Beyond a title …

 

The Red Pen is mightier ...

The Red Pen is mightier …

I wrote in a blog post early in 2015 of my intention to revisit all my novels. As any writer will know, it is not a decision taken lightly. Once underway, the task becomes an obsession. Lifestyle is affected, and so too are social media habits. Other writing projects are sidelined, but the focus must remain on the primary issue – improvement of the target title.

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Since my intentions were stated last year, I’ve revisited four of my titles. Two have had a few hundred superfluous words removed, and two titles have been amended with subtle touches – and have now been categorised as ‘Romance’ rather than ‘Thriller’.

I accepted at the outset my greatest challenge would be to work on my top-selling title – Beyond The Law: Formation. (Originally titled, Beyond The Law)

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Beyond The Law: Formation

I believe a brief history will demonstrate how important this project was for me.

May 2008 – I introduced Phil McKenzie (Hawk) as an action character in a poem. I followed this rhyme with another and built a series of 30 poems about Hawk.

Nov 2011 – I used my ‘Hawk’ poetry series to write a novel in a month in the NaNoWriMo. The story consisted of 56,000 words.

Oct 2013 – Following 18 months of writing and rewriting, I published Beyond The Law. The tale had expanded to a staggering 154,000 words.

(At time of writing this post, it continues to be my top-selling title.)

Aug 2016 – The revised version is now available, and is now supported by Beyond The Law: Retribution, the second tale in the trilogy.

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Why affect the length if the book sells?

I’ve since written more books, and as all writers find, I am improving my appreciation of what is good, and what is better. I regularly check out the ‘do and don’t’ articles, and I recognised a few issues from my past writing.

Over-description (flowery language), passive dialogue, procrastinators, idlers, flat modifiers, qualifiers, and a few other odd words which are best left in the brain, not on the page.

Where did I find my list of procrastinators, idlers, etc.?

At this point I’d like to mention, and say a public thank you to Kelly Hartigan. I haven’t used Kelly’s professional editing services yet, but I am a keen follower of her wisdom. To find out about those groups of words I’ve mentioned, and to gain an insight into Kelly’s valuable tips and suggestions please visit:

Kelly Hartigan – website

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How have I amended Beyond The Law: Formation?

1. I removed the unnecessary words as detailed above (procrastinators, idlers, and so on).

2. I tightened the dialogue, and many dialogue tags, without altering what was said.

3. I located and amended passive voice, to active voice.

4. I located and amended a few cases of ‘head-hopping’ (changed Point of View). Okay, in this case there weren’t many, because I tend to hold a POV within a scene. If I want to change the POV, I change scene, usually by using a centrally-positioned asterisk, instead of a line-break.

5. I referred to all reviews, made notes of points raised, and made minor adjustments where necessary.

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How long did it take to perform this edit?

Six weeks. Apart from a couple of breaks of three or four days, it was constant, hard work.

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What is the end result?Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216

I trimmed 28,500 words from the manuscript, which began with 154,500 words.

The story is now 125,000 words, supported by 1,500 words used for back pages information on other titles.

I believe I’ve improved a story I already liked.

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Will I go on to perform the same ritual with my other titles?

Yes, all of them, and I’ll take each one on a slimming exercise. It’s not such a daunting task, because I’ve dealt with my longest book, so the others will feel less arduous.

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Why should I bother?

1 – I’d like my readership to get the best deal possible, and ‘the best deal’ isn’t only about the price, it’s also about the story, and the quality of writing.

2 – My intention is to produce my titles in paperback, but to ensure I’m able to use the same profile and book dimensions I must keep my word count down. In my eBooks for example, I give a blurb for each of my titles at the back of every book. These will be reduced to a list of titles by genre.

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A side effect of my efforts has been the relegation of my other projects. I will now work to complete three of the four other titles, but my next collection of short stories will be postponed until at least December 2016/January 2017.

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If you haven’t read Beyond The Law: Formation, the revised edition is available.

BookLinker

Amazon Preview/Buy

As always, thank you for reading my thoughts, theories and ramblings. All feedback is welcome.

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The Art of Letting Go – by Chloe Banks. A word from the author

A foreword from Tom Benson:  Website - Author page

I recently read The Art of Letting Go by Chloe Banks, which I reviewed here on my blog. Prior to reading the book I had already been following Chloe’s blog since 2010. We have shadowed each other’s progress since and we gave mutual support throughout the NaNoWriMo 2011.

Since the outset she was determined to produce her novel using traditional publishing. It was a courageous step, and though it took many months and extra work, she achieved her aim. I am delighted and honoured to publish now, a ‘guest’ post by Chloe.

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41o0Nt-NySL[1]

Dear Reader,

With the rise of e-mail, text messaging and social media, the art of personal letter writing seems to be in something of a decline. It’s a shame as letters make great records of the everyday and the extraordinary events of our lives. There’s something rather special about receiving a letter in real life, and when it comes to fiction they can be used to great effect.

When I chose to write part of The Art of Letting Go as a series of letters between my main character, Rosemary, and her childhood friend, I was following in the footsteps of a huge number of epistolary novelists. A true epistolary novel contains only documents of some kind – letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, blog posts, e-mails etc. Whereas many novels, including my own, contain these things as part of a wider narrative.

