, and here’s something quite exciting, there’s already been some chat about turning it into a movie! And I’m not referring to  private insane ramblings between me and my cat. I mean proper, serious, genuine ‘chat’ by people whose job it is to rub shoulders with those who are in a position to actually make things happen, and tempt them with the movie / TV rights of their numerous clients.

Now I expect these kind of conversations happen quite frequently, and I expect the vast majority of those conversations never amount to anything – just as (so I’m told), only a very small percentage of books where the movie / TV rights are successfully negotiated actually ever end up being made into anything you’re ever like to see – but it’s all very exciting none the less, and because of my approach to figuring out character description, should anyone ever ask me if I’ve got any ideas who should play which role, I can do something more than mumble “I dunno, that guy from one of the X-men films?”

Here then, are those pictures that until recently were pinned just to the right of my desk. Those talented stars of stage and screen who I would dearly love to breathe life into the lives of people who up until a few days ago only existed in my head.

If you’ve already started reading The Truth About This Charming Man I’d love to know what you think. Post your thoughts, feelings, or alternative casting ideas in the comments at the bottom of this page (or here if you’re reading this in an email).

William Lewis (James MacAvoy)will

“My name is William. Will to my friends. Though it could just as easily be Gary, or Roger, or Stephan – just tell me who you’d like me to be and watch me morph into someone else. It’s not lying. Lying is an untruth. This is acting. It’s telling a story, and stories are a good thing: they teach us. They help us to make sense of the world. They allow us to stay safe – in that way they’re better than the truth.”

James MacAvoy was pretty much my first choice when casting the story’s lead character in my mind. Though I know nothing about the man (other than his numerous screen appearances) I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if he’s as obsessed about his craft in real life, as Will is in the book.

Nathia Brockenhurst (Olivia Williams)
nathia

“Nathia’s smiling when she opens the door. A big, warm, welcoming smile that promises an evening of laughter and cocktails. The smile falters when she sees that it’s me. “You’re late,” she says with enough venom to poison a small army. She turns and stomps back into her apartment, and I notice she’s already in full costume: slim-fit high-waist sleek-black trousers, semi-translucent shirt, killer heels – the usual Nathia attire.”

I’ve always been a big fan of Olivia Williams, and when it comes to playing high-flying brutal-business-woman-with-a-secret Nathia Brockenhurst, I have absolutely no doubt she’d walk the part.

Michael Richmond (Hugh Grant)hugh_grant

“In many ways Michael Richmond is a man out of time. A century or two ago he’d have a bushy moustache, impressive sideburns, and a belly the size of a small country. He’d spend his evenings smoking expensive cigars and talking about his time in Africa. Roll back the centuries still further and I can imagine him dressed in animal furs, sporting a heavy copper helmet, and wielding a blade high above his head before he conquers another village, and takes his pick of the wenches available. But instead Michael goes to the gym. He watches his weight. He pops statins. And on evenings such as this, he shares stories of boring corporate deals negotiated across expensive but dull conference room tables. Is it any wonder that he drinks too much, laughs too loudly, and always looks as if he might explode at any given moment? That granite exterior is holding a lifetime of frustration in place. “

Hugh Grant built almost an entire career playing ‘the toff’, ‘the fop’, and every variation in-between. But allegedly Helen Fielding always had him in mind for the character of Daniel bit-of-a-bastard Cleaver in Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’s that charming-but-evil element that I think he could carry off so well in the role of Michael Richmond.

Rachel Richmond (Anne Hathaway)
rachel

“But behind that shy smile, those beautiful soft cappuccino eyes, and her tall, lean, slightly Arabian veneer, is someone else. And sometimes, when she’s asked me an innocent sounding question, she stays quiet after I’ve given my answer, like she’s waiting for me to say more, waiting for me to give myself away. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t give me something of a buzz.”

When it came to casting the love-interest it really didn’t take me long to come up with a suitable candidate. Oh come on. Can you blame me? If I’ve got to write convincing love-scenes then when I glance up at the pin board I need to be looking directly into the face of a woman I could easily find myself falling in love with! That’s my excuse, I’m sticking to it.

