Showing posts with label my writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label my writing. Show all posts

Monday, 11 November 2013


First, it's my birthday.

Second, I'm going to the dentist for nasty things.

And third, I'm announcing a new ebook, to be published three weeks today!

Actually, TWO novels in ONE ebook. The Passionflower Massacre and Sleepwalking will be available in a single ebook three weeks today, December 2nd. I'm very excited about this and have wanted to do it for ages but struggled to find the time.

Both novels were originally published by Hodder and got great reviews and reader response. Both were read often in school book groups and between them they were shortlisted or nominated for various awards, with Sleepwalking winning the Scottish Arts Council Children's Book of the Year. I still receive lovely emails and letters - particularly about The Passionflower Massacre - and I'm delighted that they will be available again.

Why both novels in one book? To make it better value for you and because they appeal to similar readers. Both books are emotional, thrilling, and explore big ideas. They appeal to older teenagers (the target readership) as well as adults and deep-thinking younger teenagers.

I LOVE the new cover! Designed, of course, by Andrew Brown of Design for Writers. I don't think he'll mind me saying that this one was not an easy task... He had to come up with something that would express both books, and some interesting conversations were had while he tried to understand the complexities of my thinking!

And the giveaway/competition? Starting now and finishing at midday on Mon 25th November, a "pick me" competition with a Very Exciting Prize to a UK address.

The Very Exciting Prize? A package containing all of these:
  • An original print version of Sleepwalking - now very rare. I only have a small number of copies but I'm releasing one of them.
  • An original print version of The Passionflower Massacre. Equally rare.
  • An original print version of Mondays are Red. EVEN rarer! I've thought long and hard about giving away my precious print copies up but I think it's right that I should for this. I hope they go to a good home!
  • A hessian Blame My Brain bag.
  • One other book of mine - you choose.
Three runners-up will win a Blame My Brain bag.

What is Sleepwalking about? Language, life, passion and pain, choice, ambition, risk.
150 years in the future, and the Citizens drift contentedly in a world without wonder, where every emotion is regulated. There is no pain, no suffering, no evil. And no freedom. Just safety and drug-induced happiness. But a small group, the Outsiders, crave real emotion, real freedom, even suffering. To them, the power of ideas and language cannot die – or there is no point in being human. And they have a plan. For years, a group of young people have been raised to have the strength and knowledge to overthrow the system. Now, when a deadly virus strikes, four of these teenagers, Livia, Cassandra, Marcus and Tavius, must act quickly to infiltrate the sinister headquarters of the Governators and corrupt the system. But their plan carries enormous risk. If they can’t discover the chilling secret behind this saccharine dystopia, and overcome it, they will surely die.

What is The Passionflower Massacre about? Learning who to trust; retribution; forgiveness - or not. And an evil religious cult.
Matilda longs for freedom, to escape a painful childhood. Working on a Devon fruit farm after leaving school seems to offer the perfect opportunity. Heaven, in fact. Heat, strawberries, and the gorgeous Matt – what more could she want?

The super-friendly people who run the farm draw Matilda into their group, feeding her delicious cake and tea, seducing her with loving concern. These people seem to understand her and she lets herself be wrapped in their warmth. So when they want her to join them in the big house on the hill and meet their charismatic leader, Peter, she is ready and willing. She doesn't want to question, think or worry. But Peter and the Beautiful People have a shocking plan. By the time Matilda wakes up, and before she realises that Matt’s disappearance is suspicious and that she’s mixed up in a sinister cult, the passionflowers have bled their intoxicating juice and the plan is under way.

Entwined through the story, we see glimpses of Peter about to be released from prison twenty-five years later. An old woman has been visiting him. She has her own ideas of God's will, faith and justice. Who is stronger? Who is right? Who will win?

I'll serialise free chapters over the next few days, here on my blog. And I'll give you insights into the ideas behind the books or aspects of writing them.

So, for the chance to win those RARE prizes, please comment below. I'm running the same comp on Twitter and on my FB Author page, AND on my Heartsong blog - all entries will go in one random generator together. One comment per person on each of the four places - in other words, you can each have up to four entries altogether.

