Writing Update

Hi there! It seems a while since last I posted about my own writing, so I thought I’d give you an update of how I’m progressing with my next novel.

For What it’s Worth is about a married couple whose marriage is under stress because of two main factors: Hugh is out of work and Yvonne is working too hard; and despite years of trying, they have been unsuccessful in their efforts to start a family. Two problems many people face, sometimes even together. So Yvonne and Hugh’s story is one many people can relate to. But we all deal with things in our own unique way, don’t we? So, although you might know someone who has been in their position – you might even have been in that position yourself – I haven’t written their story, or your story. I’ve written Yvonne and Hugh’s story. It’s about how they handle the stress, how they decide to move forward. You might not agree with their choices, but I hope you’ll be cheering them on.

This novel is not part of The Reluctant Detective Series, but it is a spin off from it. Yvonne is Mirabelle’s sister. If you read the series, you’ll probably remember that Mirabelle was the main character – and quite a character, quirky, eccentric and unpredictable – and she has a part to play in this new novel, but as a supporting character.

She was too much fun to write about to let her go 🙂

If you’re a writer, have you ever found it hard not to go on writing about a certain character even after their story has been written? It’s like keeping in touch with an old friend.

For What it’s Worth has been drafted, redrafted, edited, beta read, edited, redrafted, edited and is now with some more beta readers. Depending on their feedback, it will hopefully not be too long until the final proofread and polish before publication.

Tell me, when you read a book, do you like to think of the writing process that book had to go through before it landed on your bedside table? I must confess I love reading author interviews and profiles, learning as much as I can about the author and their work. I find it helps me understand where the story might have originated, and so enhances my understanding of it.

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To learn more about me as an author and about The Reluctant Detective Series or any of my published novels, please check the sidebar or click on my Amazon Author page.

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Introducing a Revamp

We all know that hard work generally brings the best result. You can only get out of something what you put into it, can’t you?

And, of course, that’s no different for writers.

If we want to get better at it, it isn’t just about writing more and more words, it’s about studying how to write, reading about writing, reading the work of other well-acclaimed authors, putting in the hours, weeks and months of hard work editing and polishing. Writing the first draft of a story is often the easiest part. In my experience, it is always the easiest part.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how my writing has developed and, I like to think, improved over the years I’ve been working at it. I’ve certainly put in a lot of hard work. So I went back to the first book I published and cast a critical eye over it. I was pleasantly surprised with how happy I was with the development of the story. But still, I published Family Matters as a paperback in 2008, followed that up with the eBook in 2013 – so – time for a revamp.

I decided Family Matters needed a new cover, then a bit of fine-tuning. I asked my artist daughter-in-law, Michelle Campbell, to come up with some art for the cover. Once again, she didn’t disappoint. I love the new cover she designed. It’s more modern and relevant to the subject matter – subject matter that I scrutinised and checked until I felt happy.

Next step? I thought I’d share the result with you in the following video. If you haven’t read Family Matters, perhaps you’ll enjoy the excerpt I’ve included.

Thanks for watching, folks. Hope you enjoyed the video. Hope you enjoy the book.

Here’s the link if you wish to purchase it or to READ IT FOR FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

And the link to my Amazon Author Page if you’d care to check out my other books.

Thank you.

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Why not share in the comments what you think of the cover? Or the book?

And do share your stories of the hard work you put into the things you do.

Do you think hard work does pay off?

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Oops, I’ve done it again!

In August, I wrote about Tunnel Vision, about emerging from a tunnel and seeing all the things that had been hidden from view. If you read the post before or if you have followed the link and have just read it, you will know that I was talking about how engrossed I get when writing a new novel.

Well, I’ve done it again!

I couldn’t resist taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Once again, that meant writing a new novel – well, the first draft of one, anyway. The target is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, a daily average of 1,667 words for thirty days. ‘Since I’ve managed to adopt the habit of writing every day since February, how hard could it be?’ I asked myself. The answer? Only as hard as I make it. So I decided to plan this new novel out and get to know my characters pretty well before I embarked on the actual writing on November 1st. That really helped. Throughout the month, I was never lost. I always knew where my story was headed – or I thought I did.

