Today on If Only I Could Read Faster we have a guest post by Mary-Jane Riley, author of The Bad Things and After She Fell. She’s talking about the six things she wishes she knew before being published. Enjoy!!
Six Things I Wish I had Known Before Being Published
Not everybody is going to love your baby…
You’ve fretted and sweated and been rejected and then finally, finally you’re on top of that mountain. And yes, family, friends and colleagues are absolutely thrilled for you – even writer friends who are still trying to get published are thrilled and, although a tiny, weeny bit of them dies (I’ve been there) – they cheer and buy your book. With a bit of luck they review it and say they’re looking forward to the next. But there is always one, maybe more than one, who’s indifferent. Maybe they don’t like it, or are a bit jealous or it goes over their head.
Conversely and unexpectedly, old friends, people I hadn’t connected with for many, many years, and friends of my children all beat the drum for my book. It’s been wonderful.
You realise how incriminating your Google history is.
Lordy! I pray I’m never investigated for murder because I will be arrested. Here’s a ten second trawl through mine:
Smell of decomposing body
Diving into the world of the dead
Revenge porn and slut shaming
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Black magic spells and satanic witchcraft
How to write a spell
Maggots and decomposition
Effects of drowning
Social media can take over your life.
Most of you probably know this already, but I didn’t. Naive or what? I knew I would have to up my Twitter and Facebook presence but, come on guys, how much do I have to do? A lot, as it happens. But most of it is fun – interaction with other authors is fabulous – especially authors you admire (a few fan girl moments have been known to occur) – ditto bloggers and readers (more about that later), but the promotion side, that I try to keep to a minimum but enough so people know my book is out there. But it’s tough. And I’ve discovered Instagram. Love it. Now I’m trying to get together a couple or three boards on Pinterest and then … See what I mean?
I was so ignorant about rankings, the importance of reviews and algorithms.
Nope, I hadn’t heard of algorithms either until I’d published a book. Still not sure I understand them now but I know they can be Very Important. But, and this is a big but, after days and days and days of obsessing over rankings etc, I am learning to let it go. You have to. Or go mad.
Get a good chair – boring but valuable advice.
I did eventually and it has eliminated that hobbley old woman look (not sexy) when I get up from it.
Did I say six? Well there’s a seventh, and the best, and it’s back to those authors, readers and bloggers. I had no idea what a great lot of people there were on social media and in the flesh at events. So supportive, encouraging and kind. Thank you. Long may you be so!
I’m delighted to kick off the blog tour for Netta Newbound’s Prima Facie today. Although book 4 in the Adam Stanley series Prima Facie can be read as a standalone book. If you look on Goodreads you will see that all of Netta’s books get good reviews and are well worth reading. I love that she has written about ‘writing about shocking and sensitive subjects’ for If Only I Could Read Faster today because Netta’s book, An Impossible Dilemma, had a number of scenes that were so shocking and graphic that they have stayed with me long after finishing the book. Netta has a real talent and I thoroughly recommend her books.
Writing about shocking and sensitive subjects.
When I first decided to write a book, I found myself approaching certain scenes with fear – tiptoeing around them, giving only the most basic details. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what to write about, in fact the opposite was true. I was wary of exposing my thoughts –always in the back of my mind I worried about how I’d feel if my parents read them.
It didn’t take me long to realise I wouldn’t get very far with this approach. I found the best way to get over the fear was to just write the scene—however graphic, and worry about the rest later. At first I felt as though I was doing something illicit, I’d slam the laptop closed if anybody entered the room, my face turning crimson. Once the scene was written, I read it over and over again. Each time it became a little less shocking than the last. Then, once I was familiar with every word, I asked a friend to read it. This was the scariest part and I still get butterflies to this day when I hand over a new piece of work.
