Today I am delighted to be joined by crime fiction writer Chris Curran.
Chris has just written her third novel ‘Her Deadly Secret’ which will be released by Killer Reads (Harper Collins imprint) as an ebook on July 21st 2017 and paperback in August.
I will be joining Chris on blogtour in early August, but in the meantime Chris is sharing with us all some invaluable tips she has picked up along the way on her journey to publication.
I hope you enjoy….
Three Books Published And Three Things Learned
by Chris Curran
‘One of my favourite quotes is Somerset Maugham’s comment: ‘There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.’
And as my third book is released I don’t think I’m any closer to working out what those three rules might be. What I do know is that since I started on my journey to publication I’ve learned many valuable things.
So maybe I can pick out just three that have been crucial to me.
Advice From The Experts Is Great But …
Maugham’s comment hasn’t stopped many successful authors and quite a few novice writers from laying down some rigid ground rules about how to produce a novel. Elmore Leonard’s ten rules for writing, for instance, make a lot of sense, but I have learned that nothing works for everyone and that many authors produce their best work by ignoring the rules. So my mantra is: listen to advice, but don’t feel obliged to follow it. If you obsess over adverbs, commas, point of view and the rest instead of focusing on the story you want to tell and the characters you are creating you will get nowhere.
As a busy (and lazy) person the idea of completing a whole novel was enormously daunting to me at first. This was partly because all the advice I read told me I needed to have a rigid routine and iron discipline, forcing myself to write at least 1,000 words each and every day. Apparently it was best to start work at a regular time and chain myself to my desk until I’d completed the required number of words. Some experts said it was essential to continue writing without reading back until I had a complete first draft. Others that a thorough plan, including detailed character sketches, was crucial before making a start. It was vital to put aside all other activities during a writing session.
And I tried, my goodness I tried, but these strategies just didn’t work for me. I filled notebook after notebook with plans and spent hours writing scenes that I knew in my heart weren’t working. In the end I realised that a haphazard approach suits me better. I now spend far more time thinking about what I’m going to write than actually putting the words on the page. I compose whole scenes in my head and find I can then do the actual writing fairly easily. I do get stuck of course, but instead of driving myself onwards I turn to a routine task such as ironing or weeding the garden. It’s amazing how the problem seems to resolve itself when I do that.
There is one piece of advice I would never argue with, however, and that’s Stephen King’s: read a lot, write a lot. But then if you aren’t already doing that you have no business trying to be a writer.
Second And Third Books Aren’t Always More Difficult
Readers, critics and publishers can’t get enough of debut authors. So much so that some experienced writers have been encouraged to publish under a new name or to move to a different genre in order to qualify for the title. I was a genuine debutante in 2015 when my first novel, Mindsight, came out. I didn’t have a white dress and diamante tiara and there was no grand presentation ball, but I did feel very shiny and special. However there was a cloud on the horizon – the dreaded difficult second book that everyone talked about.
But it turned out that my follow-up, Her Turn To Cry, was one of those stories that almost seem to write themselves. My first novel was a very long while in the making and even longer before it was published! And for much of that time the second book was bubbling away in my head. As I finished each draft of Mindsight I would put it away for as long as I could bear in order to see the problems more clearly when I came back to it. (This is actually another Stephen King tip!) The temptation to keep tinkering was difficult to resist, but I managed to distract myself by thinking about what turned out to be book two. This meant that by the time my first novel was published I already knew a great deal about the second and had even written some of it. So I didn’t have to start afresh in the midst of all the excitement and terror of the first book release.
And I made sure to begin planning my third novel while I was working on the second. Admittedly things were rather trickier when I came to actually write book three. I had less time to produce the finished article and I was busy promoting both of the others as I worked on number three. What helped me most at that stage was knowing that readers liked the earlier books and that I had found my own distinctive voice. As for book four, well, that’s still very much a work in progress, but one of the joys of having three novels under my belt is that I know I can do it.
You Are Not Alone In This
I think this is the most important thing I’ve learned. When I began writing I was reluctant to let anyone read my novice stuff because I was terrified that their comments might destroy my confidence. But there’s no point in being a writer if you don’t have readers and little by little I put my work out there: started attending courses and conferences and submitting to competitions and magazines. Eventually I joined a wonderful writing group and the feedback and support I received there was invaluable.
Agents are often portrayed as uncaring and dismissive, but, although I’ve had my share of form rejections, and even the dreaded blank silence after a submission, I’ve also had some really helpful and detailed advice from agents who weren’t able to take me on so had nothing to gain. And there’s no better feeling than when you hear the enthusiastic reaction of an agent who loves your work.
Once you have a book deal, the editorial team takes over and all my editors have been brilliant at spotting where things don’t quite work. I always ask myself, why didn’t I see that problem? At this stage I’ve changed titles, cut scenes, built up characters and added atmosphere – all necessary improvements to a novel I thought was completely finished! Then there are the unsung heroes: the copy editor and proof reader. As an English graduate and ex-teacher I think I’m pretty hot on grammar and punctuation, but I still keep these people busy because when you’ve worked on a book for years it becomes nigh on impossible to spot errors. After that comes the incredible excitement of seeing what the cover designer has come up with and hearing the marketing team’s ideas.
They may not enter the equation until the very end of the process, but the readers are the ones that really matter. They bring the book alive. The Internet makes it so much easier for writers to hear what their real readers think and I’m so grateful to anyone who takes the time to post a review. While some criticisms may sting, there’s nothing better than a thoughtful review that shows that the reader really got what you were trying to do. And that is what it’s all about.
Meet Chris Curran
‘I was born in London but now live in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, on the south coast of England, in a house groaning with books. I left school at sixteen to work in the local library – my dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading my way around the shelves.
Reluctantly returning to full-time education I gained my degree from Sussex University.
Since then I have worked as an actress, script writer, copy editor and teacher, all the time looking forward to the day when I would see my own books gracing those library shelves.’
Website ~ https://chriscurranauthor.com/
Twitter ~ @Christi_Curran
Her Deadly Secret:
Twelve years ago Joycie Todd’s mother abandoned her. But what if she never really left? A tautly written psychological suspense novel, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Alex Lake.
London, 1965. Top model Joycie Todd lives a glittering life with photographer Marcus Blake. But her childhood tells a different story…
When she was eleven, Joycie’s mother disappeared. Run away with another man, so everyone says. But Joycie can’t forget the thumps she heard in the night, or the bloodstained rug hidden under the bed. A rug that was gone the next day.
Twelve years later, Joycie has left her past behind. But when an old friend dies, Joycie is left a letter beseeching her to find out the truth. Unable to keep the door locked any longer, Joycie sets out to discover why her mother left her – if she ever really did.
As she travels to the shabby seaside towns of her childhood, Joycie soon finds that it’s not just her mother who vanished all those years ago. Joycie knows the disappearances are connected, she just doesn’t know how. But there’s someone out there who does – and they will do anything to keep it buried.