Being (or not being) a Local Author

Local AuthorIs there any advantage to being known as a ‘local author’?
On the one hand the description implies that this is not a well-known author of national or international renown. There is something quaintly parochial, patronizing and possibly even pathetic about having to try to appeal to potential purchasers because you all happen to live in the same vicinity.
On the other hand, for whatever reason, it is certainly easier to get bookshops, newsagents, corner shops and pubs (thank you Holdings, The Wheatsheaf and The King’s Head in Yarmouth) to stock books and to give you the opportunity to do signings (thank you Waterstones and The County Press Shop in Newport) if you have some kind of local connection.
But what is the attraction of reading books by an author who is ‘local’? Is it to support someone you may pass in the street, or sit next to in a pub, or queue up with in the Post Office? Or is it perhaps because if the author is ‘local’ then the subject matter may well be locally relevant too? Or is it that the places referred to(and, heaven forefend, people) will recognizable?
When I was writing my first book, The Last Dance, I lived near Sandwich in East Kent. That area didn’t feature at all in the book, instead it was based in The Wirral, Cheshire, where I was born and lived for the first twenty or so years of my life. I lived in Shropshire when I was writing the second which, although also based in the Wirral ventured as far afield as Cambridgeshire. I was still living in Shropshire when the third book Runaways was published. Also based on The Wirral large sections were located in Kent and Mumbai. My fourth book, Highly Unsuitable Girl, was also written whilst I lived in (a different part of) Shropshire and failed to feature anything to do with that county.
It was only when I became ‘local’ to The Isle of Wight that my books became primarily based in the area in which I lived. Her Parents’ Daughter, written in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, is the story of a murder in Yarmouth (as is A Second Strand – also written in Yarmouth).
The difficult book was A Set of Lies. The early drafts of this were written when I lived near Ludlow, Shropshire and the main characters lived, and the main settings were located, there. I then moved to the Isle of Wight and it was suggested by various people that the book should be based on the island. So the fourth, fifth and sixth drafts effected that change.
Since I started writing books that have been published I have moved house five times, lived in five different counties and so even when I have been ‘local’ it has only ever been for a short time.
I have now been ‘local’ on The Isle of Wight for three and a half years. This is a record. Perhaps it’s getting near time to think about moving on again.

Into the second draft….

Second DraftI suppose it’s because it’s that time of year but there are so many things going on, so many things to do and to think about, so much work to do to clear the desks and the mind…… And it’s not just because of Christmas. But what with one thing – and several dozen others – I have not made the progress I had hoped to make in my second draft of the book which may or may not be called Another Thread (probably not!).
Progress is slow, so much slower than the initial writing as there are so many things to check and correct before I hand the manuscript over to husband Colin to read through and criticize and give me the ideas for the inevitable re-write.
Google ‘Second Draft’ and you find so much advice, so many horror stories, so much that is discouraging but every writer/author must do their own thing.
So what is my approach?
Firstly, with the first draft completed I know some of the seeds I have to plant earlier on in the plot.
Secondly, I have to correct spelling errors Word has failed to flag up.
Thirdly, there are the inevitable grammatical errors when some of the first draft was pretty ‘stream of consciousness’.
Fourthly, there is punctuation….. ‘Is this the end of a sentence or should I use a semi-colon?’ (I hate them – they seem terribly American). ‘Do I put a comma at the end of that section of speech?’ – but then I remember this is something my Editor will pick up (or at least their editing software will.)
And finally, in the best traditions of Just a Minute, I am having to recognize and remove ‘hesitations, repetitions and deviations’.
In three weeks I am less than one third of the way through, though with the Christmas break coming up maybe I will get the document to Colin by 2016.
Happy Holidays!

Bad Ideas

Bad IdeaThe words have flowed this past week and the story in the follow up to Her Parents’ Daughter has developed well. (At least I think so and if I don’t then it’s unlikely anyone else will).
I’ve given up worrying about the title – that will fall into place in good time – as most of the ones I’m coming up with are really not very good. Bad ideas like Tit for Tat and Tip for Tap have been floating around in my head.
The focus of my cast’s activities is currently in Dartmouth, Devon (not Dartmouth, Massachusetts, USA) which is a town I’ve been visiting quite often recently. But with only a small number of visits packed into a matter of weeks it is impossible to get a true feel for a town so I apologise in advance if I upset anyone in or connected to one of the nicest places I’ve spent any time in for some years.
The main progress this week is that I can now see what the denouement of the book is going to be and how it is going to come about and this is not quite as I saw it when I started out six weeks or so ago (was it only six weeks?).
No doubt when I read it through, and put in some of the back stories, it may change again – not all my ideas are good ones!
But then Steven Spielberg (no less) has been quoted as saying that all good ideas start as bad ideas – that’s why the creative process takes so long.
So there’s hope yet!

