Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Author Diary – Part 4

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

How does writing fiction differ to writing an autobiography? The differences can be enormous depending on the project at hand—a crime thriller can’t, for example, follow the exact same planning process as an autobiography.

In my case, my new book Dirtbirds will share many themes and a similar writing style to my comedy memoir Lord of the Rams. However, one of the key differences in the writing process this time round revolves around the planning and structuring.

Because a memoir is—or at least should be—primarily based on fact, the author already knows his characters. Their hair colour, their personalities, their phrases—the author generally doesn’t have to think twice about these things.

With fiction, things are slightly different. The characters are derived from the author’s imagination, so unless he outlines their traits from the outset, it can be easy to lose track of things and make mistakes. For example, a book’s characters should have phrases associated with them only, as would be the case in real life.

If you’re writing a book with authentic Irish accents/phrases, it makes sense that one of your characters might say, for example, “No bother” on occasion. Common sense dictates that only one of your characters would speak like this, but it’s easy to unwittingly create characters who mirror each other’s language—the everyday language of the author even. Imagine watching an episode of Home & Away where everybody called each other “flamin’ galahs” a la Alf Stewart! Dialogue is something that needs to be checked and checked again to ensure that your characters are speaking in a realistic fashion. Autobiographies need to follow the same rule but fiction, which generally features more dialogue, is especially susceptible to this problem.

Timelines also need extra attention when you’re writing fiction. Whilst timelines are important in an autobiography, they can be verified and checked via research, photographs, etc. (although a surprising amount of autobiographies contain timeline errors that should have been picked up at the editorial stage). With fiction, the author creates the timeline and then must take steps to ensure that it is consistent throughout the novel. For example, if your novel is set in the present and your main character is 30, the timeline you create needs to be consistent with everything this character would have experienced during his 30 years—music listened to, world events experienced, etc. Again, it sounds like common sense, but it can be easy to include errors/inconsistencies in your writing if you don’t do some planning from the outset.

Dirtbirds is—I think—is beginning to take shape. I’ve just reviewed and edited the first five chapters and have another chapter waiting to be typed up. The chapters, thus far, are very short. But that’s the way I like them. I should surpass 10,000 words before Christmas and then I’ll take a nice break! 2011 will be a pivotal year in the writing of the book.

Progess Report

Word Count: 7,029 (typed)

Chapters Complete (1st Draft): 5 (typed)

Are you writing a book? Share some of your experiences via the comments box below.

Purchase my comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging). Now only €10!

Author Diary – Part 3

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

A hint of what's to come perhaps?

It has been six months since my last author diary. Why the delay? Well unfortunately I didn’t manage to get ANY writing done for more than five of those six months, mainly due to the time-consuming task that is purchasing an apartment—banks, solicitors, buying furniture, etc.

Anyway, I’m back writing. And I’m glad to report that the break has—like on previous occasions—left me refreshed and feeling a little creative. Now you may have noticed the omission of Lord of the Rams 2 from the title of this author diary post. And there is a reason for that. The book is officially on hold. As I hinted on Facebook/Twitter in late September, I’m working on a new book.

Provisionally titled Dirtbirds (title likely to change), the book will be my first foray into fiction. It’s early days, but at the moment the writing is going quite well (cue big self-jinx that will probably halt my progress for months). I’m still working on the outline for the novel and nailing down ideas, but I’ve managed to complete a draft of the first three chapters.

It’s too early to talk much about the subject matter, but I can tell you that Dirtbirds will be similar to Lord of the Rams in many ways. Expect short, snappy chapters; dollops of humour (it is a comedy drama); sharp, realistic dialogue and memorable characters. But the novel will also tackle adult subjects—like sex and relationships—in a way that may surprise or even shock readers. Expect Dirtbirds to be lewd, crude and very rude. And definitely not for children or those of a delicate disposition.

This doesn’t mean that I am abandoning Lord of the Rams 2—not at all. My plan is to concentrate on one book at a time and switch between projects if I hit a creative wall on one of them. For the moment, Lord of the Rams 2, which is about 1/3 complete, is parked. I still haven’t finalised the direction for some parts of the book, and the break should allow me to return to the project with new ideas at some stage down the road.

Right now I’m genuinely excited about Dirtbirds. As I mentioned, the book will not be a million miles from Lord of the Rams in some respects. But it will feature fictional characters that will be based firmly in reality. The action takes place in Dublin and one of the core themes—friendships—will be developed further than in my earlier work.

Expect more details in the coming months.

Progess Report

Word Count: 3,537 (typed)

Chapters Complete (1st Draft): 3 (typed)

Are you writing a book? Share some of your experiences via the comments box below.

Purchase my comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging).

Has the Editing Process Hit a New Low?

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Critics of self-publishing often cite “quality editing”—or a lack thereof—as one of the main reasons why traditionally published books are superior products to their independent counterparts. True, many self-published books don’t pass the test when reviewed in terms of structure or basic grammar and punctuation. But I believe a significant percentage of books coming from large, conventional publishing houses are simply not up to scratch either.

No matter what way a book is published—be it self-published or traditionally published—there is simply no excuse for sloppy editing, especially basic typos and errors. Having said that, no matter how thoroughly a book is edited, it is seldom that a first-print edition doesn’t have at least a couple of medium-large errors amongst its pages (I too must raise a guilty hand. Lord of the Rams went through a rigorous review process by a number of experienced editors, but a few errors still made it into the final copy).

But when a book is so full of basic errors that it begins to prove distracting from the text, one really has to question the quality review process.

In truth, I haven’t read enough self-published books to comment on the standard of editing of same. But I read a considerable amount of traditionally published titles (in a wide range of genres) and my experiences suggest that quality control from some publishers is in need of considerable improvement—especially in books published in Ireland the UK. And let’s not forget that traditional publishing houses have finances and resources available to them that a self-published author does not—making such mistakes all the more unforgivable.

I recently read a UK-published memoir (which will remain nameless) that is by far the most poorly edited book I have ever happened upon. After noticing one deplorable error after the other, I eventually began writing down some of the mistakes I spotted.

This is just a handful of the offending items:

“Sylvesterr Stallone” Page 133

“Brian Denehy” [incorrect] then three lines later “Brian Dennehy” [correct] Page 134

“… let alone turn up turning up on the doorstep of a stranger …” Page 137

“And when I’d get therethey’d say …” Page 150

“… auditionedin front of …” Page 204

“… now standing iat the back of the hall.” Page 204

“… coming up two two months old …” Page 289

“… he met some of thestars …” Page 291

There were also an abundance of consistency issues with things like ellipses and quotation marks. Whilst these errors originally belonged to the author (and he must be apportioned a certain amount of the blame), ultimately it is up to the publisher to find and correct such errors. On this evidence, the author was severely let down by the publisher—I would expect a school child to spot some of the mistakes that are marked above. The publisher has since gone out of business, and perhaps this is the best news possible for authors and readers alike.

Purchase my comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging).

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