Zlata Ruzencova (Vera Farmiga)
Zlata

“One particularly chilly morning in March, an eccentric gum chewing woman of indeterminate years – all wild bleached blonde hair (with dark roots), pristine makeup (and plenty of it) – turned up on my doorstep.
‘Hello,’ she said, as I opened the door. ‘You are Lewis, the actor. Yes?’
‘If you say so,’ I replied. It was very early in the morning. Too early to be standing on my doorstep talking to a tall lady in a fake-fur-coat that just about covered her shoulders, and a snake-skin mini-skirt that was barely long enough to cover, well, anything.”

Of all the characters in the book Zlata is far and away my favourite. Even now, long after I penned her last few lines, she’s still in my head, passing judgement on all that I do, and asking me, sometimes several times a day, where is my plan for cake.

If I were an actress (just go with me on this), then Zlata would be the role I would love to play. Casting her however, was a huge challenge. No one seemed quite right – then a friend suggested Vera Farmiga and after that, well… there was no after that! She’s perfect.

So? What d’you think? Post your thoughts and / or alternative casting suggestions in the comments.


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Hot news; my second novel The Truth About This Charming Man is available right now, in paperback and for your phone, tablet, computer or kindle device!

Read the opening chapter, right now, right here.

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Calculating your novel's completion date #spreadsheet #authortools

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I know a lot of authors are obsessed with their daily word count, but to be honest I’ve never found it particularly useful, or motivating. Anyone can turn out 10,000 words in a day. Just type the word ‘wibble’, highlight it (along with the following space), and then hold your fingers on CTRL-V for five minutes. There you are: 10,000 words. Don’t ever say I don’t give you anything. No, I’ve always maintained, in a rather snooty arrogant way, that getting the ‘right‘ words down, first time, is far more important than churning out 10,000 words of wibble on a daily basis.

That is until my agent told me I needed to be turning out two books a year, and suddenly snooty arrogance wasn’t going to cut it any more.

So, if you follow me on facebook you’ll notice that I have, recently, got into the habit of posting my daily word count, usually under a picture of someone at a typewriter. But along side this, and my excuses for the day, is my average daily word count.  

Average Daily Word Count is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the total number of words I’ve written so far, divided by the number of days since this current project began. And for me, it’s a whole lot more revealing than your regular word count.

For starters, being an average it smooths out those peaks and troughs: It reigns in my enthusiasm when I’ve managed to bash out 2,600 words. But it also encourages me when all I’ve managed are a measly 500. It also discourages me from going back and editing previous days, and it punishes me for days when I haven’t been writing. ADWC shows me exactly what kind of a writer I am. There’s no hiding from it.

But most of all, now that I’m working out my ADWC, it’s possible to extrapolate when I should theoretically finish my current ‘work in progress’ assuming I continue at the current rate… and being the total nerd that I am, that’s exactly what I do! I post my estimated completion date! And that is very motivating indeed.

Of course, you’ll realise by now that I work all this stuff out using an excel spreadsheet. There isn’t anything in the world that can’t be achieved with a good excel spreadsheet. If it sounds like something you might find useful, you can download a copy for yourself, here.

word count

To use the sheet simply replace my numbers in the blue squares with your own

  1. In cell C10, type in the estimated length of the book you’re writing. Novels are generally between 60,000 and 100,000 words depending on genre.
  2. On row 16 type yesterday’s date, and the total number of words written so far.
  3. On rows 17 onwards, type the day’s date, and the new total word count. The sheet will work out the number of words you wrote on that day. It’ll also update all the stats above, including your ADWC and your estimated completion date.

There’s even another tab where you can cut and paste today’s stats and paste them into twitter or facebook with minimal editing.

Feel free to share the spreadsheet all you like. And if it works for you drop me a line. If it doesn’t work for you, or you’d like it amended in someway, or you screw something up and need it fixing – well drop me a line anyway and I’ll see what I can do.

And if you like this spreadsheet you might like my other one that helps manage your story’s timeline. You can read about that here.

In the meantime, what’s your ADWC? Post it in the comments below.


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Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Managing Your Story's Timeline #spreadsheet #authortools

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Post-it_Desk_Art

Many moons ago, back when writing was just a hobby, something that my wife would encourage me to do in the evenings whilst she planned world domination with the cunning use of post-it notes – back when The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl was still in first-draft and barely a few thousand words long – I discovered a problem that I suspect is fairly unique to fiction writers.