More details about both The Passionflower Massacre and Sleepwalking here.

Prepare to be drawn into the dark crevices of my mind...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Do you have the bottle for a major re-write?

Yes, I have a cheeky little Sauvignon chilling in my fridge...

That might help but it's not what I'm talking about, sadly. I'm talking about bottle. Bravery. Even bravado. A touch of derring-do.

It's something that separates the sheep from the goats, writing-wise: the ability and willingness (OK, that's two things) to tackle a major rewrite. Some writers - and I'm one of them - feel that all their writing is rewriting. I'm constantly trying to improve, hone, think what might be better. But I am not talking about tinkering and self-editing. 

I'm not talking about going through from beginning to end looking for typos, or making one of your characters different, or removing a scene or thread, or adding a scene or thread, or removing examples of over-writing, or altering the pace, or injecting cliff-hangers, or strengthening a theme, or removing a theme. I'm talking about radical, fundamental changes that make the whole book different. I'm talking about The Big Rewrite. Brace yourselves. And get your bottle out of the fridge.

There are times, (and, in case you're a Supertramp fan, yes, it may be when all the world's asleep and the questions run so deep) when a BR is necessary. And at those times we must find the strength to bite the bullet and just damn well do it. 

Often on these occasions you've sensed (and ignored) an earlier whiff of eel-vomit*, a suspicion that this is not your best book, a blind faith that any holes will sort themselves by magic. You can ignore these whiffs if you want to - and sometimes, you have to because you don't know what the source of the whiff is yet - but eventually you will need to act.

(*I don't think eel-vomit smells but allow me some artistic licence. Eel-vomit is the word I regularly assign to rubbish writing.)

Let me tell you about a novel I've been writing. Let us call it Castle Crone, because that is what it is called (though it wasn't at first.) I started about four years ago. And "finished" less than a year later. I was happy with it, though I knew it had a problem with the ending - but I ignored this because it was to be the start of a series anyway - and another problem (or three) I couldn't quite put my finger on. But I felt I had something good and interesting and unusual and generally happifying. Agent loved it. So that was good. She sent it to publishers. They loved it. I received amazing feedback, including from one who said it was the best submission they'd seen all year but they couldn't take it because it competed with something they'd just commissioned. And by the way, they said, we wonder whether X quite works. And Y. And whether the ending is right?

To cut a long story short, two things happened. The recession hit, so publishers wouldn't commit to a major (expensive) series. And I found myself busy with the publication and knock-on effects of Wasted and then the new edition of Blame My Brain and then the contract for The Teenage Guide to Stress. However, during that time, I did rewrite it. Twice. Totally. Two BRs. Then I didn't like it so much, and nor did my agent. So we decided to wait till the time was right and see whether I'd like to tackle it again.

I rewrote it the following year but didn't send it out. I'd lost my way.

Ditto the next year. Wahhhhhh. 

By then, I had so many drafts I didn't know what they all were. They had document names such as "Castle Without Climber", "Final Castle With Climber", "Castle Crone With Dragon Bits", "Final Castle Sept 2011", "Final Final Castle Without Dragons" and "Final Frigging Castle".

Inspired partly by desperation, partly by a love for the world I'd created and partly by my agent, I've just done two more Big Rewrites in the last few months, including the one I finished last week, which I have called, "I'VE BLOOMIN DONE IT." 

1. Voice. Voice A, which I had loved (and which had made it feel really original) had to go, to make it more commercial. (Ouch, but there were good reasons - and, remember, I write for children.) Voice B transmogrified into Voice C and then a mixture of Voices A, B, C and D. Now, we all know you can't have a random mixture of voices, so that wasn't OK at all. So, I discarded B, C and D, and went back to a modified A - let's call it A2. My agent said that A2 was holding the pace back in some parts. So that wasn't OK at all. She said Voice A2 was great for one character's POV but not the rest. I didn't agree but I did what I was told, because she is Always Right. So, I then created a structured, reasoned alternation between Voice A2 and Voice E. Then I realised that Saint Agent was definitely right and I chopped Voice A2 some more until it was more of an A-. 

