Tethers video interview

Below is a short video interview I recently recorded about my YA novel, Tethers. Hopefully, the video will give any interested parties a nice little taster of the book as well as an insight into its development. I hope you enjoy it!

Tethers is available via Amazon UK now.

January 9, 2013Leave a comment

Beta reading

When I first finished my novel, I was slightly dubious about letting anyone I knew read an early draft. What if they didn’t like the characters?  What if they couldn’t understand the story? Or, worst of all, what if they simply deemed the entire book utterly illegible?

Despite my reservations, I knew I had to let people read it at some point. After all, books exist to be read, not to lay dormant in a laptop file collecting whatever the digital equivalent of dust is. So with some trepidation, I eventually handed my manuscript over to a handful of trusted contacts/friends/family members who knew a thing or three about either books, writing, or the art of communication.

And after they’d read it, I was incredibly glad I’d asked them to. I’d lived with my characters, settings and prose for a year and a half and, in doing so, had become blind to some of the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes making their homes in my chapters. A few fresh pairs of eyes were able to clear up a good proportion of these straight away.

My beta readers were also able to highlight parts of the story which were slightly confusing. As the author, I obviously knew in my mind what was going to happen next and had, on occasion, made the mistake of not explaining what some of the characters were doing during parts of a sequence. For example, a character might suddenly and inexplicably end up interacting with a part of the scene a fair distance from where the text had originally identified them as being. Again these blunders were quickly identified and dealt with.

There was also the odd issue with making it clear which character was talking. At one point, I’d inadvertently made it seem as though a horse had verbally replied to its owner’s greeting (I should probably make it clear that animals can’t speak in my book).

After I’d fixed all the identified mistakes I was suddenly much happier with my manuscript, and the positive comments about the story and writing gave me a significant and much needed confidence boost.

Anyway, has anyone else out there had any interesting experiences with beta reading? As always views, thoughts and comments welcome.

November 1, 20121 Comment

The writing environment

I think one of the most important ingredients in generating a productive writing session is the location in which you write. Personally, I find setting up and returning to a particular space really helps me to make quality progress when I delve into my fictional worlds.

The picture on the right is the place I’ve recently been doing most of my writing. The table is a good height, the chair suitably comfortable and I have a window to stare expectantly out of when I’m desperately seeking inspiration. But frankly, I don’t think any of these traits are really what helps me advance. I think it’s more about having your own designated writing space, no matter where, which ultimately forces you to get on with it and start writing, no matter how you feel.

Let me explain a little bit more. If you return to the same area and do the same kind of activity there day in day out, I think I’m right in saying that your brain begins to associate said space and its specific cues (aesthetics, sounds, smells etc) with the mindset needed for that particular brand of activity.

So, when I sit down at my table, I find I’m suddenly less distracted or bothered about whatever else is going on at the time. All I really want to do is to start typing away and create the best work I possibly can.

I also think it helps to have a bit of a routine going. If you can manage to do your writing at a similar time each day (I know, I know, not always possible given the hectic modern lifestyle) then I think that can help your brain seamlessly slip into writing gear too.

Anyway, are set writing spaces and routines the norm? Let me know what you think.

October 9, 201210 Comments

Novel sources

One of the most quoted tips for aspiring authors is ‘read as many books as you can’. Of course, this makes total sense; reading high quality work from established pros is always going to assist in honing your writing skills, but I don’t think this advice goes far enough.

I think a writer should ideally draw from copious sources and always be conscious of the rich and varied word use peppered throughout our everyday environment. I suppose films, TV programmes and websites are the most obvious suppliers of such linguistic nuggets because they’re (mostly) written by talented individuals or teams. However, I think writers should seek out more novel sources of inspiration too.

Restaurant menus, radio banter, billboards, DVD boxes, transport announcements, E-mails, post cards, questionnaires  – all these and more frequently boast words and sentence structures which can make you think, ‘Wow, something like that would work much better than the way I said it’.

Let’s take radio banter as an example. Whilst listening to a tennis commentary on the old wireless not so long ago, I heard the first few rallies of a match involving two titans of the circuit described as ‘the opening exchanges’ – what a deliciously eloquent and concise phrase! Perfect, I immediately thought, for describing the initial attacks, blocks and counters of a sword fight I was writing at the time.

Now, obviously you need to be careful; you can’t plagiarise or go filling your work with complicated/exotic words the reader has no chance of understanding. I think it’s more about using words everyone knows in fresh, innovative and sumptuous ways.

So my point is, I think writers should always be on the lookout for exquisite and inspirational language use, even in the unlikeliest of places. As JK’s very own Mad-Eye Moody puts it, ‘Constant vigilance!’

September 1, 20123 Comments