I was having one of those rare writing moments when (it felt like) everything was going well – words were pouring out of me. I was bashing out scene after scene with unparalleled delight. Never mind that most of those scenes seemed to start with the phrase “the next day” or words to that effect. That could all be dealt with in the edit. The edit which would happen when I’d finished the WHOLE book. I’d learnt that much about writing: Write first. Edit later.

Although, as I wrote “the next day” for about the fiftieth time that evening I started to realise that I might have a problem that couldn’t wait until the grand ‘fix-everything’ edit. And the problem was this; in my head the chapter I was writing was supposed to span roughly a month, sometime in the summer, a year or two before the turn of the millennium. But as I scrolled through my manuscript and counted the number of times that dreaded phrase appeared I realised I’d successfully created a month with 47 days. And given that most of the action was supposed to happen during office hours…

Crap.

Which is when I turned to excel. Because obviously, that’s what you do when a crisis of this magnitude happens. There’s nothing in this world that can’t be fixed with a good spreadsheet. Trust me. I partially built an entire career in banking with my mediocre excel skills. But I digress.

I present to you the timeline spreadsheet. A way of keeping track of your novel / script / short story, when & where each scene takes place, as well as how old each of your characters are on that day. And because it’s a rare author who has the luxury of not having to worry about word count, there’s a bit of that thrown in for good measure.

Feel free to download it and share it all you like. And if it works for you drop me a line. If it doesn’t work for you, or you’d like it amended in someway, or you screw something up and need it fixing (in the spreadsheet I mean, not your story) – well drop me a line anyway and I’ll see what I can do.

In the meantime here’s a brief tutorial on how to use the sheet

Basics

This is a Microsoft Excel (office 97) spreadsheet. A basic knowledge of spreadsheets is probably useful. You should be able to open it in Open Office (which is free) or Apple’s Numbers. There are three tabs to the spreadsheet (you’ll find those at the bottom). To avoid breaking the spreadsheet (which is really, really easy to do) only change what’s in the blue areas, everything else should change automatically. The sheet comes pre-filled with example data – just delete this when you’re ready to start work.

To see any of the images below bigger, and in a new browser tab, just click them.

timeline - word countTab One – Word Count

The least interesting of the three tabs, but still useful. Delete the example data in the blue box and enter the maximum word count you’re allowed. As you populate the rest of the sheet this tab will tell you how many words you’ve written and how many you’ve got left!

timeline - the actual timelineTab Two – The Timeline

Right then. This is where all the good stuff happens. As you write each scene tell the spreadsheet (in the blue boxes) where that scene takes place, the date, as well as what happens. You’ll notice that column E works out what day of the week that date falls on (pretty cool eh?) and over there on the right hand side it tells you exactly how old your main characters are (once you’ve completed the third tab). Use column B to make a note of what chapter you’re writing, and then in Column C put either the word count for the entire chapter (as I have), OR for each scene (although personally I found that a bit labour intensive).

Even though I recommend only tinkering with the blue boxes you can still use formulas. For instance, if you’re writing a scene that takes place the day after the previous scene don’t type the date in, click the date above and add +1 in the formula editing thingy. This way, if you move a date earlier in your story everything should recalculate automatically. This is where the spreadsheet really comes into its own.

timeline - eventsTab Three – Events & Characters

Use this tab to make a note of your main characters and their birthdays. Why? Because then the spreadsheet can calculate the age of your characters on this and the previous sheet. Useful if you’re the next David Nicholls and you’ve written a story that spans years.

Use the events section to make a note of significant events that happen outside of your story, but still that have some sort of bearing. For instance, if your story starts 10 days after the aliens have invaded, put the date the aliens invade on this sheet, and use a formula to calculate 10 days later on the timeline tab. Then if you decide that the aliens have to land on a different day, you merely change the date on this sheet.

Interview with Morgen Bailey

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morgen small

A while back, the lovely Morgen Bailey was kind enough to interview me for her rather fabulous writing blog which is… well… impressive! I decided to find out more about the mysterious lady who spells her name with an ‘e’, not an ‘a’.

Tell us a little about Morgen Bailey. Just start when you were born
and finish up right when I started asking you questions. Feel free to give us the 
abbreviated version.

