I’d just like to share the fact that I’m now producing 10-minute videos (or so) where I critique the opening section of novels.
For me, the opening scenes in a new novel are THE most important sections of a novel – whether you’re trying to pitch the manuscript to an agent or publisher, or whether you’re self-publishing and you want readers to buy it.
The writing must be edited to perfection. There can be no spelling, punctuation or grammar errors.
Your writing style must be professional. The words should flow, and entice the reader into the story.
Received wisdom is that you should start in media res – that’s Latin for ‘in the middle of the action’. This is not always strictly true, but the reader must get a sense for who the characters are, what the setting is, what the world (in which the novel is set) is like.
So, yes. The opening sentences and paragraphs could make the difference between your submission being read, or being tossed back into the slush pile. And with this series of videos, I hope to give you some clues and hints and tips into making your opening scenes as professional and as engaging as possible.
For the third novel in my #VisionFor2020 #PublishTwelveNovelsAYear challenge, I’ve just released “Corruption – A page-turning political thriller linking big business to the heart of government”.
Here’s the blurb:
A young woman works hard to build her business and care for her disabled child. But she is forced into making uncomfortable decisions. And thus begins a spiral of corruption, where business and politics meet, and where innocents like Caroline Trafford are treated as pawns in a bigger political game.
This is a politically-based story, but I wanted to show how good, hard-working people can get corrupted. When they are guided by people whose morals are, to say the least, questionable. And when they are cornered into lying to cover up mistakes made by others in order to keep their life on track.
In this novel, I introduce Caroline Trafford, an architect, building up her business and providing for her disabled daughter. But one of her employees makes a mistake, and as a result, a worker on a building site dies. She knows that if she admits to the mistake, it would mean the end of her business. But a colleague and friend shows her that there is another way – to put the blame onto someone else, and thus keep her business and continue to care for her child.
Enter Jerry Sanders, a tired and jaded journalist, languishing in a local newspaper in a small town after a career in the national daily newspapers. Acting as court reporter, he hears a case where the name Caroline Trafford comes up. She is now the local MP, but the story behind the death of a building site worker might involve her. His interest is piqued, and he investigates her past, and the connections she now has.
His efforts are thwarted, but he digs in, uncovering information, talking to various people involved. He enlists the help of some old friends, and slowly, the true story begins to emerge. A further tragic accident occurs, but once again, the big cover up is under way. Sanders begins to break down the animosity between himself and Trafford, and he can see she is a victim of circumstance, taking pity on her.
We all make decisions, based on the information we have at the time. But so many of them are compromises, and it was interesting to explore how far someone would compromise their ideals for the sake of their business and, ultimately, their family.
Jerry Sanders, and his friends, are such good, strong characters, that I am making him a series character for a set of cosy / cozy mysteries, some of which will be coming out later this year. The stories require rewriting to be based around them, but I feel it will be worth it. The stories need to be rewritten anyway, and brought up to a professional standard.
Watch out for the Jerry Sanders Investigations, later in 2020!
In the meantime, links for both the ebook and print book versions of “CORRUPTION” are:
Welcome to another blog post, where I give some insight on how I come to write a particular novel, and where I get the inspiration.
There are a number of themes running through my thriller writing.
One is environmentalism – I do fear that we’re sleepwalking into a potential disaster. The rise of vested interests and selfishness – society as a whole being unwilling to take the steps needed to save the planet – means that action is restricted to a very few, who are castigated and ridiculed by the seam of populism running through our lives. Sometimes, the selfishness runs into nationalism – the narrative beingL why should WE do something that adversely affects our lives, when THEY aren’t doing anything at all?
Another theme is corruption – selfishness on the part of those in power (both politically and financially) ensures that their needs are met and enhanced, to the detriment of others without the power.
Having said that, story comes from character. I want my readers to understand and empathise with the characters – be able to put themselves in the mind of my characters, to see and understand what the characters are doing, and why. Ideally, I would like readers to say: “Do you know what? I can see me doing that sort of thing”. At all times, I want the characters to be ordinary people, in ordinary situations, doing extraordinary things.
