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.
A special place exists in my heart for this story for many reasons, but appropriately, it means a lot because it was my first attempt at romance.
I’ve spent a month working on the manuscript to convert it to a paperback. Fortunately, now that I’m retired, a month in writing terms doesn’t mean every odd hour I can squeeze in—it means an average eight-hour writing day; every day.
Why so long for a simple task?
Any author who has performed such a task will know the change from digital format to paper would normally be a case of rearranging the front and back matter. This story had already been subject to two makeovers since the original version in December2013, but it needed a total overhaul.
The new version will have the same cover but with a revised strapline.
As in all aspects of life I felt I had evolved sufficiently as a writer to appreciate where I had got it right, and crucially—where I’d continued to get it wrong.
What’s different in the new edition?
My first pass was to print the manuscript and perform a brutal red-pen edit on hard copy.
Judging from many comments on Facebook and recent reviews, my style has changed, or as I like to think; improved.
a) I removed most of the dialogue tags and replaced them with character activity.
b) I amended the sexual scenes from what was bordering on ‘erotica’, and reduced it to ‘steamy romance’. For the most part, it is now closer to ‘romance’.
Suffice to say it’s been quite a journey. The characters continue to enjoy the story, but they’re subtle in what they tell the reader about their private moments together.
Okay, so why did I ‘reduce’ the level of sexual matter?
There were a number of reasons, but mainly, it didn’t belong. The story is a romance and not intended to perform the same role as strong erotica. As with a couple of my books I’ve been fortunate in hearing from readers privately, and more than one was concerned by explicit sex.
I enjoy writing in a wide variety of genre and just as I like to have guns, explosives and fights, I also like to write about tenderness, relationships and let’s face it—sex.
My Tom Benson – Erotica site has now been up and running for a year, so if you’d like to see how I indulge my literary desire in that direction; take a look. The catalogue is growing steadily and the next erotic novel will be released in May 2018.
On the subject of releasing things, Ten Days in Panama (revised April 2018) is now available in eBook, and the paperback will be available within the month.
I’ve remained true to the original story with regard to character development and the plot.
It would be wrong not to say a public thank you to fellow author and distant friend, Carmen Lopez (author of Alone: and other short stories). We became acquainted through reviewing each other’s poetry on an international poetry site. I moved on into the world of short stories and novel writing, and Carmen performed the duties of being my first beta reader.
The inspiration for Ten Days in Panama evolved from learning about Carmen’s profession and where she lived. Indeed, the first cover for the book was designed by Carmen’s partner, Bryce.
For anybody who is now so excited that they can’t wait for the paperback, here are links to the digital version of Ten Days in Panama:
Like so many creative writers, by the time I completed my first novel, Ten Days in Panama, I had grown to know my characters as if they were real people. A few of those people would be good to look at, and to have around, but like reality, others were not so endearing.
In my next big story, Beyond The Law: Formation, I had learned more about my craft and the characters became better developed much faster. I spent longer in their company, and each visit was like getting together with a few old friends.
When I wrote my sequel, Beyond The Law: Retribution, I got back together with characters with whom I was well-acquainted, and I enjoyed the process of the story from the outset.
It was less frustrating when the storyline veered away from my intended direction. I was also forgiving of issues as they arose. I was still the puppeteer, but in some mysterious way I had been pulled into the scenes, conversations, and struggles.
I left those characters behind to get on with other projects, but I’ve been drawn back, so among other things, I’m presently working on the final story in the trilogy, Beyond The Law: Consequences.
As with poetry when I started writing, I’ve come to realise I enjoy the familiar company of certain characters, and in recent times it occurred to me to take the series idea to a new level.
For many years I’d worked on my autobiography, but it was never fully satisfying, so rewrite after rewrite left me feeling empty. There were too many anecdotes to include, because it made the story too big, but many which were so peculiar they refused to be excluded.
Apart from anything else, even if it was fact-based-fiction, which point of view would work best?