Please don’t encourage me! I can talk for England… Scotland… Ireland…

Abbreviated version. OK. Born in Amersham, Buckinghamshire in August 1967. Did the usual school (which I left at 16 to be a secretary because I didn’t know what else I wanted to do), going out with friends, passed my driving test when I was 20. Left home four years later, moving 60 miles north (in theory with work but didn’t happen like that, they ended up moving further south which I couldn’t afford so came up here anyway). I went to computing, language then creative writing evening classes to meet people and light bulb moment happened (eight and a half years ago) after I completed the first homework, a short story. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer. It took me another five years to start doing anything about it and I finally left the safety of a ‘proper job’ in March 2012. Although I’m now living the pauper’s life (renting out two bedrooms to Monday-Friday lodgers), I don’t regret it for a second… especially as I offer an editing and critique service and blog design service, and they’ve both taken off nicely. 🙂

Half a dozen online writing groups, at least two websites, your podcast, your teaching work …how on earth do you find time to actually write?!!

(laughs) I write a short story (usually flash fiction) every day for my blog’s 5pm fiction slot, so knowing I ‘have’ to do that (although I don’t suppose anyone sits waiting for it) means I write every day. I’ve also been doing at least a novel a year (for NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo) and other short stories for Story A Day May, which all goes to creating plenty of content for eBooks (all the shorts are up, one novel’s done, six to go). Oh, and at last count, I have twelve personal websites (listed on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/blogs).

You seem to have a flair for all-things online Morgen. Is that something that comes naturally? And how important do you think that skill is for the modern day author?

Yes, hands up. I’m a nerd. 🙂 I grew up with an older (2 years) brother who was my dad’s Computer Manager back in the days of Spectrums and BBC monsters (his shops sold photographic and computer equipment) so it was inevitable, as was getting into the arts; my brother’s a web designer / IT Project Manager, father was a photographer, my uncle still is, my aunt and mother are artists.

Every author these days needs to do their own marketing, even if they have a publisher behind them. Of all the authors I’ve interviewed (over 800), only one has said she doesn’t do her own marketing, yet she’s active on Twitter and Facebook. It’s part of the reason why I set up ‘I Can Build Your Writing Blog’ and being a writer myself, I can help develop them from a writer’s (and reader’s) point of view.

Says here you’ve got half a dozen, mostly-crime, novels in the pipeline – and yet your debut novel (‘ The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’) is most definitely contemporary women’s fiction. Why the sudden change of genre?

TSDSL was actually the third novel I wrote, and the longest (a 117,540-word first draft for NaNoWriMo 2009… all in 28 days!). It then took me a few months, on and off, to edit it before sending it to two first readers. Apparently there are still mistakes we didn’t pick up on so next on the jobs list is to re-edit it.

The first novel (NaNoWriMo 2008) was a semi-crime lad lit, the second (written January to October 2009) was a crime / mystery (which has been edited / first read so just needs me to re-edit and eBook). The fourth was another lad lit, the everything since has been crime (getting darker as I go along). So I guess you could say I settled into crime rather than switched to it. I’ve done a few agent pitches (with the crime / mystery and TSDSL) and one of the agents, at the 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference, a top (and scary, apparently… although she was nice to me because she knew the crime novelist whose writing class I took over) agent looked at me and said, “You’re a crime writer, you need to write crime.” As it turns out, I do.

Oh, and she rejected both the novels, as did the other dozen agents I’d approached at conferences or via email, which lead to me going the self-published route – via two publishing contracts for TSDSL, both of which I turned down following legal advice… although my heart has sunk when I’d read them so that was a strong hint.

What’s the general gist of the story – you have thirty seconds – Go!

OK, the three-second version is ‘31 men in 31 days – what could possibly go wrong?’ but seeing as I have thirty seconds… 🙂

Isobel MacFarlane is a recently-turned-40 journalist who usually writes a technology column for a newspaper based in Northampton, England, but her somewhat-intimidating boss, William, has set her the task of meeting 31 men, via a local internet dating site, all within a month. Having an active, though fruitless, social life with her friend and ‘Health & Beauty’ colleague Donna, she knows what she wants in a man, so creates a shopping list of dos and don’ts, and starts ticking them off as she meets Mr Could Be Right Except For, Mr Not Bad, Mr Oh My Goodness and Mr Oh So Very Wrong. Follow the ups (there are a few) and downs (there are many) of the dating process and intertwined with her experiences, get to know her colleagues and family, including her niece Lola who, apart from being an amazing storyteller, can eat ambidextrously whilst wearing a Princess glove puppet on her right hand, and Baby, William’s none-too-healthy African Grey parrot.

