Too famous to edit?

I spend a little part of every day on Twitter. I probably spend too much time on Twitter, if I’m honest. Sometimes, it’s a bit … meh, and sometimes it’s red hot.

Yesterday, someone I followed posted this:

“You know when artists get so famous their work isn’t edited properly …”

and they went on to quote a few pieces of work.
Basically asking if the bigger the author gets, reputation- and following-wise, the more influence they have on the production side of their book. Specifically, editing.

Cue TwitterStorm. “Are you saying long books are rubbish?” No, they weren’t.
“Are you saying books are over-long drivel?” No, they weren’t.

Some authors engaged, on differing sides of the discussion. Some authors, and non-authors, and lots of men, hurled abuse. Leaping straight into abuse is not a good look. That happens a lot nowadays. Any opinion you voice becomes a spark to ignite the powder. No one says “I respectfully disagree”.

Remember the famous quote, often attributed to Voltaire, but was actually coined by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre? In The Friends of Voltaire, Hall wrote the phrase:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

That seems to have gone out of the window now. It’s now “I disapprove of what you say, and you’re a ***ing **** **** * for even having the temerity for saying it. And by the way, you look like a fish”.

And so, to the question. And I’m afraid I’m on the side of ‘aye’. I’ve read books that I thought were over-long – unnecessarily over-long. I’ve read some long books, and really enjoyed them. At the end of the day, the specific word count for a novel doesn’t matter a jot, as long as it meets genre and reader expectations. By and large, romance is shorter, epic fantasy longer. Crime is pretty much in the middle.

I’m reminded of a book club, where we read the latest novel by a Booker prize winner. Our group was about 12 strong, mainly female, with 2-3 men, if I remember correctly. The book we read was over 600 pages long. Not small pages and large type – 600 ‘normal’ paperback pages.

No one finished the book. No one liked the book. I gave up at about the one-third point, when a character was attending a banquet. And the author listed item after item after item. Several paragraphs of foodstuffs, as though the author had Googled “what could be served at a banquet in the mid-1800s” and had then done a massive copy-paste job to boost their word count. Seriously. Call me a Luddite, call me an infidel, call me Ishmael. But no, nothing was gained by inserting that mahoosive list in the middle of a book. It added nothing to the narrative.

Also, I understand that editors can sometimes misunderstand authors, or that they won’t ‘get’ the writing, and can be ‘over-eager’ in their editing suggestions. I’ve had readers misunderstand, or think something is unrealistic, or that there is too much of ‘me’ in the writing (author intrusion).

Yes, I get it. The relationship between an author and an editor is one based on trust. And one thing is absolutely clear – there is not a piece of work written that can’t be improved by a little judicious editing before it’s published. Not one. Find an editor you like, folks, and use them before you publish your novels.

To finish off, here’s a little piece from Anne Rice, author of (amongst many other things) The Vampire Chronicles. She’s had 36 novels published and sold nearly 100 million copies.


Release of MELTDOWN

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
UK Print book

US Ebook
US Print book


Micro fiction featured!

I’m so pleased and proud. My little 99-word story, based on a prompt of ‘Watching Kettles’, has been featured on Patricia Osborne’s blog.
[ Click here ]
I love tiny stories. It’s not quite a Drabble (which needs to be exactly 100 words), but it’s close.
I hope you enjoy it.

If this is the sort of stuff you like, head on over to Amazon, where I have a collection of short and micro fiction for sale as an ebook for only 99p!
[ click here ]


New Year – New Challenge!

It’s New Year, and despite the fact I don’t make New Year Resolutions these days (thereby avoiding the guilt trips I have suffered in the past when the resolutions get broken within a week or two), I’m up for a writing challenge.

100k100day logo-simple-2-294


And there’s no better challenge than my old mate Sally Quilford’s 100k in 100 days challenge. The idea has some similarities to NaNoWriMo, in that there is a word count target at the end of the period – i.e. 100,000 words in 100 days. Mathematicians amongst you will probably soon be working at that this means 1,000 words per day, which is much less stressful than NaNoWriMo’s 1,667 words per day average. Still, that’s about four pages of a paperback novel, which doesn’t sound too onerous, does it? But definitely worth doing. By mid-April, you’ll have enough of a first draft written to enable you to edit it down by 20%, and still have an 80,000-word novel to send out or publish.

The other difference is that Sally allows writers to use creative writing from other destinations, not just on one ‘novel’. You can include blog posts (as long as it’s about writing), writing articles, short stories, poems, and stuff like that. Again, it’s to reduce the stress and the pressure, and allow you more freedom in choosing your writing. The main idea is that it keeps you writing.

I’ve created a little spreadsheet on the internet for people to log their word counts. Simple enough, but the first place I chose to host the spreadsheet was very unreliable. The fact that their blog hasn’t been updated since 2009 doesn’t exactly engender confidence, either. After a second hiccup, another writer from the group suggested Google docs. I had been confused by Google telling me I needed to download Google Drive (which I did, but which isn’t appropriate for everyone to do). But, on further investigation, that was just to allow easier uploading / archiving, and Google Docs works pretty much as it always has done. So the word count spreadsheet resides on Google’s massive servers.