2. In one version, my MC was terrified of climbing, in a mountainous land where climbing is the most valued and necessary skill. In the next version, he was utterly brilliant at it, which, as you can imagine, changed everything. Like everything. Apart from the rockfaces and castle walls he had to climb. In the final version, he's utterly terrified of it... Most of the other characters also changed personalities. Often. 

3. Tense. In the first version, I used present tense, because I'd been writing Wasted, which is present tense. PT was quite wrong for this new story. As Saint Agent pointed out. Grr.

4. Structure. I can't even face telling you. 

5. Characters. There are a lot of them and I changed the relationships between almost all of them. Every change had a knock-on effect.

6. The ending. This was my final and almost last minute (heck of a long minute...) change, despite being the thing I'd known was wrong four years ago. The new ending is eleventy million times better. And so different as to be unrecognisable

7. The beginning. Because endings affect beginnings.

8. Stuff. 

The only thing that never changed is the Castle that forms the imaginary world. And that's interesting, as the whole point about this Castle is that is will not fall or be changed. It is immutable. Unlike books.

And now there is no whiff of eel-vomit!

What do I hope you will learn from this sorry saga?

1. That the writing process is not easy. But, it repays the effort. Be brave. It may be the hardest writing thing you'll do, but it will be the most important.
2. That the writing process is organic. A book doesn't arrive fully-formed. You have to grow it and shape it and be prepared to make mistakes with it and not to see them at first. I don't condemn myself for not dealing with them earlier. I don't think I could have done.
3. That a good agent is a thing of saintliness. 
4. That when there's a whiff of vomit, there's almost certainly vomit

Unless it's actually parmesan sauce. They do have a similar smell. However, if you know perfectly well that you haven't been cooking parmesan sauce, don't waste time thinking that's what you can smell.

It's your WIP whiffing. Take deep breaths and sort it. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

All my advice about publishing and writing

This is the last post but one. After tomorrow, there will be no more crabbit!

Before I go, I want to make sure that you know that my advice is still available. I've deleted some irrelevant blogposts but left everything else intact. I may still do some workshops and events, but please don't ask me any more Dear Crabbit questions or email me for advice. I just can't do it any more, or not if I want to return to being a children's writer. I know most of you understand and you've been terrifically supportive.

However, the best advice is in my books for writers. These are not rehashing of blog posts: books are different. My books are coherent, structured, deeply considered, and professionally edited. Even the short ones took a great deal of time and care - it often takes longer to write something short than something long!

For a comprehensive guide to catching that elusive deal with agent or publisher, try Write to be Published. This is in print and ebook format and is published by Snowbooks. Scott Pack, publisher with Harper Collins, said, "I receive a lot of emails from authors asking for guidance on how to take the next steps to publication. In future I will just point them in the direction of this book.” And Joanne Harris said "Nicola Morgan is made of awesome!" Sorry, can't help mentioning that :)

For a detailed guide to writing a synopsis, an ebook described by top agent Carole Blake as "pure gold", try Write a Great Synopsis. It aims to remove all fear and even make writing a synopsis a satisfying process.

For a detailed guide to writing the query letter or covering letter, an ebook described by another top agent, Oli Munson, as "packed with sage advice," you need Dear Agent.

And for a guide to how Twitter can work for you, Tweet Right - The Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter will do the trick. From an Amazon review (not written by me!) - "A really straightforward, funny, no-nonsense look at twitter and how to do it. I've found it invaluable and it gave me the confidence to try tweeting. It's also good on the etiquette so you don't make a fool of yourself or annoy people."

Don't forget: you do not need a Kindle or any special reading device to read an ebook. You can download free software to buy Kindle books or epub versions from eg Lulu. All my ebooks are available in Kindle and epub versions.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Yes, we are all independent

We're all independent, we authors. Whether we are self-publishing, or publishing with trade presses, or a mixture. Some people use the word "indie" for self-publishing, which reveals a misunderstanding of what being a "published" author is. And, for those of you who are looking for a publisher for your work, it's important to know.