Oops… sorry, think I went over my time there (nothing new).

A little birdie told me that The Serial Dater’s Shopping List is based on personal experience? That true? Did you really go on thirty-one dates in thirty one days? Was it research or were you, you know, on the prowl?

Ha! I didn’t, although I have been on a few blinds dates in the past and the speed-dating middle chapter is pretty true to life (especially the builder there looking for business!). Let’s just say that it’s a combination of real life and a vivid imagination. No one’s fallen asleep on me yet, although I’m single again so there’s always a first time.

Anything else you’d like to tell me (and my readers)

I’m running eight writing-related / I.T. courses next year at four locations in Northampton, England from January 2014. The details are on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/courses/northampton-writing-courses but they are: eBooking, blogging, social networking, planning & writing a novel, short stories, creative writing – beginners, c/w – intermediate, and ideas & inspiration. I do plan to run most of these as online writing courses for those who aren’t UK-based, and the details will be on my blog. As you can probably tell, I love talking about writing and so getting paid to ‘work’ (teach my favourite topic) is a bonus, and I can’t wait!

Thank you, Peter.

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Things That Matter : Guest Post by Della Galton

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ice-drop-shadowAuthor Della Galton explains why she’s drawn to write about controversial subjects, and shares the motivation behind her latest novel ‘Ice and a Slice’

I’ve often wondered how we choose what we write. Do we choose to write short stories or novels because we love them, or do we just drift into the form? And what about the subject matter? Why do we choose that?

The first short story I ever had published was called Second Chance, and it was published in a teenage confession magazine called Loving (I wish that magazine was still around, it was excellent).

Second Chance was set in a doctor’s surgery, and it was all about a teenager who was planning to have a termination – blimey, I don’t think I’d sell that story now – it’s quite a controversial issue, even today. But then I’ve always liked writing about controversial issues. I don’t have a copy of Second Chance any more but I can remember the last line, which went something like this:

Throughout her life she would give her baby many second chances, but none of them would be as important as the one she was giving him now…

The first novel I ever wrote was called Prisoners. It was about a woman who works in a pet shop and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (her married boss). There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.

If this sounds like an immense muddle, then that’s because it was. I’d had four or five short stories published when I wrote Prisoners. I thought writing a novel was simply a matter of writing 70,000 words.

Moving swiftly on, my first published novel, Passing Shadows, was about a woman who works in an animal sanctuary and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (the father of her best friend’s child.) There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? So why did this novel work and Prisoners not work? Well, partly because I knew a bit more about what I was doing. I was passionate about the main characters, Maggie and Finn. Also, this novel had some strong themes, friendship and betrayal being two of them.

Ice and a SliceMy latest novel, Ice and a Slice, also has some strong themes. It’s about friendship, beating the odds, and love.

It’s also about alcoholism, which is a theme I’ve explored in short stories too, but I wanted to take it further and the only way to do this was to write a novel.

The main character in Ice and a Slice, is called SJ, and she drinks too much – although she would argue until she was blue in the face about that! And if you don’t believe me, then do check out her Facebook page here or her Twitter account here, where she is surprisingly active!

So, why did I write about alcoholism? Well, as I said earlier I’m big on issues. I like writing about things that matter, and alcoholism is a subject very close to my heart. Many of my family suffer from it. Some of them are in recovery and some of them are not. And some have died needless premature deaths.

An alcoholic is not someone, as I once thought, who drinks meths on a park bench. Alcoholism is not a moral issue for weak minded people – it’s a disease that can affect anyone – it can strike doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, vicars, secretaries, taxi drivers, anyone. It’s a disease of our time.

So, yes I feel passionate about alcoholism and that’s why I wrote Ice and a Slice. SJ – or Sarah-Jane Crosse to give her full name – is deeply flawed, but I love her to bits. I think she’s probably the most three dimensional character I’ve ever created. Hence, she has her own social media pages. Do check them out.

You’ll have more luck getting a sensible answer from her when she’s sober – so mornings are good!

And if you like what you see, do take a look at Ice and a Slice too – you can read a free sample or buy it for less than a glass of Chardonnay 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Della Galton x


Della Galton is a freelance writer and tutor. She is best known for her short stories, and sells in the region of 80 short stories a year to magazines both in the UK and abroad. She is a popular speaker at writing conventions around the UK and is also the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum. Her third full length novel Ice and a Slice’ is currently available for all kindle enabled smart phones and e-readers from amazon (.co.uk | .com) and will be available in paperback shortly.