From this train of thought evolved A Life of Choice, a fact-based-fiction novel in five parts, but each part a generous size. I’m not interested in writing a handful of short books to top up my catalogue. To date, I have the first two parts published, and Part Three will arrive in the autumn.
I dabbled in the writing of erotica and enjoyed it, so I wondered how best to continue. I compiled a collection of short stories which was well received, so I followed it with a novel. It too received positive feedback.
How could I achieve a hybrid, I wondered?
My foray into the novella length is how I’m heading. It will be a series of inter-related stories, each longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. The novella series will start with Highland Games – 1. By mid-June I’ll be looking for beta readers for this first story.
Due to it being erotica, anyone who volunteers will remain anonymous if requested.
The answer to the question in this blog post title, ‘Why so … series?’
By creating a series of three, five, or more stories which are interconnected – I can enjoy the company and emotions of characters I’ve come to know better than some of the real people in my life.
I’ve learned during my reading and writing journey, in the case of some authors a series can be a method of continuing a story for the benefit of a readership. It can be a way of increasing sales by producing a series of extremely short stories, and I’m fine with either of those ideas. However, there are some series which are too short in quantity, and lacking in quality, but these are measures we find in every part of our lives.
Any books I produce as part of a series will be produced with the same care and attention to detail I devote to my other writing. I will strive to make every book a standalone, but without irritating anybody who’s read the earlier work. If I ever come up short, I can only hope it’s because a reader has a personal issue, and not because of the writing.
For me so far, writing about characters beyond a first story has produced the joy of writing about people I’ve become close to, and after the realities of life, my characters are great companions. They won’t let me down. If they do – I’ll kill them. 🙂
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. 🙂
I am always keen to learn about a fellow author’s route, from those tentative steps of composing a first piece of work, to first publication and beyond. Irrespective of age, or experience, the early days are the most difficult, as they are with most ventures.
It’s good for a writer’s morale to take stock occasionally, but publicly like this. It’s also self-marketing, but we can’t hide our light under a bushel, because therein lies obscurity.
My story may not be awe-inspiring, but I’ve reached another stage with my latest release.
Now is a good time for me to take a look back.
In 1992, following a military career of 23 years, I next took up retail management, which I did for 20 years. In the mid-90’s I started to write my military memoirs. It took over two years and the writing was abysmal. I abandoned the memoirs, and over the next few years I wrote short stories for my own amusement, not knowing anything of the required discipline.
In 2007 I wrote a rhyme whilst on a coffee break. A colleague told me I should join an online poetry site. I did and I wrote 700+ poems in three years, but felt the need to do something more.
I read short stories and books on how to write them, whilst I practised. I took out a subscription to a national writing magazine. In 2010 I won a competition and had my story included in an anthology. Poetry was left behind, as I spent every available minute producing ideas to create short stories.
I joined a website and a local writing group and learned much from having my work critiqued. I’d long had a yearning to write a novel, but felt it was beyond me. My first novel was inspired by a fellow poet on the other side of the world. We’d reviewed each other’s poetry and kept in touch. I’m delighted to say that our friendship has remained firm and we continue to support each other.
In December 2012 I published ‘Ten Days in Panama’, a romance-based thriller. I knew it wasn’t great, but I had introduced aspects of the thriller, and I knew I had to write something more exciting. It was a steep learning curve, just as it had been with short stories. I used the manuscript ‘rest’ periods as a time to continue writing short stories.
When I read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ I was disappointed in the content. I got the impression that the author had a good idea, but minimal knowledge of her subject. I am amazed at the success of that series.
I had experimented with writing erotic stories, but they’d never been seen. I thought back over my life experiences and decided I had the knowledge and imagination to adapt them and create a variety of scenarios. In June 2014 I published my second short story anthology ‘Coming Around and other erotic stories’.