Thus it is in Meltdown. I have written several situations, each of which in isolation is innocuous, and wouldn’t necessarily cause a problem. This story is partially inspired by the nuclear disaster at Fukusima – where the problems caused by an earthquake were adequately handled by the existing procedures. Until, that is, a 39-metre tsunami, caused by the earthquake, flooded the buildings the safety equipment was housed in.
I have a character Carl Hayes, who was kicked out of the Navy for trying to help out a friend by ‘taking the rap’ for misbehaviour. Now he’s working at a nuclear power plant as a maintenance manager, where the Operations Manager is cutting back on his team, on their overtime, trying to keep the plant profitable during the final years of its life.
I have a local businessman, Keith Chambers, who runs a caravan park on top of a cliff. He’s worried about coastal erosion cutting into his land as the cliff erodes away. As time goes on, he will need to keep moving his vans back from the receding cliff edge of the park, and eventually removing some of them, which will reduce his income considerably. He’s heard of projects where the cliff edge is protected from the sea, but the local conservation groups insist that the cliff remain ‘natural’, and are uninterested in his business concerns.
And I have a shadowy group of people who are only interested in highlighting the dangers associated with nuclear power, and want to create a protest demonstration where life could be threatened.
All of these could occur in isolation, and I wouldn’t have a story. But putting them together means that disparate actions by different people come together to being about a result that none of them, individually, foresaw.
I have published and released MELTDOWN, an apocalyptic thriller. “MELTDOWN is an apocalyptic thriller, bringing climate change, corruption and personal anger into a thrilling race against time.”
An ageing nuclear power station, run by a company trying to stretch out its final years. A maintenance worker, bearing a grudge, with a new and mysterious girlfriend. A local landowner, prepared to bend the rules in order to protect his investment. And the heaviest rain for years. What could possibly go wrong?
The buy links (Amazon) for the UK and USA are:
UK Ebook https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0847T8DR1
UK Print book https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0849T1P5C/
US Ebook https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0847T8DR1
US Print book https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0849T1P5C
FICTION Most of the work in 2020 will be on my #VisionFor2020, #PublishingTwelveBooksAYear. There’s plenty about this elsewhere on the blog. Here’s where I am currently
In addition, I shall be redesigning the paperback cover for DECEIT. I wasn’t happy with the Amazon Cover creator version I used. It looks cheap. And here it is – done!
NON FICTION I may begin writing a “How I Published Twelve Books In A Year” book. I have the outline roughly sketched. I also want to write a “How To Rescue Your Manuscript”, showing how I took old, unworkable manuscripts and made them publishable.
BLOGS I shall continue to write blog posts which support the publishing schedule for my #VisionFor2020.
Continue with the vlog for updates on my VisionFor2020 #PublishTwelveNovelsAYear
And we do need to get on with “Two Writers – One Sofa” in the New Year, with my partner
And I have changed my mind on the humourous vlog, because there was a danger it could become uncomplimentary and upset some writers. So I shall be starting a “First Pages Review”, looking at what works, and what doesn’t, in the first few pages of novels. I’ve had one ‘try out’ recording, changed a few things, got a shooting script for the first episode, so I’m ready to record early in the new year.
My writing businesses I said last year that we were setting up two writing-related support businesses. They are now both up and running. http://writer.support At the Swanwick Summer School, we delivered two one-hour workshops on NaNoWriMo and Self-Publishing, both of which were well-received. Also, and as a result, I was the ’2019 top seller’ in the book room for my writing craft books.
http://thenovelmakers.com We delivered an introduction to getting your novel published as part of Essex Author Day. We had a full house of 30 delegates, and had lots of interesting conversations afterwards.
And we do need to get on with “Two Writers – One Sofa” in the New Year
Podcasting The short story podcasting continues, but it’s currently a bit hit-and-miss, as we’re having difficulty getting people together at the same time. Hopefully, in the new year, things will pick up again. https://www.literaryroadhouse.com
SO, all in all, a busy year. A good year for publishing, and we’re beginning to get our names ‘out there’ for advice on writing and publishing.
One of the questions writers get asked a lot is: where do you get your ideas from? I think this is particularly interesting when discussing a novel like Deceit.
The story began as an idea for a idea NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – in 2018. I had been watching news coverage of the civil war in Syria. I was particularly appalled by the indiscriminate killing of civilians, including attacking clearly-marked hospitals in the rubble of cities.
