Working on one novel at a time? Pah! Let’s go for three and a novella!

When I set up my writing blog, my intention was to post at least once a week, preferably twice. I’m lucky if I manage twice a month at the moment. I do have a good excuse for the lack of posts, but I’ll come onto that shortly.

P1050559My good writing friend, Sharon Booth, is currently posting on her writing blog on a daily basis (every day except Sunday) and it puts me to shame. However, there’s also a good reason for this. You see, Sharon is taking part in the A-Z Blogging Challenge where bloggers blog every day (except Sundays) for a month, working their way through the alphabet in order. When Sharon first mentioned that she was going to do this, my first reaction was that it was a crazy idea. Where on earth would you get the time and inspiration from in order to generate posts for each letter of the alphabet? Sharon’s debut novel, ‘There Must Be An Angel’ (click on the link to buy it) had just been released, and she saw this as a great opportunity to promote aspects of her novel. What a great idea! Suddenly the A-Z Challenge made sense to me, so much so that I worked out my own alphabet of posts linked to the launch of ‘Searching for Steven’. Sharon had participated in the A-Z Challenge in the month following her launch, but I was going to do mine in the month leading up to the launch of mine. I was quite excited about it.

P1030956Thankfully I got no further than the list of potential posts because I’d completely misunderstood one vital aspect of this Challenge: it was a National Challenge for the month of April and bloggers signed up to it in the same way that writers would sign up to NaNoWriMo for the month of November. Oops! So I’ll hang onto my list of ideas and perhaps sign up to next year’s A-Z Challenge in the run-up to the launch of book 2 instead!

I’m also relieved that I no longer plan to do my own A-Z Challenge in May because, quite honestly, I don’t know when I’d have time to prepare the posts in-between working on three novels and one novella. Surely that’s more than enough for one writer to manage at one time.

Let me explain…

10933962_422724554553053_2755676624398073407_nMy debut novel, ‘Searching for Steven’, will be launched on 3rd June (oh my goodness, that’s only 44 sleeps away!) The MS has been edited, proofread and formatted so I now have the pdf. But there’s one last opportunity for a final read-through before it goes to print. My wonderful publishers, So Vain Books, have said that I don’t have to do the final read-through (as they’ll do one), but I feel that I want to so that I can give a final seal of approval before it goes to print. I’m away with my day job for four nights this week – lots of alone time in a hotel which is perfect for reading – so I’ve committed to having that done by the end of the weekend.

My second novel, ‘Getting Over Gary’, will be released in 2016. This is the sequel to Steven, although it can also be read as a stand-alone book. I’d edited Gary recently, but I felt that I hadn’t quite got there with a particular plot-point and I needed some direction. My lovely writing friend (and publishing company buddy), Jo Bartlett, had offered to do another beta read of it. Sharon had recently read Steven for the first time and also offered to beta read Gary for me. The feedback came back and they both had a couple of suggestions that I wanted to work on. Originally I’d agreed a deadline of end of May to get the MS to So Vain Books. This was well in advance of 2016’s release, but there didn’t seem any point in delaying putting Gary to bed. However, when I received the pdf of Steven, I flicked through to the back where the release of Gary was announced and it struck me that we were missing an opportunity to promote him properly. I had an email conversation with SVB’s Publishing Director, Stephanie, and we agreed that it would be great to include Gary’s blurb or, even better, the first chapter. But SVB would need to read Gary before we could finalise either of these so I’ve been working like crazy over the last week to do the final edit and another read-through. I emailed Gary to Steph last night. I confess I’m slightly nervous about this. What if they don’t like him as much as they loved Steven? Eek!

P1030967My third novel, with a working title (likely to change) of ‘Discovering David’ is the final novel in the trilogy. The plan is to release it in 2017 and you might think this is ages away so why worry about it now, but I want to be able to park the whole trilogy and move onto new stories before the end of the year. As someone who has a full-time day job as well as writing, it’s really important that I try to have several books in hand so that I’m not always trying to write to a deadline that I’d struggle to meet. While Sharon and Jo had Gary, I returned to David, and had got into a bit of a flow with him so I’m keen to return.

