Monday, 31 March 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour!

Today is The Writing Process Blog Tour Day. This blog tour is where writers and authors answer questions about their writing process. One of the founders of my writing group, Gabrielle Aquilina, posted hers last week. Her blog is fab and worth checking out. You can take a look at her writing process here:

Here’s a glimpse into my writing world!

What am I working on?

Poison In The Water is a thriller and is my current work in progress. It’s set between travellers Thailand, glamorous Hong Kong and the bright lights of London.
The book tells the story of Celeste Renshaw, who thinks she has it all; the dream job; the fairytale marriage and money to burn.  But she stumbles on a secret that challenges everything she knows to be true.

My other project is a collection of flash fiction set around India which accompanies a collection of photographs. I’m working on this with photographer and good friend, Urmi Kenia. You can see one of the work in progress stories and pictures on my website. We hope to publish this collection later in the year.

I am also working on a light-hearted detective series set in rural Goa. Under The Coconut Tree is the first book in the series entitled The Chupplejeep Mysteries. In the book we are introduced to the loveable Detective Chupplejeep and his assistant Police Inspector Pankaj as well as a whole host of endearing characters. In Under The Coconut Tree Detective Chupplejeep is charged with finding the killer of Sandeep Shah, but with threats from the new Commissioner, his fortieth birthday approaching and a girlfriend who is desperate to see a ring on her finger, Chupplejeep is feeling the pressure.

I hope that Under The Coconut Tree will not only be an entertaining read, but it will also give the reader a glimpse into rural Goan life. I grew up in Goa and so I hold this place close to my heart.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to put a fresh spin on topical themes. In my last novel, The Bittersweet Vine, I focused on the rare phenomena of hysterical amnesia and Goa Traffic concentrated on child trafficking. As well as providing escapism for the reader, I like to make the reader think what they would do in a similar situation to the protagonist.

Why do I write what I do?

I grew up on detective fiction from Nancy Drew to Point Horror. Now I love novels full of suspense such as those written by Sophie Hannah. I also love Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Series which I took inspiration from for the Chupplejeep Mysteries. I enjoy writing what I would like to read. For me a book should be pure escapism, where the story transports the reader to a different world and takes them on a roller-coaster of a ride through a multitude of emotions.

How does your writing process work?

I love writing and I hate editing. So as soon as I finish a first draft I usually get an idea for another book. I usually scribble down a rough plot-line (in about 20 bullet points) and then have to use every ounce of willpower not to start writing the next book. I use the plot-line described above as I go, and of course it changes as I write. The further I get into the plot, the less I refer to the plot-line bullets, but I know if I get stuck I have something to refer to. Generally the end result is wildly different to what I had first imagined. Mostly this is because the characters take on their own personalities and pull me in different directions. At some point mid-manuscript I draw a little spider diagram with the protagonist in the middle and all the relationships plotted out around them. This way I can clearly see the way the characters interact with each other. I also add motivations and any major characterisation to it, which makes for an easy reference tool.

Editing is laborious as my first drafts are terrible. I usually have at least three edits before the manuscript is in a readable state. Sometimes I’ll go through and just check dialogue or characterisation on an edit and forget everything else. Other times I do a ‘deep clean’ edit and examine each chapter to within an inch of its life. As you can probably tell from this post my grammar is shocking! I have a million grammar books. It just doesn't sink in. Next on my to-do list is to complete a course in grammar. Because of this I usually have to get a proof reader to look through my work before I send it out.

I work full time so finding time to write can be difficult. I usually set myself deadlines by when I need to finish certain drafts so that I keep the momentum going. I finish work slightly earlier on a Wednesday and so most of my writing is done then. But mostly I snatch and hour where I can, because a Wednesday evening is never enough!

Thanks for stopping by! Continue with the tour on the blogs of these lovely writers (see below) next week!


Martin Lastrapes

Martin Lastrapes is a best-selling novelist whose debut novel, Inside the Outside, won the Grand Prize in the 2012 Paris Book Festival. 

You can see his writing process here:

Tim Arnot

Tim Arnot claims to remember the Sixties, although that almost certainly means he wasn't there. In his defense though, he does claim to have been very small. He had a college education from which he spectacularly failed to get any qualifications at all. But that didn't stop him from going on to be a successful writer of programs for computers and apps for iThings (if you buy a train ticket in the UK from one of those touchy-feely machines, there’s a good chance that Tim wrote the software inside it – unless it screwed up, in which case it was someone else).

