Tuesday, 14 June 2011

How to Survive Being Edited and Still Love Your Book/Editor/Self (and Even Occasionally Smile:-)

This wasn’t lifted from a guidebook or a ‘How To’ blog, it comes direct from the Sharp End. I find revising my novel under editorial guidance a bit like experiencing assisted indigestion. Of course, gas is always better out than in, but now I’ve got someone to kick it out, and then give me soda water and interesting new stuff to eat afterwards. It’s exhausting, it’s essential, and I cope with it by being…

-NERVOUS. Don’t let anyone tell you to be relaxed about your work. Nervous energy is good – it prevents complacent or comfortable writing, and keeps you out of the biscuit tin. And fortunately there’s loads to be nervous about, especially if it’s your first novel. So bite those nails! Drink too much coffee! And don’t worry if a little cold sweat seeps into your keyboard -- there really is everything to play for and everything to lose. A nervous brain is a very active organ, a nervous brain gets things done. So keep it real, brothers and sisters -- keep it twitchy.

-HUMBLE. You are not in complete control of your novel, only the writing of it. And this is good because no way can you be expected to bring much objectivity to something you’ve been giving birth to for years. If it’s rubbish, you need to be told. If your editor spots a useful connection you could make, or a logical flaw you shouldn’thave, just be grateful. The only question you should ask is, ‘would this change improve the book?’. If the answer is yes – and somewhere deep down you’ll always know the answer to that question – then go for it. Just remember to also be...

-RUTHLESS. You’re living on your nervous system and your ego is in chains. Now you are loose in a world of your own making with the most powerful weapon a creator can have: the delete button. Even your main character reaches for a spare pair of trousers as you clank by, your senses straining in every direction for signs of plot device, flabby prose and vile non sequiturs. You have already driven cliché to the edge of extinction, and reduced vast herds of Adverbs to a few captive specimens. On your keyboard, no button shines as brightly as the one that used to say ‘Delete’.

A huddle of emaciated back-stories spot you. They point at each other and shriek, ‘Him! Do it to him!’ but you merely scatter them with your passing – you’re after new prey now. Up ahead, a minor character who no longer pulls his weight is too busy ordering pizza to notice your approach. It’s only when your monstrous scales disrupt his wireless connection, preventing him from uploading his third best Mahjong score, that he looks up into your pitiless lens. In a second, he’s off his chaise longue and running, but it’s already too late.

You know where he lives.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Getting the Title Right, Getting the Title Wrong...

 Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a novel due out next year, a supernatural thriller entitled The Ghost Effect. I’ve been a bit sparing with details of this event until now, mostly because I have been up to my mind’s eye in rounds of heavy revision. But as time slips by and things begin to speed up, I can start reporting milestones in the book’s progress towards publication, starting now with the news that my book almost certainly won’t be called The Ghost Effect.

Now, I always suspected this might happen, even though I did put a lot of thought into the issue of titling over the two years of the book’s creation. The story is about kids who can travel in time through their dreams. Because it’s non-physical time-travel, they take on an ethereal form as they do this, being spotted throughout history as ghosts. The title was conceived as a combination of the creepy Germanic ‘ghost’ with the  Latinate, science word ‘effect’, a mis-match that was intended to create an intriguing whole. Like the Butterfly Effect, only spookier. At least, that was the idea. However, I always felt that ‘effect’ was a weak title word, and, as it turns out, so does everyone else.

So, what will the title actually be? Well, that’s being debated right now. There is one strong contender, but I won’t say anything about that just yet. What does strike me though is how closely those involved in marketing books think about these things. And also just how popular one-word titles have become. Finding a single word that captures the essence of my book, is universally relatable, and looks/sounds fab, though, now that’s a tall order! Even the English language has its limits. But one thing is certain – it’s crucial to get it right. Watch this space.