Finally, I have a novella on the go! Steph suggested that, as a good way to promote my writing, I might like to consider a short story relating to the trilogy. I knew that the heroine would need to be a minor character from the trilogy so that I didn’t give away any secrets. The obvious character was Callie who is the sister of my hero, Nick, from book 1. She gets married near the start of book 1 and I wanted to tell her story. I’m not known for short, short stories, so I was thinking that this would be more like an eight to twelve thousand word story. The problem is that, when I started writing it, Callie wasn’t content with being a short story. Her personality and her life grew and I suddenly had a twenty-four-thousand word novella on my hands. Oops! I emailed it to Steph with an apology that I’d sort of failed to deliver what we’d discussed. Thankfully, she loved the story – ‘Raving About Rhys’ – and could see great potential in launching a novella instead. Phew! It needs some minor editing as there’s a part of the story that happens a little too quickly (I completely agree). I don’t have the luxury of time, though, as this was meant to be released BEFORE Steven so it needs editing, proof-reading and getting out there fast. So I’ve also committed to returning the new and improved version by the end of the week.

P1050434I’m really excited about the challenge ahead, although I’m also looking ahead to the point when David is finished (hopefully early summer) so that I can relax for a bit. I’ve worked so hard for so long. A typical day for me sees me working until 6.30pm in the day job, getting home, checking social media while my daughter’s in the bath, then doing two to three hours of writing before bed. I try to have one evening off a week, but it doesn’t always happen. Thankfully, hubby understands. He’s self-employed and frequently has work to do himself on an evening, but I do feel that I neglect him so hope to have some office-free time soon.

Although book 4 keeps screaming at me to be written…

By the way, I hope you like the pictures. The official cover-reveal of ‘Searching for Steven’ will be this coming Friday (24th April) so I couldn’t include any images of the book. Instead, I’ve posted some snaps I’ve taken of Scarborough, North Yorkshire (except the one of me, of course, which hubby took) which is the inspiration for the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay where the trilogy is set.

Jessica xx

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Beginnings and Endings

I work full-time so writing is something I need to fit around my day job which is a smidge on the challenging side. I’ve said before that my main sacrifice to allow time to write is that I watch very little television. I spend my evenings at my Mac, catching up on social media and editing my latest novel rather than catching up with the residents of Coronation Street or Albert Square.

As we’ve had a long bank holiday weekend and I managed to tag another couple of days holiday on before that, I have given myself some evening time off writing and have watched films with hubby on three consecutive nights.

Friday night was his choice: Interstellar. This 2014 release stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hatthaway, and is set on a futuristic dying earth. The protagonists are on a space mission to find an alternative inhabitable planet. I’ll hold my hands up and say my first preference is always for a romcom, but I’m not averse to a bit of drama (my all-time favourite film is actually ‘The Shawshank Redemption’) and I don’t mind the odd sci-fi either so I was reasonably pleased with hubby’s choice. Until I watched it. But more on that shortly.

Saturday’s film was my choice. When discussing what else had been on offer when hubby bought Interstellar, I’d asked him if he’d spotted 2014 release ‘Gone Girl’. Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, I’d seen this trailered last year when I went on a rare trip to the cinema and (as trailers frequently make out) it looked really good. I quite like a good thriller. This wasn’t a good thriller. But more on that shortly too.

Last night, we stuck with one of the the TV offerings: Snow White and the Huntsman. This 2012 movie starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, is a dark re-imagining of the Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs story. We really enjoyed this one. And that’s not just because of Chris (Thor) Hemsworth, although that certainly helped my enjoyment! 😉

As a writer, I’ve massively struggled with getting the start of my novels right, particularly my debut one, ‘Searching for Steven’ (out on 3rd June this year). Does the story hook the reader in quickly? Do they get to know the protagonist and care about her? Is there enough action soon enough, or perhaps too much and I haven’t paused to explain what’s going on? As a reader, I don’t like to give up on books as I know that some of the slower-starting books can do an about-turn and suddenly become really gripping, but it’s hard to keep going to that point sometimes, especially when I don’t know if it’s ever going to appear!

The other thing that I feel is really important as a reader is the ending. This might seem obvious, but I find far too many books have a rushed ending and I feel cheated. Assuming we’re talking a romance story, I’ve spent the book willing the hero and heroine to get together. If it happens on the very last page, I feel a twinge of frustration. I’ve spent 299 pages caring about them. I don’t suddenly want it wrapping up on page 300. I like to have a chapter – or at least a few pages – leading up to it so that the conclusion doesn’t feel rushed, as though the writer had run out of space or got bored and thought they’d better finally shove them together. Because I knew what I liked (and didn’t like) in an ending, I didn’t struggle with the endings to any of my novels.