To find out more about Della Galton visit her website, LIKE her facebook page or follow her on Twitter.

Finished?

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redpen
I’ve just finished writing the first draft of How To Start Dating and Stop Waiting.

Some explanation is needed.

When I say ‘first draft’, I mean the version of the manuscript that came into being, whilst I sat here, bashing away at the keyboard, with one eye on my outline. I can tell you now that it’s the very best thing I’ve ever written, and that there’s probably only a couple of minor things that need fixing – perhaps the odd smelling mistake, or formatting error – and then it’ll be ready to be released to the world. Part of me wonders whether I should skip my usual editing process and upload it directly to amazon, once I’ve cobbled together some sort of cover.

Another part of me knows that what I actually have is a nothing more than a collection of loosely associated words. And by words I mean a letters arranged into groups, because many of these so-called words won’t actually appear in any dictionary known to man. Where a genuine word does appear there’s a very good chance that it’s not the one I actually meant to type, or that it appears several times in the same paragraph, or it’s part of a phrase that I’ve used over and over and over again. There will be punctuation and grammar mistakes everywhere. Jokes that don’t work. Formatting errors galore. In short – it’ll be a train wreck. A disaster. And I realise yet again that ‘finished’ isn’t a word that should ever share a sentence with the phrase ‘first draft’.

My mate Vikki Thompson is in a similar position. Having taken part in NaNoWrMo this year she’s looking at a 50,000+ word ‘novel’ and wondering what to do next. And whilst there’s a whole host of writing advice out there, here’s what I do to take my manuscript from first to final draft.

  1. Let it rest – This is a luxury that I can’t always afford, but the truth is getting a little distance between you and your WIP (‘work in progress’ – I hate that expression) helps you to lose the rose-coloured spectacles you were wearing when you found yourself thinking, “hey, this is pretty good stuff.” And by you, I mean of course, me.
  2. Print it. Read it. Mark changes – for reasons that I’ve never been able to fathom errors are easier to spot on the printed page. Once you’ve invested paper and ink into something those stupid swelling mistaks will leap out at you and blow raspberries. But more than that, it’s easier to navigate through a printed document. I take a red pen and start ringing words, striking through whole sentences (and paragraphs), and putting wiggly lines in the margins (which is short hand for ‘meh – probably needs a re-write’).
  3. I make changes.
  4. Print it. Read it (aloud this time). Mark changes – Oddly, reading something aloud is the only way I know to find out if the ‘rythmn’ of the piece is right, whether my sentences are too long, and whether it’s clear who’s speaking. Sometimes I’ll even take a chapter to my local writing group and get someone else to read it whilst I follow along on another copy and mark where things don’t sound right.
  5. I make changes.
  6. Give it to Jules – my assistant Jules is usually the first person (after me) to read anything I’ve written. Having worked together now for many years I know I’ll get a brutally honest opinion. Gone are the days when she’d write a long diplomatic note about how she got a little lost, or “perhaps it could be better still”. Now she’s more likely to strike through an entire page and scribble “bit poncy” in the margin. Often Jules won’t be able to tell me what’s wrong with a particular piece, only that it doesn’t work for her. And that’s fine.
  7. I make changes.
  8. Give it to first readers – I’ll print a couple more copies and send it to people I’ve identified as my trusted ‘first readers’, a crack team of operatives who will give me their honest opinions on anything and everything. For this book that’ll be Wendy Steele and Della Galton. Together they’ll pick up on anything that Jules missed; jokes that still don’t work or can be misinterpreted, bits that ramble on too long, are hard to follow, or simply don’t make sense. Like Jules both ladies know better than to spare my feelings. I’m not looking for encouragement – I’m looking for things to fix!
  9. I make changes.
  10. Send it to my agent – finally, my lovely agent Becky will cast her beady eye over the book. If I’ve done my job well she’ll complain that she couldn’t speed-read the manuscript because she kept slowing down to read it properly. She’ll then send me her changes which are usually more structural in nature, moving elements she feels a publisher would particularly like to the front of the book, and generally making the book more commercial.
  11. I make the final changes.
This entire process will usually takes me longer than it took to write that initial draft, but what I’m left with is usually something I can feel mildly proud of. And for the first time I can finally say, it’s ‘finished’.

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