On the whole, I’ve got away with the sick scenes. I don’t do sick purely for sick’s sake, but the awful events in my books are needed to drive the story forward. In Behind Shadows for example—Amanda, as a child, had been a victim of her father’s paedophile ring. When, years later, her father is released from prison, he and a couple of his cronies turn up dead. The subject is sick, but whichever way we look at it, this kind of thing happens in every walk of life. I didn’t glorify the abuse; however I needed some graphic scenes in order to justify the actions of the killer. Nine times out of ten I find myself writing about killers I hope the reader can identify with.
Another thing I avoid doing is filling the pages with gratuitous sex scenes. I’m far from prudish, and will add one if I feel the scene calls for it, but I refuse to describe in detail the same thing over and over again. Now I’m not knocking erotica or sizzling romance, but I figure if a person wants this particular genre they wouldn’t be looking at my books.
I’m delighted to have Rita Brasington on If Only I Could Read Faster today talking about qualifications for writing. Rita’s book The Good Kind of Bad is, according to many, a very good read and I look forward to reading and reviewing it soon.
Qualifications for writing by Rita Brassington:
Well, I have a GCSE in English…
A double first in English from Cambridge – that’s what I’d like to write on my literary CV, but I can’t. I never went to Cambridge, or Oxford, or Edinburgh, or King’s. I do possess an honours degree from UCLan, and university diploma from Durham, though not in the literary field. With so many writers graduating from prestigious universities with an armful of certificates/attending writing courses/intensive workshops/working in the print industry in various guises, it forced me to take a look at my own credentials.
I have a GCSE in English Literature. I got an A, in 1999, though how much of producing a good read is letters after your name and which portion is a good imagination? I agree that writing has to be taught, at whatever level. No one is born knowing how to read and write (the reading being just as important as the writing). I toyed with the idea of taking a course after I’d completed most of my life in education, but that was after I’d written my book. Writing The Good Kind of Bad almost felt like a ‘bet’ to myself to see if I could do it – I’d never planned on writing a book so hadn’t looked into educating myself on how to achieve it first. I had always enjoyed putting pen to paper, but it was short stories or diary entries – nothing quite as mammoth as a full-length novel.
Maybe it doesn’t matter to the reader whether they’re perusing the work of an Oxbridge graduate. I doubt they’d ever know unless they actively sought out their bio. Maybe it only matters to me, that somehow I would be a better writer because I’d donned a cap and gown. Of course, different experiences produce different work, and each audience will seek out their preferred pitch.
Does it matter to me, really, if I don’t have the literary degree?
Nah. I wrote a book. I did it. And people like it. That’s all that matters. Anyone can write. You just need some gentle guidance along the way to turn it from a dream to a reality.
To anyone who is thinking of writing a book, I’d definitely recommend it, whether you’ve got the ‘credentials’ or not. What’s the worst that could happen? It could take over your life, you might never finish it, or you might become a bestseller. There’s nothing better than a stranger taking a chance on you, buying your book, then telling you how great it was. No amount of education can prepare you for that, and that’s a good thing.
Every time I beat myself up over my work, thinking it could be better, that I could have done things differently if only I’d had the certificates to back me up, my friends give me a reality check. They ask if I’ve seen their book in the Kindle Top 100 recently. No. Why? Because they haven’t written a book. They remind me how proud I should be of myself, and of what I’ve achieved in even finishing it.
Success and failure are measured by how you look at them. Deep down, of course I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.
I’m delighted to have Carol and Bob aka RC Bridgestock on If Only I Could Read Faster today as part of their blog tour for When The Killing Starts which was released yesterday. First I have a guest post from them followed by my 4* review. Enjoy!
From Fact to Fiction – A job like no other…
It is often said that we should ‘write what we know’ and so far that method has worked for us. But then again we write crime fiction, and between us we have nearly 50 years of police experience. This unique combination has enabled us to create our down-to-earth character Detective Inspector Jack Dylan, with warmth and humour because he is loosely based on Bob. Dylan’s partner Jen is also loosely based on me, very loosely I might add… And some traits of characters you meet in the Dylan series are also taken from those we’ve met ‘in the job’ – a profession often regarded as ‘a job like no other’.