Right at the end of the month, my main character seemed to develop a mind of her own and she decided to take me in another direction. I guess she didn’t like the ending I’d planned, and in one pivotal conversation with another character, the story swung off my carefully plotted route.

Now, remembering I’m already in that tunnel, already have tunnel vision, but the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel has been growing bigger and brighter for days. Suddenly, the light felt like an oncoming vehicle instead of the way out of the tunnel. Could I avoid crashing? Would this be the end of the road for my novel?

Don’t be silly. Of course not. We writers can’t let our characters totally take over. They need us to guide them. They may think they’re in charge. We may even talk about them as though they are. But they are not. They are our creations. We are in charge.

I hope you heard the stern tone in my voice there, because that’s the tone I took when I sat down with Rosanna – yes, that’s her name, this wayward character in my latest novel, Gold Plated. We sat down with a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of cake and sorted this thing out. Okay, she wasn’t comfortable with the original plan, but I wasn’t happy with the direction she looked like taking. It couldn’t lead to the destination I’d had in mind from the outset. One of us had to give, didn’t we? Or could we compromise? Could Rosanna have her say, speak her mind as she just had and still get back on track?

Of course she can. I’m in charge, remember. It’s up to me to bring her round by carefully constructing a wee diversion that allows us both to feel happy with the outcome. And that’s what I did, bringing in the first draft of Gold Plated at 59,000 words by the 30th November, just as I emerged from the tunnel.

It’s only the 1st of December, so I’m still blinking in the light, but I see I have neglected this poor old blog again. I owe it an apology. I’d love to think someone might have missed me.

So, back on track. Still fleshing out Gold Plated, but with a little less intensity so there’s time and energy for all the other writing-related projects I delight in, including the final edit of For What it’s Worth the spin-off of The Reluctant Detective Series I was writing. My lovely daughter-in-law, Michelle, has almost finished painting a gorgeous cover for it and soon I hope it will be all systems go for publication.

What fun we writers have 🙂

Did you have a go with NaNoWriMo this year? Do tell me in the comments how you got on.

Or have you read any good books lately? Ones that take you off into that glorious tunnel of trees, where everything is beautiful but you can hardly see anything outside it – the dishes, the ironing, the cat’s empty saucer …

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You can read Christine Campbell’s books for FREE with Kindle Unlimited, or buy them in eBook or paperback format here on Amazon.

4 Plot Pitfalls You Need to Avoid – ProWritingAid

Okay! So it seems I need to go back to the current draft of my WIP brandishing a large red pen!

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 Some great suggestions in this article, along with the comments from my beta readers, have made me re-examine my plot. I now know why there were parts that felt sluggish to my readers and to me, and what I think I’m going to do about them.

This article was published on the ProWritingAid website on April 16th, 2016,  written by Kathy Edens, a blogger, ghost writer, and content master who has extensive experience helping clients reach their readers with compelling and engaging material. You can find Kathy at www.kathy-edens.com

I’m so pleased I stumbled upon the article.

It’s so hard to ‘kill your darlings’, as William Faulkner and Stephen King would have us do. I knew there were scenes in my WIP that didn’t fulfil two important criteria: to move the plot along or to develop the characters.

Strike one!

But I like those scenes. There is some great writing in them: some clever, witty dialogue, some great observations on life, some handsome metaphors. But the story could live and thrive without them. One of my trusted beta readers (she’ll know who she is :-)) tactfully pointed them out when she said I didn’t have her whole attention at some points in the story – backing up my intuitive feeling.

Strike two!

Then I read this article. “If a character with a subplot isn’t absolutely vital to the denouement, use that red pen,” Kathy says.

Strike three!

I’d already deleted part of one character’s involvement. Now I think more the rest of her part needs to go.

There’s another character, Elouise, who I know I shall keep, but I don’t need to tell her story. This is not her story. It is Yvonne and Hugh’s story. She can play a part in it, but it is not about her, much and all as Elouise would like it to be.

“Think of it this way,” Kathy says. “Don’t kill your darling; simply move her to a new novel as the main character.”