At school, his teachers described him as "Quite good at English."

Tim lives in Oxfordshire with his kindle and a collection of iThings.

You can see Tim’s writing process here:

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

NaPoWriMo is almost here!

If you follow this blog you'll know that poetry is not my forte but recently I have been thinking about it. And then in my first edition of Mslexia I read about NaPoWriMo which is basically 30 days - 30 poems for the month of April. I don't think I'll be any good, but confining my poetry to the privacy of my own notepad why not! I'm not going to sign up but I'm going to do it for myself. who knows at the end of April I may share one of the poems with you. In preparation I have started a fresh notebook (don't you love that feeling of a new notebook?) and I am getting my creative juices going in preparation for April. I am freewriting on random objects as an initial prompt.

Anyway if you have been thinking about poetry and want to give it a bash this is the perfect opportunity to get started. The official website is: 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Remember: Plot is no more than footprints...

“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

So as I embark or writing a crime series I have subscribed to the Crime Writers Association newsletter. So far I have haven’t had time to read much of it but the its I have read have been informative and helpful. In particular the contents of the article entitled ‘Are Crime Writers psychopaths?’ written by Pauline Rowson rang true.

In another article of the same news letter Pauline Rowson also gives valuable advice about the characterization/character development for the detective of your piece. The detective should not only solve the crime but also learn something about themselves along the way. This is not very Midsomer Murders. I can’t remember Detective Barnaby learning anything about himself whilst arresting the vicar for murder, but it is quite true of most detectives. Take for example DCI Banks which has been on the telly recently. His on screen relationship with his colleague develops though each episode and through different cases we learn of different facets of DCI Bank’s character. He realizes things about himself he never knew before especially when a case pushes him to the limit.  It draws us into his life more. We want to watch the next episode- why? Not just to find out who the killer is but to also find out whether DCI Banks will get together with the colleague (her name escapes me). I think this is one of the key ingredients of a good crime series. 

I have also finished reading The Memory Game by Nicci French. It’s set in the 90’s nut nevertheless it was an interesting read. The characters well crafted each with flaws that you can identify with. I particularly liked the ending which I didn’t see coming and I would definitely recommend this as a read. Strangely it focuses on amnesia after a traumatic event. Perhaps I should have read it before I wrote The Bittersweet Vine. Eerily I felt that parts of the books are similar but altogether different at the same time. It just goes to show the different views and facets of amnesia and just how interesting this topic is. Amnesia makes for a great plot thickener doesn’t it?!

Anyway as my last post said I am half way through editing Poison in the Water. My collaborator on Indian Diaries has also got back to me with her corrections. I’m not sure whether I should start editing those 10,000 words or if I should finish Poison first. Decisions, decisions!

I have just started reading The Book Thief yesterday and it looks promising… lets see how that goes.  

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad...

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
- William Faulkner

I have been good recently. I have been plodding on with my ms for Poison in the Water- I’m half way! Hurrah! It feels good to reach this milestone. Not only that but I have been blogging (Check out my nutshell posts below on how to improve the dialogue in your ms and setting tone and mood in your ms) and I have started a new notebook for The Body in the Bath. The ideas are already coming to me and I need to scribble them down as I have promised myself not to start writing the draft until I have finished with this draft of Poison.

I have started reading a book by Nicci French as well. It’s called The Memory Game. I recently saw the authors on TV and I have heard good things about Nicci French so thought I would give it ago. So far so good. I also have bought The Cuckoos Calling (The JK Rowling one) and The Book Thief – They were 99p on Kindle and I wanted to read them so may as well stock pile! And I am half way through my New Years resolution which is not to buy new clothes till May. It’s going well so far, but I am buying way more books (fiction and research books on criminology and forensic psychology) and I’ve just subscribed to Mslexia Magazine. So much for saving money. 

I am also working on a new ‘In a Nutshell’ post on social media- inspired by a writing buddy who finds it all a little daunting! I am hoping to complete and post in the next couple of weeks and I think of all the posts it will be useful to all authors out there.