It is one thing reading or writing fictional crime novels or watching them on TV; but why would anyone want to deal with the aftermath of man’s inhumanity to man, or be able to? Questions like this makes me wonder if ‘life’ prepares us for what’s to come …
Bob spent his school holidays on his grandparent’s farm, he had a paper round before and after school and his Saturday job was in a butchers. Leaving Grammar school before the mock exams, because he was offered an apprenticeship, meant that he had no academic qualifications, and he soon realised after qualifying as a butcher that unless he owned a shop there was little money in it. So, with a young family to provide for he went to work in a dye works. He stuck it our for two years. The money was good but when he saw colleagues with terrible burns, and when he blew his nose it gave off the colours of a rainbow, he knew enough was enough.
He had encountered three runs-in’s with the police in his young life. Once when he was five; his brother gave him a fog detonator that he had taken from the railway line. Bob being smart knew it wasn’t the watch his elder said it was and he threw it away. His railway inspector father found out what he had done and knowing how dangerous the detonators could be, immediately called the police. A short ride in a blue and white Morris 1000 police van took him to the ‘scene of the crime’, in the company of a stern looking police officer. Bob got a clip round the ear for wasting police time and another from his dad when he got home. The second incident was in his butchering days. Returning home on the bus one dark night, over the moors, from the slaughter house, the bus was stopped and a police officer climbed onboard. After speaking to the driver the officer walked slowly down the aisle, his eyes only for Bob. He grabbed the young butcher boy by the scruff of the neck and escorted him unceremoniously off. Apparently an eagle-eyed passenger had caught sight of Bob’s blood splattered smock which was tucked neatly under his arm, and on alighting promptly informed the police. Bob assumed the blue and white apron might’ve given the police officer a clue as to his profession, but nevertheless he was given a clip around the ear for wasting police time and told to put it in a plastic bag next time. He and was left by the side of the road to walk the four miles home – his allocated bus fare already spent! On the third occasion he was quietly enjoying his ‘pie and peas’ from the van in Birstall market square after a night out, when a copper barked at him to ‘move’! Before Bob could say, ‘Bob’s your uncle,’ he was thrown into the back of a police van with a dog that, if it wasn’t called Bite, it should’ve been. Luckily on this occasion the officer got an urgent call and Bob was released promptly with another clip around the ear.
So he decided, if he couldn’t beat them he might as well join them…
But please don’t despair if you haven’t walked the walk and talked the talk. You already know more than you think…
Eight years ago we had never put pen to paper – some confidence for those just about to start writing their first novel. The bad news is on hearing the wordswrite what you know I have seen faces immediately show defeat. But, these four short words can be misleading, build barrier as well as impose limitations on the imagination, and breed uncertainty.
The good news is that we all know a lot more than we think we do. Funny, it took me years to realise that little snippet of wisdom! What we ‘know’ isn’t just what our everyday material life we live. It is so much more…
For instance, we all know what scares us, what being frightened feels like, how we react if we touch something hot or cold, or smell something rancid. It’s that knowledge that we, the author has to draw upon to make our stories believable to others. Your fears of the dark, pain, the unknown, are other people’s fears too. You know what prompts these feelings just as much as the other primal emotions of happiness, sadness and anger; for these are a range of feelings that we all share as human beings. Just remember that when you are writing your story to make those emotions/reactions real to your reader.
Everyone knows what it feels like to have the sun on your back, to sit in front of a nice warm fire and feel snuggled, warm, safe; to fall over and scrape your knee – you probably did that hundreds of times as a child.
Think also of the other senses. What do you hear?
You know full well how you react to a loud bang and how others do too. Or what your body does when you put something tart in your mouth. By sharing those sensations the reader will immediately know how your character is feeling too. For example, Daisy put a slice of lemon in her mouth and pulled a sour face. We don’t need to add, she recoiled and cringed at the tangy taste because we, the reader, can imagine it.