Elouise is a great character and her story is interesting, so I shall delete those scenes in this WIP and use them in the novel I already planned to write about her at another time. I know she’ll be pleased to have a novel all about her. She’s that kind of girl. Win/win.

What fun editing can be when you listen to the wisdom of others who know the craft, and you find the courage to take their advice.

Okay, so this is all very well to talk about in theory, now I have to see if I can go through with it. Where’s that red pen? Gulp!

What about you? Is this article helpful to you? – well, I know, you’ll have to read it first, but after you do, why not let me know in the comments?

I’d love to find I’m not alone in this.

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Over to you Kathy …

We’re going to spend a little bit of time on plot this month—talking about what NOT to do. Sometimes it’s hard to see plot problems while you’re writing and you don’t notice them until the end. This will send some writers into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Others will white-knuckle their way through half-hearted revisions. Here are a few common plot pitfalls and what you can do to rectify them.

Source: 4 Plot Pitfalls You Need to Avoid – ProWritingAid

Tunnel Vision

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I’ve just emerged from a tunnel and I’m blinking in the light.

Goodness, what a lot I have neglected!

I see it now.

But I was quite happily engrossed in my tunnel until it came to an end.

It wasn’t the kind of tunnel that plunges you into total darkness. More like a tree tunnel, with light getting through but no way to see beyond the trees to what’s going on outside. You know the kind, I’m sure. A pleasant tunnel to be in.

I’ve had tunnel vision before. It happens with irregular regularity, each time I’m engaged in writing a novel. Because I am in the habit of writing every day, it’s been quite some time since I suffered from writers’ block – if I ever truly did. Most times, I think the trouble was that I was out of the way of writing, my writing muscles were sleepy and had to be prodded awake each time I felt like adding to my word count, and that was much harder when it had been a long time since I wrote.

Having said that, a few years ago I didn’t write anything other than the occasional blog post for almost a year after my mother died. It had been a traumatic time – not just because she died, but more to do with other things that happened around her death – and I went into a very different tunnel for quite some time – a long dark one that blotted out the sun and most of the joy it can bring. When I emerged from that tunnel, it took me a long time to adjust and I found that my creativity had all but dried up.

I was recently reminded of a blog post I wrote about what helped get me writing again after one such longish phase of losing my creativity. You can read it here if you choose.

When I’m reading a good book I get tunnel vision too. You know that way, when you can’t put a book down and you read well into the night in order to finish it, then you close your eyes and can’t stop thinking about it for ages. When you finally open your eyes and look around, you blink in the light. You realise life has gone on while you were happily in that pleasant tunnel with the book.

I had a lovely review for Rusty Gold just recently when that seems to have happened to one of my readers:

“I really enjoyed the Rusty gold series. I just couldn’t put the 3rd book down. I was desperate to see how it ended so was stirring the soup with the book in my hand! Off to bed early to read in peace and quiet and, of course ,when it was finished I wished that I had made it last longer. Now, that is the sign of a really good read. It would make a great T.V. series. How good would that be?” ~ Barbara R.

Needless to say, it’s very encouraging to receive reviews like that. It always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I can’t thank my readers enough for them. If ever I meet one such reader, I’ll give her the hugest of hugs.

So, you know what I’m talking about – that kind of tunnel vision.

And, like I said, I’ve just emerged from such a tunnel.

I’ve been busy writing another novel, and what a happy tunnel I’ve been in. I got so caught up with my characters, I found it hard to leave them.

This WIP is now in the hands of some beta readers, and I must wait to get their feedback before I can write the final draft, but, meanwhile, I find I’m still thinking about Yvonne and Hugh, and their story. I’m having to hold myself back from writing the next part of their story – because that’s for another book, another tunnel.

This one, called For What it’s Worth, is not quite another in The Reluctant Detective Series, more a kind of spin off, and while Mirabelle and Sam feature in the story, the main protagonist this time is Mirabelle’s sister, Yvonne.