 

One step up two steps down

Down the upI’m currently going up the down escalator of life (or down the up?).
Because other things are getting in the way of the writing at the moment when I actually had some time to sit down at the laptop I realised I needed to re-read the whole 42,000 words to regain the threads. This re-read showed up some inconsistencies and repetitions which needed clarification and re-writing so, despite getting up at 3.15 one morning, incidentally completely confusing the cat,  I find myself no further forward in telling the story than I was last week.
Incidentally it became clear that the working title A Different Coast was not going to work so those hours I normally spend lying awake thinking what will be written the next day have, instead, been spent trying to think of the right title.
It is the sequel to Her Parents’ Daughter so I was thinking the title has to reflect that somehow but all those that sprung to mind (A Father’s Revenge and Three Fathers’ Sons etcetera) were either unwieldy or already taken.
At the moment I’m thinking of it as Tit for Tat but can you have “Tit” in the title of a book? I then tried Tip for Tap apparently the original saying and may go with that for the time being anyway.
Hopefully (in all senses of the word) progress will be made before my report to you next week.

Hard going…

A different Coast 4Did I write a blog post recently with the title Books write themselves?
Who was I kidding?
Progress this past week continues to be slow. The ‘day job’ has been time consuming and other things have kept me away from the lap top. 4,000 odd words in the week is not enough as I had hoped to complete the first draft by Christmas.
There are three threads in the book. Two sets of characters are trying to find the truth behind the murder that took place in Yarmouth (the police and the wife of the chief suspect) and one set of characters (including the chief suspect) is trying to do the same on the ‘Different Coast’ (Dartmouth, Devon). When I am able to write for at least an hour every day I can keep up with who knows what and when but if I have to leave it for a couple of days I have to spend the time re-reading bits to make sure I’m not laying any hostages to fortune.
I also have to allow for the fact that few readers will be able to sit and read the whole book through in one sitting, so there have to be recaps for them – but not too many or those who do read quickly get fed up with the re-caps (like in TV programmes where there is a resumé every few minutes in case a viewer isn’t keeping up!)
With a bit of luck I will be able to get back to being a full time author in the coming week and will report better progress next week.

Progress – but slow

Cat with KeyboardProgress with A Different Coast has been slow this past week.
I have had to do some work (until someone spots that my books would really make very, very good television mini-series and/or films I have to keep up with the day job and that has been quite demanding since last Monday) but progress has been made. There are now over 30,000 words. The format is set as we dart backwards and forwards between two sets of protagonists  and get some back-stories (Berlin Wall, East Germany) and already the characters are making their own decisions. One chap, who appeared in Her Parents’ Daughter, has decided he wants a bigger part in the sequel and has elbowed his way in to dominating a whole chapter. Still it was the right decision and I’m glad it was made. His appearance solved a problem I was beginning to worry about.
Apart from the ‘day job’ slowing me down I’ve had help from The Lodger.
As a cat he can’t really help though he does try. I suspect it’s the warm flow of air from the laptop’s fan that he’s really interested in – that and the clicking of the keys.
With a bit of luck I’ll be able to concentrate a bit more for the rest of the week and will raise my average to more than the 1,600 words I’m doing a day at present.
I would really love to have the kind of life where I could start writing after breakfast and end when supper was on the table – or do you have to be a male writer to have that luxury?

Going well…. So far

A Different Coast 4Last week I was doing really well with A Different Coast (sequel to Her Parents’ Daughter). The first chapters were writing themselves (almost) up to last Thursday when I had to go away for a three days.
Getting back into the routine on my return was not difficult but time was taken up by re-reading the 16,000 odd words already written to get ‘who knew what and when’ into my head again. And, as with any re-read, there was the inevitable need to change stuff. I also spotted some typos and odd words where Word had decided I had spelt a word wrongly and had auto-corrected it to a completely different one from the one I meant.
Having caught up with the plot (and incidentally a. changing the name of a protagonist when I realised to characters had very similar names, and b. moving the location of the ‘different coast’ ten miles further west) the story gathered pace and another 4,000 words have been added over the weekend.
Now over 20,000 words and on the tenth chapter it’s still going well…
I await the blocking wall… which will, no doubt occur.