It is a confused picture over there, and no one seems to know who is doing what. The Russians are supporting the Syrian government. There is talk of war crimes, inflicted by the Syrian government on its citizens.
And we, in the UK, tut-tut and shake our heads at this mess of a civil war that seemingly no one can win.
And then I asked the age-old writers’ question: what if?
What if it’s not a Syrian or Russian plane that drops a bomb into a civilian area? What if the real culprit is somewhat closer to home? What are the stakes that someone would need to investigate this?
And slowly, I built up the story. The British doctor, working for Médecins Sans Frontières, in the hospital when it gets bombed. The sister of the doctor, devastated by his death. The friends she would turn to for help when looking into her brother’s death.
The father of the doctor, in government, but coerced into lying to his daughter. Because everyone in government is corrupt, right? Everyone knows the truth, and no one tells the truth.
After NaNoWriMo, the story was a healthy 69,000 words, but it was a mess. It had good bits, but there were plot holes all over the place, there were no character arcs, and there was no redemption scene. And there was no killer twist at the end.
So I took it apart. Like a house that’s been thrown together from a collection of parts. It was a house, but no one would buy it. This was a story, but no one would take time to read it.
So I took all the parts off, kept the good bits, threw the bad bits away, got some new good bits. Then I built a framework, foundations in solid concrete, to build the skeleton of a story. Then I started to hang onto that skeleton the good bits. Most of them fitted okay, some needed a bit of adjustment.
So now I had a story, with a great structure, but it still looked like a collection of parts. So that’s when I set to work. I adjusted them, smoothing out the connections between the parts, reading it through from start to finish, smoothing and painting and adjusting. It was looking pretty good.
Then I gave it to my beta reader – who is someone who reads the novel, sees if the story works, and highlights any inconsistencies as they read.
But they loved the story. They were totally engaged with it, kept turning the pages.
So now it was snagging time. When building a house, there are always bits that aren’t quite perfect. Maybe the paint needs fixing, or the plumbing doesn’t work like it should, or light switches are upside down. So it is with a story. You need fresh eyes, someone who doesn’t have the emotional investment of the author.
I had a professional snagger look at it. Made sure everything was exactly as it should be.
The story is now 67,000 words, but a whole lot better than it was after NaNoWriMo. It’s a different story, with character arcs, tension, backstory, and a sickening realisation for the reader just before the end. And there is redemption.
I am pleased to announce that my new novel, written under the pseudonym Jack Warwick, will be released soon (Jan 1st 2020) Here is the blurb:
Abi Gillespie’s life is turned upside-down when a bomb destroys a clearly-marked hospital in Syria, killing her brother Adrian and the young patient he was working on. As she is dealing with her grief, a stranger brings evidence that all might not be as it seems. She begins an investigation which will link terrorists in Syria, the British Government, and dark forces who will stop at nothing to get their way. Abi risks friendships, old and new, and even her own life, to find the answer to the question: Why was Adrian killed?
I am very pleased to announce “Vision for 2020”. This is not some PR branding wonkishness. It’s a year-long forward plan which will take part of my substantial back catalogue of Works-In-Progress, and embark on an ambitious self-publishing schedule.
I shall be publishing one full-length novel per month, on the first of each month. These novels are currently at various stages of completion, but will be published as complete, edited novels.
The draft schedule is:
January: Deceit (political thriller) February: Meltdown (apocalyptic thriller) March: Corruption (political thriller) April: Wildfire (apocalyptic thriller) May: Death Spiral (dark crime) June: Death in Print (dark crime) July: PJ & Carla (cosy crime / romance) August: Body on the Beach (cosy crime) September: Shed No Tear (political thriller} October: Trick or Treat (dark crime) November: Footprints (apocalyptic thriller) December: Twelve Days of Christmas (dark crime)
The publication schedule might change, depending on external issues. Some works are closer to publication than others, and I may swap them around during the year. The books will be released in print and ebook form on Amazon. I may publish them on other platforms, and they will be available, signed, direct from me. For subscribers at the $5 level to my Patreon channel https://www.patreon.com/authorgerald ebooks will be sent out free each month.