Yvonne only featured peripherally in the three books of the series, but the dynamic of her and her husband, Hugh, kept asking to be explored, so I did, and have written their story – so far. I say, ‘so far,’ because just as our lives don’t stop when we settle into a routine after some great adventure or happening in our lives, so too, characters can seem so real that I just know their story could continue on. And my mind is already buzzing with what happens next in the Yvonne and Hugh saga.

Meanwhile, I have to see to all the things I neglected when I was so engrossed in writing For What it’s Worth – blog posts, promotional posts, guest posts, interviews, lots of interesting things like that. No matter how bonnie that tunnel of trees in, no matter how beautifully the sunlight dapples through the branches, I don’t want to hide inside it for ever. I look forward to driving through another one soon, but for now, other writing tasks need attention, there is other fun to be had, other vistas to view.

How about you? As a reader, do you get so engrossed in a good book that you can hardly bear to put it down? Do you emerge at the end blinking in the light?

As a writer, is that how you feel about the first draft of a new novel? The second? The third? And all the rest…

Please do tell me if you have felt like that when reading or writing – or doing anything else. I’d love to hear about the books you’ve read that held you entranced and why.

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You can find the three books of The Reluctant Detective Series and four more of Christine’s novels here on Amazon

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Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading? by Guest Author Wendy Janes @wendyproof

Excellent advice from Wendy Janes on getting the best value from your proofreader.

Lit World Interviews

Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading?

I love my job as a freelance proofreader, but sometimes authors make it very difficult for me to do my job effectively.

However brilliant your writing, however delicious your story, if there are too many errors and inconsistencies, you are asking too much of your proofreader to spot everything.

Here are a few examples of things that should have been removed by the author/developmental editor/copy editor prior to proofreading. Just in case you’re wondering, they are all products of my fevered imagination:

  • A tear-jerking family saga opens with Davina playing with her five-year-old brother, Oliver, on the sprawling lawns of their darling papa’s country estate. When our feisty heroine rescues sweet young Oliver from his evil kidnappers two years later, he is ten years old. The hapless Oliver dies in a fire soon after his rescue, and (miraculously) reappears at Davina’s sumptuous wedding to…

View original post 565 more words

Point of View

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There are many ways to write a novel, so how do you decide on the best way? Get it wrong or muddled, and you could end up having to rewrite the whole story. With that in mind, it’s well worth taking the time before you start to think through the method and the mode you want to use to convey your story, to write your novel.

One of the first things to consider is whose story it is and who you want to tell it. Once you have decided that, you must write the story from that chosen perspective, at least for a chapter or a section of a chapter. While you are writing from that person’s point of view it is important to stay in that person’s head. You can only think or feel as that one person.

“… when you are writing a scene, you follow the character almost like a camera on the character’s shoulder or in the character’s head. You are looking at the character performing a specific set of actions or important actions in vivid detail.” — Jenna Blum in The Author at Work, 2013

If you want to tell your reader what someone else is thinking or feeling, you should wait until it’s their turn to tell their side of the story – in a new chapter, or at least a new section, often denoted by leaving a blank line between the sections.

What is not a good idea is to head-hop between characters, telling us what they all think and feel in one mish-mash of information. It can become confusing and does not make for easy reading.

If it is a story you as the author want to tell, or it is your story as the author, but you want to tell it as though you are an observer, if you are telling it, narrating it, rather than showing it, then you, the narrator, are limiting yourself to what you can see, hear, or assume about the characters. You cannot know what they think or feel, only what they do or say. This gives an unbiased point of view, an outsider’s point of view.

In the third-person narrative mode, each character is referred to by the narrator as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, or ‘they’. In third-person narrative, the narrator is not involved, not a character within the story, but conveys the story to the reader. This is the most flexible and most commonly used point of view used by fiction authors.

In a first-person narrative, the story is revealed through a narrator who is also a character within the story. In this case, the narrator can only express his/her own opinions, thoughts or feelings, and cannot convey any other character’s thoughts, feelings, opinions or perceptions unless the other character expresses them in dialogue or shows them in action.