So still no improvement on my kindle ranking for Bittersweet. In fact it’s falling every day. What else can I do? Another attempt to ask people to write reviews on my personal Facebook page – was a poor cry for help and the direct question was not very social media friendly or so the marketing manager at work told me! I suppose it was a poor bit of spamming. I thought as its juts going to friends it didn’t matter but apparently it does! However, the low ranking, is making me pause for thought.  It really makes me wonder because I feel as the author that Bittersweet is a much better book than Goa Traffic and yet Goa Traffic is still selling well.  Are people reading Goa Traffic and being put off by Bittersweet? But then Goa Traffic has received some good reviews so maybe not. It’s a tricky one and I think much of the problem with Bittersweet (and this will apply to many trad published or self published books) is as follows:

1) It falls into a standard genre category with no differentiation – The tags are psychological, thriller etc. How many psychological thrillers are there out there?

2) The price – It’s currently £3.59 as set by the publisher. Is this too much for an unknown author? From my own experience the book buying public out there and I am talking kindle readers in general are extremely price sensitive. Unless you know the book is already a huge success and you are dying to read it- unfortunately people don’t want to part with more than a couple of quid.

3) Publicity .Now this is a tricky one. Goa Traffic has had the same number of publicity shots as Bittersweet plus Bittersweet has the backing of a publisher. Yet the ranking of Bittersweet (That’s all I can go on at this stage) is well below GT. In addition to the publicity I did for GT with Bittersweet I have had the official book launch and I have approached libraries and reading groups plus I did a little blog tour. Perhaps I need to think again and get some new ideas on how to promote Bittersweet!

4) I guess the one main difference is that GT is established. It’s been on sale since 2011 and I know that a book is for life – not just the year it is published in (especially with the e-book and POD). On this basis maybe I need to wait it out and see if, over time, my sales improve. 

And on that note I will end this post with one last question - What are you reading this World Book day? 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

In a Nutshell - Writing Dialogue

In a nutshell – Writing Dialogue

"The dialogue is generally the most agreeable part of a novel, but it is only so long as it tends in some way to the telling of the main story."
- Anthony Trollope

I could go on at length about dialogue but when I started doing this In a nutshell series thingy it was just to give you a flavour so to speak of bits I had picked up over the course of writing since 2007. So here is a snapshot of the things I have learned along the way about writing effective dialogue!

Now I have to admit when I started writing I thought that dialogue had to reflect real life dialogue. Yep big mistake. It doesn’t. It shouldn’t. In real life you don’t do the two things vital to dialogue in a novel and they are:

1) Creating tension or providing information
2) Moving the plot along

Well I suppose you could say that three things are vital because creating tension and providing information are two items and you can do all three with dialogue. These points are the essential markers for dialogue. If you don’t have them in your bit of speech - you probably don’t need the bit of speech there in the first place. Yes it’s nice to have a bit of conversation for pleasantries but if it’s more than a couple of lines you will lose the reader’s interest and they will skim read. Trust me I’ve made this mistake in my first book and I have read several books where I have had no interest in the characters dialogue because they are not really telling me anything!

Dialogue is a great way to show conflict and create tension. You can have characters fighting and a bit of interior monologue to show what people are really thinking. Not only will this break up the dialogue, but it will give you an insight into a certain character- Showing in fact - an element of a character. With subtle nuances, characters behaviours and reactions to spoken words you can give the reader an insight into a character. Use subtext- it is your friend. With effective dialogue you can do so much!!!

You can also explore characters motivations with interior monologue and subtext and you can make your characters more three dimensional here.  Is your character a junkie or a granny. Use the phraseology they would use and what kind of mood are they in? If they are depressed- perhaps they would use a lot of negative words. If they are happy they may burst into song- Okay two extremes here but you know what I mean. This will add atmosphere and mood to your writing which we have previously discussed in the previous ‘in a nutshell’ blog posts.  Ensuring Characters have their own way of talking can reduce the need for ‘he said, she said’. However note that said is the best tag to use as it disappears into the page. It’s like a word that readers don’t acknowledge and it’s much better than using substitute words such as ‘she cackled,’ or ‘she whispered’ kind of thing.

The last three points are these

1) Remember to trim the fat! Yes I use this phrase all the time. I write the dialogue I want in my first draft, It’s long and quite frankly borning and tedious when I read it back. I go through and cut out any words that are not required. I add a bit more shrugging, subtext and scene setting.
2) Set the scene in between dialogue. Where are they chatting? Whats the weather like- does it reflect atmosphere (bring in symbolism here) – Yes there is so much you can do with dialogue. 
2) Remember also not to have continuous dialogue as in everyone saying something. Through in a shrug, grunt or a nod to a conversation instead of the spoken word and this will make your dialogue flow better!