But what happens when there isn’t actually an ending?

Okay, so that might be an odd thing to say as surely the very fact that a book finishes must mean there’s an ending. Not necessarily. And, for this, I go back to our trio of films over this weekend.

If you’re planning to watch any of them, you might like to avoid reading on… *SPOILER ALERT*

Interstellar and Gone Girl, in my opinion, had several things in common:

1. They were overly and unnecessarily long

2. They had very long drawn-out beginnings. In book terms, these would have been the stories that I’d have toyed with abandoning because they were taking forever to get into

3. They didn’t have endings

To be fair to Interstellar, there were some moments in the middle that were very gripping. For example, they landed in the sea on a planet that they believed (from data they’d received via a previous explorer) to be habitable. They knew that there was an issue with time on the planet (which I won’t even begin to try and explain because I can’t get my head round it) and that an hour down there would be the equivalent to several years in ‘normal’ time. Once landed, they could see mountains in the distance, only these turned out not to be mountains but giant waves that rippled across the planet at regular intervals, destroying anything in their wake. There was a dramatic escape attempt, a death, and the even more shocking discovery that 23 years and 4 months had passed in the short time they’d been down there. Gripping stuff (not being sarcastic here). Then the film went a bit strange when Matthew McC fell through a wormhole and could see his daughter’s bedroom and send her messages by pushing books off shelves. Yep, I won’t try to explain that either. Somehow he got rescued out of this wormhole and ended up on another planet to which the population of earth had temporarily moved (I think). He was still in his thirties but his daughter was exceedingly old and about to die and suggested he go and find Anne Hathaway on the planet she’d travelled to before he disappeared down the wormhole. It showed him taking a spacecraft. It showed her on the planet on her own. And then it ended. Hubby and I both shouted at the TV screen. What sort of non-ending was that?! What happened to them? What happened to the former population of earth? Had they saved the human race from distinction?

Gone Girl, although a completely different genre of film, had an equally surprising non-ending. I haven’t read the book so I base this purely on the film (and, again, emphasise it is only my opinion as I’m sure many love it), but it appears to be the story of two quite self-centred people who have a very lively sex life who grow to dislike each other. She goes missing and the clues point to him having murdered her. Then we discover that she’s alive and has set it up because she hates him for changing and for having an affair. All her money gets stolen so she contacts an ex-boyfriend who was a bit obsessed with her at college. He sets her up in his holiday home but she turns psycho on him after seeing her husband on a chat show acting like the man she fell in love with. She then murders the ex and, covered in his blood, drives back to Ben Affleck’s house and claims she was abducted by the ex. Keeping up so far? Ben knows she’s a psycho who murdered the ex yet doesn’t say anything because she’s managed to get hold of a sperm donation he made at a fertility clinic and is now pregnant with his child. Let me just repeat that. Wife frames husband for murdering her, loses her money, murders her ex, returns to ex, gets pregnant using his sperm donation, and he stays with her despite her having admitted she murdered the ex. Then it ends. Eh? I don’t understand? How is that an ending? It doesn’t conclude anything. Nobody is happy. Nobody gets their come-uppance. The murder of the poor ex isn’t solved.

I’m very aware that there are films out there that leave you with questions, but at least they do have an ending. I’m trying to think of examples and I can only come up with ‘Total Recall’ at the time of writing, but I’m sure I’ll think of others after I’ve posted this! I don’t think that Interstellar or Gone Girl were meant to be this type of film. Or maybe I’ve just missed the point.

Which brings us onto the third film. Although it wouldn’t feature up there with my most favourite films ever, Snow White and the Huntsman got going quickly, kept a pace throughout, and it had an ending. A proper ending. An ending where the Queen got her come-uppance (but not without a big battle first), Snow White got crowned as the rightful Queen, and there was a smouldering look from Thor … sorry, the Huntsman, suggesting they had a future too. It was concluded with the hint of the HEA too. Exactly how it should be.

It could be just me, though. I’m sure some people like the slow-build and the inconclusive conclusion (is that a contradiction in terms?), but I really, really don’t.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on any of these films, particularly around the subject of beginnings and (non-)endings.

Happy Easter everyone 🙂 xx