So, how are we doing, four-and-a-bit days into the challenge? So far (as I type this) – which will, of course, count towards my daily total 😉 – the group has recorded over 279,000 new words written, across the 89 users currently listed on the spreadsheet. An amazing total! Personally, I’ve taken my Performance Enhancing Drugs (Christmas cake and coffee), and am aiming for double the average, and trying to write 2,000 words per day. After 4 days, I’m sitting at 8,874 words, most of which are in a new novel wth a working title of The History of Things To Come. The subject is the end of the world, for which the December 21st date has come and gone. This book, which is fiction of course, shows why that date was incorrect, and more importantly, names the REAL date. Death and destruction all the way. It’s a thriller, in case you can’t guess.

In the next blog post, I will list some of my coping mechanisms / tips for writing challenges. I’m an 8-times ‘winner’ of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve discovered things that work, and a lot of things that don’t. I hope you’ll join me then.




Well, I have to make them sometimes. My NaNoWriMo piece is probably the best one I’ve written. At least, it’s the only one I haven’t hated. I think it really ‘has legs’, and I definitely want to finish and edit it.

But … (you knew there was a but coming, didn’t you?)

I already have “Buried Threat” half finished, and I feel this is more worthwhile completing before the NaNo thing (called “Footprints”, BTW). And I am inspired by Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch short stories – collections (3 per book) are out on Kindle at  Angle of Investigation and Suicide Run. Both very recommended. Anyway, I have a couple of Connolly-like shorts in the wings, which are desperate to see the light of day. It’s a busy time to be a writer.


Procrastinating, prevaricating, postpone, put off, prorogue (yes, it is a word) and other things beginning with P

I’m the worst. I love writing, I love creating new characters, new situations,, new plots. But I also love interacting with people. Since the advent of social networking, I have spent far less time writing that I have Tweeting and Facebooking, and since when does a noun automatically have the ability to become a verb?

I have three problems which ‘stop’ me writing productively:
* I get distracted easily
* I get overwhelmed by the tasks I want to complete
* I never seem to find time to write.

I came upon two great blog posts recently. The first was from Clair King, recently signed to Bloomsbury for her first novel, and it talked about puppies. Not nice ones, though. You should read it. it’s damned fine .: Claire King’s Blog :. She talks about “puppies”, interrupting your thought processes and work. This is one of the key points:

So the idea is to train the puppies. When you notice a thought popping up which is not the ‘in and out’ of breathing, you do not pick it up and cuddle it, let it lick your nose. No. You say ‘Hello, puppy. I’m busy right now so sit down. We’ll play later. Sit. No, sit. Sit!’ And you go back to thinking about your breath.

So that’s stage one. Understanding what the problem is.

When I got a new laptop, I was pleased that I could use the new whizzy one for all of my internet stuff (30-odd tabs open in my browser at all times – nuts or what?), and the older one could be used for writing! Brilliant! And to encourage myself, I’d turn off the WiFi on the old one, so when I was officially “writing”, I couldn’t meander around the internet. FAIL! What do I do? I have my writing laptop open, new work in progress, little edit window for things I need to check up on later – and my other laptop open behind, showing Facebook and with Tweetdeck running in the background. D’oh! Not good.

So now we come to me being overwhelmed by the number of tasks. I have several projects in my head right now, and several more projects that I would love to work on, if only I could spare the time.
And then I read another great blog post from Dean Wesley Smith .: Dean’s Blog :. One of the key things I picked out of that post, though:

So if a person spent 15 minutes per day and wrote 250 words, that person would finish a novel in one year.

Now, if that person spent 1/2 hour per day on writing and created 500 words per day, they would finish 2 novels per year and be considered prolific by many people.

Write 1,000 words per day, or about an hour, and in 270 days you would have finished three novels. And that means you would only have to do that five days a week to write three novels per year. In other words, it doesn’t take many hours to be considered prolific.

Wow! What? This really struck home with me. I can type pretty fast – my NaNoWriMo stuff gets typed at around 1,000 words an hour, so I’m right on the money, according to Dean.

And here we come to the third problem. I can’t find time to write.

Why not? Well, by the time I set myself up, get all my notes together, make a cup of tea – well, there’s just not enough time to write anything meaningful.


I’m trying to find at least two hours free so I can write properly, but that’s never going to happen. For one, I have a very busy life. And for another, I get distracted at the drop of an email notification. So what to do?

The answer is in three parts:
* I’m to put all distractions to one side. They’re not important. Well, probably not. Don’t be checking social networking and email and RSS feeds and book sales every ten minutes.
* I must stop putting self-imposed timescales on everything. Write when I have the time, and don’t get overwhelmed by trying to finish something too soon. The book buyers will be there tomorrow, and they’ll be there for years after if I write well.
* I need to get used to writing in small doses. Accept that I’m unlikely to get two hours without any interruptions, and write for half an hour.

I think this will work. If I only concentrate on one project at a time (I know, obvious, but I get enthusiastic), I won’t get overwhelmed, and the books will come out when they come out, when they’re finished and when I’m happy with the writing.

And now I’ve finished this blog post, I’m just going to make a cup of tea, feed the dog, check … well, at least I’ve written for half an hour without stopping.


Should I write literary fiction, or should I write genre?

I’ve just read a fascinating article by Laura Miller HERE , where she investigates the continuing “literary – vs – genre” debate. This, in response to an article in the Guardian recently.

For me, this article sums up the ideas about reading, and why we shouldn’t dismiss genre fiction too lightly. It all depends on who your target audience is. Do you want your works to be admired for their cleverness, or do you want them to be read by a mass market?

The current rise in popularity of the romance genre in ebooks shows that there is a market for ‘traditional’ genre fiction. And long may it continue.

Oh, and I can’t write literary fiction. I’ve tried. God knows, I’ve tried. But it’s genre for me.