Ten Days in Panama was my second novel, and having first been marketed as a thriller, I amended the description to romance. The first publication of this title was in December 2013 and it’s had two makeovers since then in terms of the manuscript.
As I told my son when he left home to live abroad, ‘if we’re honest with ourselves, about every five years we think we know it all’.
In my humble opinion, the advice I gave that young man is never more accurate than with writers. We may write, revise, edit, rewrite, and so on, but if we go back to a piece of work we were proud of five years earlier, we’ll find things we want to amend. I’ve been plying my craft (and learning) since 2007, and it’s due to my targeting of a higher standard that I’ve delayed paperback editions until recently.
In Ten Days in Panama (paperback and digital), I’ve reduced the sexual content to a softer tone. If there are any readers out there who like my style and crave explicit sex scenes, check out Tom Benson – Erotica.
– The cover of the book is now brighter and I’ve reduced the strapline, and I believe in this case brevity works.
– For me, nothing has been more important or more of a challenge than tightening the manuscript to improve the reading experience. An example would be the removal of most dialogue tags, to be replaced by character activity.
It was a labour of love to produce this story the first time around, and I spent many months creating characters, situations and a story which would live on in the memory. I’m pleased to say that none of the original aspects of the tale has changed in the process.
To those who strive to maintain an updated and informative author website, you will appreciate the joy of adding a ‘paperback’ button to the page for a title. Now I have two of those buttons on display, and in the coming months, I’ll be working hard to add them to my other novels.
Thank you to all who pass by and take the time to leave their thoughts.
*Remember, if you don’t want to buy a paperback and you don’t own a Kindle, the Kindle App UK is free and it can be downloaded to a PC/Laptop.
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.
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)
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.)
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:
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.
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.
What is the end result?
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a blog post last year, I said I’d be revisiting my books to produce updated or revised versions. Whether the idea works or doesn’t, I believe it’s all about knowing whether the book is good enough – or not.
In the case of the book I’m highlighting in this post, the story took me four months to write, and eight months to amend by using my method of leaving it aside for alternate months.
It has taken me two weeks of non-stop effort to revise what has been out there for a couple of years.
I posted a request for opinions on the Facebook page of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group. One of my quandaries was whether or not to produce a banner on the cover when I’d completed my revised work. The general feedback was superb, as expected.
Revision – creates the impression the first version wasn’t good enough.
Edition – creates the impression there might be more in time to come, especially if a date is used in conjunction with the word Edition.
Decision? I’ve abandoned the thought of either Revision or Edition as a banner. I’ve annotateded the blurb with ‘revised and updated – 2016’
It still holds a special place in my heart. The story was intended as a romance rather than a thriller, but during the many rewrites over the year it took to produce the book, action evolved as an underlying theme.
Knowing no better, I thought romance-based thriller might work.
Booklinker(if your country doesn’t support Amazon – Universal)
How has it performed?
It suffered in the early days due to an amateur cover, and because it was my first novel.
I paid to have a professional cover designed which created sales and taught me a valuable lesson. Since publication it would be fair to say it still sells, but not in great numbers.
Three and a half years have passed since first publication, and in that time I’ve learned many lessons.
I’ve written several more novels and I believe I’ve improved my craft.
I enjoy writing other genre, including romance, but my natural territory is action and thriller.
Without doubt, one of the most valuable lessons is to listen to others. Fortunately for me this is something I’ve done throughout my life. It was listening to others which prompted me to read the book again last year, and look closely at the writing – not the story.
How have I dealt with the rewrite of Ten Days in Panama?
As I said I would, I read and made notes from every review, and then amended small points to tidy-up the plot. I had a particular passage brought to my notice by fellow author Julia Lund for which I owe her my thanks. Suffice to say I removed three large paragraphs and replaced them with one small one.
The passage was intended to highlight a fragile aspect of a main character’s psyche, and nobody else had seen it (and reported it) the way Julia did. My amendment to the scene has made the character’s issue apparent, but in a more subtle manner.
Evidence in the form of reviews would suggest the story is enjoyed by those who’ve reviewed, which is great news.
The main characters are well-rounded, readers care about them and how they are drawn together.
The locations, circumstances and imagery appeal to readers.
While they seemed important and strong to me when writing the action scenes, the thriller aspects are undoubtedly playing a supporting role – because whatever my intention, it is a romance.
This particular aspect of the tale was highlighted clearly by an insightful review by blogger, reviewer, writer and friend,Paul Ruddock.
I printed the story to work from hard copy, and I’ve given it the same effort I would afford to a new piece of work. Superfluous words have gone, and there were quite a few. The style is closer to what I would regard as my latest.
Working initially from a printed manuscript I took two weeks to edit, revise and rewrite the story. I’ve remained true to the original plot, however I would suggest it now reads better than previously.
Where do I go from here?
My revised version of the story will now be marketed as romance, rather than thriller.
How will I know if it works?
The first indication will be sales, and then of course any reviews which follow after the re-release in the new genre.
Should I receive good reviews after the revision I have a feeling a sequel will be on the cards. I have ideas in the pipeline, but I’ll have to be sure the characters are strong enough to go on.
I’ve never been to Panama, however during the writing of the story I had incredible support from scientist, writer and dear friend Carmen Lopez. Using information gleaned from Carmen to ensure credibility but avoid legal action, no single character or location is exactly as it appears in reality. As I acknowledge in the front matter, without the aforementioned help, the story would have remained an idea.
In the original version of the story, apart from Panama City and Santiago I replaced the town names with fictional names. At the request of some of the folk who live in the region where the story is set, I have now used the real town names including: Torio,Malena and Coiba Island.
As always, thank you for reading and now without further ado, here is the link to Amazon, and for those unable to use Amazon – Universal – a connection to Booklinker.
P.S. I’ve checked the new sample and found two things.
The first two chapters can be read in their entirety.
Once again, the sample shows the sub-headings in different font sizes, but I’ve seen this occur in many samples. The ePub formatting remains true. 🙂