My work on thrillers continued. In July 2014 I published ‘Amsterdam Calling’, a psychological thriller. Since moving on from poetry, my practice had been to work on more than one project simultaneously, so my next book was at an advanced stage.
I published ‘A Taste of Honey’ in December 2014. It was another vigilante story, but this time about a rogue female detective – in the US.
From late 2014 into early2015I had a handful of private messages asking if I’d ever considered writing an erotic novel. These were not random queries, but from folk who had read my erotic anthology. Just as I had with my poetry a few years before, I sensed a challenge, but once again, a challenge I relished.
One of the greatest things we can all do as indie authors is to support our peers. Try to read other indie authors, and provide reviews. Make an effort to read widely in genre – it really does pay dividends.
Another good idea is to do as I’ve done here, and produce an occasional update on progress. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written one book so far, let people know you are out there.
As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. Feedback is always welcome.
is for question. No, this is not a single question we’re looking at here, but for me, it is the single most important aspect of our writing. We must question everything we do.
To put this into some sort of perspective, I will once again use my own experience. This does not mean I’m so vain that I believe my methods are the way forward, but I will give some background information as we go along.
Why do I believe I know anything about this?
For the benefit of any who have not read my bio, I’ll simply use my main figures here. Since 2008, I’ve written 700+ poems, 30+ short stories, and 2 novels. I’m presently working on my third novel. Those figures are modest, rather than astounding, but they will help to make my point.
What do we question?
Poetry: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the form, the length, the title, the level of editing, the number of drafts.
Short Stories: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the style, the length, the title, the level of editing, the number of drafts.
Novels: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the style, the length, the title, the market, the level of editing, the number of drafts.
It wouldn’t take much to see that there is something of a pattern in those three very different disciplines. There is also a lot of repetition, and there is good reason. It doesn’t matter which type of writing we create; if it’s for public consumption, we must produce our best.
What do I question the most?
Title, title, title, title … . You may now be getting the impression that the title is quite important to me. Whether writing poetry, short stories, or a novel, I agonise over the title. It is the simplest, shortest component of a piece of writing, but it is such a key element; it must work. Instead of dealing with poetry or short stories I’ll use novels to demonstrate my point.
In the next 48 hours I will be commencing what I hope to be the final draft of ‘Amsterdam Calling’, my third novel. I’m happy with the title, and how I chose it. The selection process allowed me to concentrate on my writing and editing. It was a distraction with my first novel.
How do I deal with title?
I make a very short list of perhaps three working titles. One of these is chosen quickly to let me get on with the writing. In a notebook, and on my clipboard pad I keep a page, purely for title ideas for that piece of work. Immediately an idea comes to me; I add it to the list. That system works continually, but is not a distraction.
At the point where I have the story written, I have a better idea of the entire concept and it might then affect the title choice. I take time to relax with a coffee, and I think of the whole story, allowing the various scenes to play on my memory. As this goes on, I write down everything that could be an intriguing title.
Why must the title be intriguing?
I’ll respond to that with another question. Apart from the cover, what prompts your interest in a book? The cover and title are your first sales pitches, and their job is to draw your prospective reader to the jacket blurb (see ‘J’). The blurb captures the interest and is the big pitch.
Before arriving at ‘Ten Days in Panama’, I had a list of seven possible titles. When I reached the end of ‘Beyond The Law’, I had actually changed the working title twice. I had five hot contenders waiting in the wings to be the title of that one. For ‘Amsterdam Calling’, I had a list of seven which never grew as I wrote the early drafts. As soon as I considered ‘Amsterdam Calling’, I knew it was the one.
I know I’ve chosen title as my one aspect to ‘question’, but we do owe it to ourselves, and our readers; to question everything we write.
Thank you once again for sticking with me to the end of this piece. I hope that somewhere, somebody has had a moment of enlightenment. LOL.
Today, apart from doing my blog patrol, I’ll be working on my anthology of short stories. I’ll see you guys on Monday when I’ll be dealing with ‘R’.