Novels told in this fashion have been around since the 15th-century and have remained prominent to this day. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte), The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins) and Dracula (Bram Stoker) are famous 19th-century examples. Even more recent works range from the horror classic Carrie by Stephen King, to teen favourite The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. But why do authors across so many genres choose to write in letters and other documents instead of in prose?

For me, Rosemary’s letters to Julia served a vital function. Rosemary’s nature – reclusive, blunt, secretive – was key to the plot, and yet I ran the risk of making her difficult to know and therefore difficult to care about, despite the first-person narrative of the book. Her letters showed the less guarded, warmer side to her. It allowed me to reference parts of Rosemary’s past that no other character would know about and gave me a chance to inject some humour into a book that deals with some less-than-funny issues. Letters added character insight and light to the shade.

This style of telling a story is certainly not to everybody’s taste. While I was in discussion with a couple of different agents, one of them questioned how relevant it was to use letters in a modern novel. On the other hand, more than one person has told me how the letters are their favourite part of the book. As with all things, it can come down to personal taste. If you read my book, I’d be glad to know whether you think the letters work. Or if shameless promotion isn’t your thing, how about trying one of these wonderful novels…

  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver). One of the best books I have ever read. The one-sided letters draw you in to the relationships between the main character and her husband and son, but make the twists when they come all the more shocking and brilliant.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary-Ann Schaffer is set on the occupied Channel Islands during the second world war and is one of very few books that have made me cry.
  • Or if you are sceptical about letters and like a good laugh, another form of epistolary novel is Diary of a Nobody (George and Weedon Grossmith) – a great piece of Victorian observational comedy.

Let me know how you get on. And if you have another example of great epistolary novels you think I should read, do write back to let me know!

I remain your faithful servant,

Chloe

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The Art of Letting Go tells the story of Rosemary, whose peaceful seclusion is disrupted by the man who she was involved in a traumatic relationship with decades earlier; only this time he’s lying in a coma and Rosemary must decide whether to let him live, or let him go. In the midst of her secret dilemma  she meets an abstract artist who is used to manipulating shapes and colours to make people see things differently. But what else is he manipulating? And can he help Rosemary see her own situation in a different light?

41o0Nt-NySL[1]The Art of Letting Go is available as a paperback and an e-book here.

 

Chloe Banks

Chloe Banks

 

 

Chloe Banks lives in Devon with her husband, son and an obsession with words. She started writing for a dare and forgot to stop until it was too late. She is a prize-winning short story writer and a first-time novelist, represented by The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency.

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NaNoWriMo

It takes effort but if a task is worth doing ...

My featured graphic is an acrylic depicting a bistro.  I completed the painting for a young couple I know.  It was to celebrate their first anniversary and moving into their first home.   I feel it fits my theme for this post of new beginnings.

The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us.  It takes place throughout November.  It’s been running for a couple of years now and very successful it is too.  So what’s so different this year?  I’ve decided to take the plunge … and I’ve already registered.  I enjoy a challenge and in particular one with a deadline, mainly because it gives more focus to the task in hand.  After all, how hard can it be to write a complete novel in a month?  Okay, I’m joking!

From what I’ve read about the whole ‘Nano‘ thing it’s accepted at the outset that the vast majority of entrants will have masses of issues with typos, dialogue, grammar etc., So what’s the point?  The point as far as I can see is that accepting the challenge enables an individual to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words in a month – that’s 1,667 words per day if you’re not quick on mental arithmetic.  As mentioned previously, it will be ‘warts and all’, but the point is, it could be the foundation of a proper, stand alone book or first of a series.

I was reminded of the ‘Nano‘ as I read my friend Chloe’s blog recently.  It’s one of those things, like perhaps a marathon (yeah, done that), a person feels it’s their turn to tackle it.  Only minutes after deciding I would take it on I flicked through some of the poetry series’ I’ve written over the last couple of years.  The winner, if I can call him that is my character ‘The Hawk’.

My name on the ‘Nano‘ site will be, ‘Tom Benson – Writer and Storyteller’.    My novel for the purpose of the ‘Nano‘ will be called, ‘HAWK‘.

Phil McKenzie is an ex- SAS soldier who leaves the military because he’s become disillusioned by his military and political leaders’ decisions.  Within days of becoming a ‘civvy’ once again he witnesses so much criminality on the British streets that he feels an overwhelming desire to redress the situation on behalf of the victims.  ‘Hawk’ is the name adopted by Phil, a modern, self-styled and capable vigilante.

What makes me think I’m capable of this mammoth task?  Self belief for one thing and a strong desire to succeed, which as long as I don’t run out of coffee I’m sure I will.  ‘How about a plot line?’ I hear nobody in particular asking.  Within my poetry I have a mini-series I wrote called, ‘The Hawk’.  I intended it to be two or perhaps three episodes to experiment with the idea of series poetry.  ‘The Hawk’ gained popularity on ‘Starlite Cafe’ where my poems are posted under the pen-name Tomfoollery.  Hawk’s antics continued for 35 poems.  My intention is to draw from the episodes written in verse.

I’m already bubbling with enthusiasm and making notes for twists and turns in the adventures of ‘HAWK’.  It means that I will only have one short story ongoing, but that will have to be shelved until after this endeavor.  I want to totally immerse myself in this new venture.  If I find the time after today and throughout November I will make an effort to update my progress here.