So, by drawing upon what you share with others you’ve instantly created a rapport between you, your reader and your character, and this trigger in turn will help share emotions. This in turn will help you build a place. What do you see? The place is irrelevant you could be in a garden, a lounge, a bedroom… Now, as you move on you’ll begin to realise that the situations that you ‘know’ does not necessarily have to happen where it happened to you. This experience could happen anywhere you want – even in another time, or in a fictional world.
The next step is to create a character – someone who we want people to remember whether they love, hate or feel indifferent towards. Give them a look, a trait, a catch-phrase that is unforgettable – for instance, do you remember Kojak the big, bald, hard-nosed detective with a lollipop addiction who constantly said, ‘Who Loves Ya Baby’? See what I mean?
To make characters in stories in the past or the future come alive we do our research to find out what the fashion was, transport, the technology of the time. Research is another form of knowing.
You will need to know how to make them real today.
Remember people are people, no matter where or when they lived. They will all have experienced love, hate and curiosity just like you and me. Even if your characters are from another planet, or exist in some futuristic land you’re going to have to give them traits that your readers can identify with, here and now so the story will work.
So, taking what you have and what you know, from experience and research you can make-believe….
A story’s success is only waiting to be shaped by your imagination.
Now what are you waiting for?
We often get asked how we write together.
Bob writes the police procedural which is the main storyline for each DI Jack Dylan novel. All the Dylan books stand alone in terms of the crime story. He writes this with the ‘mask’ of the detective clearly on, as he doesn’t concentrate on the victims background until the evidence is given to him by way of it being revealed to the investigation team. The initial crime scene in mind he writes through the enquiry. The reader of a Dylan book is firmly sat on the detectives shoulder throughout both in his professional life and at home treating them to all the highs and lows of any case he takes charge of.
Once the crime has been solved I get the narrative and I start from the beginning – Bob doesn’t do a re-write – that’s my job. I write the home-life storyline, the emotion. I draw out of Bob his ‘real’ feelings and write the scenes from his sometimes harrowing descriptions. Personally I think writing has been cathartic for Bob. Bob says its work! We’re lucky to write procedurals as there is never a case of not knowing how to move the story forward.
However, we don’t write about factual murders. We have too much respect for the victims, or the relatives of the victims who have already suffered enough; but every crime scene we write about Bob has seen. Every post-mortem is etched in his sub conscious forever: all he has to do is draw on the memory of the incident. He will never forget. The family saga which ties the books as a series also allows a new storyline in each book so the books do truly stand alone and this is due to us watching the couple grow, as well as their family with all the drama that brings…
‘When The Killing Starts’ Di Jack Dylan (Book 7) released 30th June 2016
When the Killing Starts is the seventh book in the D.I. Jack Dylan series. However, it is the first book in the series that I have read and I had no problem keeping up so it can easily be read as a standalone book.
RC Bridgestock is in fact two people, a husband and wife team who now write together (and do a huge amount of amazing charity work).
Perhaps because it is written by an ex police officer, this book felt really real and true to life. Dylan’s relationship with his wife felt particularly genuine which may well be down to the real life experience of the other half of the writing team.
The main storyline in When the Killing Starts is focused on the frankly evil Devlin brothers. I found their part of the story really good, and I enjoyed reading about how Dylan was tracking them down. While Dylan is running that investigation he is also overseeing another murder investigation. I found that a bit of a distraction really, I would have preferred it if Dylan had focused on one investigation. Although I do recognise that no doubt in real life they do run multiple investigations at the same time.
If you are new to police procedural books then these are great books to start with. The assumption is made that the reader has little to no knowledge of how police investigations work, so things are explained clearly.
When the Killy Starts is a really good book, it is well written and I will definitely be reading more from RC Bridgestock and D.I. Dylan.
I received a copy of When the Killy starts from the authors in return for an honest review.