The second-person narrative mode, in which the narrator refers to him or herself as ‘you’, is not often used in fiction. It distances the narrator from the story. If he/she is also a character within the story, it is as though he/she is watching his own life from a distance. An example of this:

“You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might become clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.”— Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City

This can be an interesting way of handling your story, but sometimes difficult to maintain and can become confusing when other characters enter the story and want to play a part.

It is, of course, possible to switch between points of view within one story, but such switches really are best kept to within chapter boundaries if possible, section boundaries at least. Never within a section, a paragraph or a sentence.

So how do you decide how you want to convey your story to the written page? How do you decide from whose point of view the story should be told? This goes back to the first question: whose story is it?

Through whose eyes are you going to let your readers ‘see’ the story?

The Writer’s Workshop says:

“Fiction is about inner worlds and inner journeys. If you use a particular POV repeatedly, then you must fully characterise that person. That means, a fully developed inner life; a fully developed character arc; a full set of challenges, encounters and personal change. If you work from a POV where the character in question is only partly developed, then this part of your writing will never come to life. if you aren’t sure whether a particular character is fully developed, then he/she almost certainly isn’t.”

This is such good advice. What is required is that you understand your characters. If you are a man writing from a woman’s POV, can you do it convincingly? Or do you write what you wish women were thinking? Can you imagine how a woman feels? Or do you assume she’ll feel much the same way as a man?

Similarly, if you are a woman writing from a man’s POV, you’d need to ask the same questions: can you imagine how a man might think and feel in a certain situation? Can you ‘put yourself in his place’? ‘Walk in his shoes’?

What about age and ethnic origin? These are also areas where research is needed to try to sound authentic. If you are writing your story from a child’s point of view, it would be important to find out how children think, feel, talk and walk. Don’t rely on your memory of being a child. That becomes overlaid with your adult interpretation. If you don’t have children of your own, go meet some children, ask your friends who have children if the family would like to join you for dinner so you can talk to them, play with them, observe them. *** I’d recommend caution here – you don’t want to seem creepy. Explaining that you are an author and need to do some research on children might be a good idea.***

Ethnic origin can be approached in a similar way, get to know some people of the ethnicity you want your character to be. Learn about their culture. Endeavour to understand where they come from.

Already written your novel but wondering why it doesn’t feel quite right? Try editing with coloured highlighters, highlighting when you are speaking with each character’s voice, one colour for the person whose story it is, different colours for when you pop into someone else’s head for a sentence or two. The whole of each chapter should be one, uninterrupted colour. If it is not, you’re head-hopping and that is a big no-no.

To correct it, look at each portion of a different colour and decide if it is necessary for that information to be included there. If not, remove it. If yes, find another way to convey it. Think about it: would the viewpoint character know what that other person was thinking? No, of course not. Not unless they told them or showed it in their facial expression or actions.

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The Writers’ Workshop also offer this helpful handful of no-nos. Few of them are absolute rules, but if in doubt, you’d be very well advised to follow them.

  • Don’t switch Points of view in the middle of a scene. If you start a scene with Mary, don’t end it with Tom.
  • Don’t write a scene from the Point of view of somebody who is killed in the course of it. If you really want the last minute on tape, as it were, then you can end a scene with a final sentence like ‘He looked up. The gun barrel was pointing straight at him. He felt nothing, only emptiness …’ But not much of this, please.
  • If you are writing a scene from Jo-Jo’s perspective then don’t relate information that only Ki-Ki could have seen. Choose a Point of view and stick to it.
  • If you are writing a scene from Roger’s perspective, then you can’t relate emotional information about Fanny. If you want to tell us something about Fanny, you have to do it via information which Roger could plausibly have access to. ‘Fanny’s lips were tight and white. He knew the signs of her fury well enough by now …’
  • If you start a book with a good number of scenes from Laura’s perspective, then you can’t just ditch her halfway through – or at the very least, you need a jolly good reason to do this. If you’re not sure if your reason is strong enough, then it certainly isn’t.

http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/PointsofViewinFiction.html

I hope you find them helpful.

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Christine Campbell, author.

Family Matters ~ Making it Home ~ Flying Free ~ Here at the Gate

Searching for Summer ~ Traces of Red ~ Rusty Gold, coming soon…

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