Wednesday, 28 January 2015

I've been tagged by CL Taylor! My Writing Process

I’ve been tagged by C L Taylor, to take part in this writing process tour. Cally is a fellow psychological thriller author  of  the gripping novel, THE ACCIDENT, (one of the Top Ten bestselling debuts of 2014, named by The Bookseller). Her exciting new book, THE LIE is out in April. I have to answer some questions on my writing process, then pass the baton to another writer. So here goes…
 
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?

I’m currently doing revisions on a draft of a new psychological thriller. I’ve just used beta-readers for the first time and the process has been really useful – I can’t tell you! They’ve been able to spot plot issues that don’t ring true and have pointed out all those parts that are a bit contrived, but I thought I could get away with. No way! Back to the drawing board – which is very good, because it means my Agent will see a much better version when it’s ready. I do recommend test readers – they’ve been real gems.

HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?


I like to think that because I was a Psychotherapist for 15 years, I’ve got a bit of an edge when it comes to Psychological Thrillers – but actually, there are so many good writers out there that it doesn’t count for a great deal! I’ve worked with ex-convicts from high-security prisons, so I feel like I have some insight into the ‘criminal mind’, but most often these offenders were simply people under terrible circumstances trying cope the only way they knew how. I wouldn’t want to disrespect them by putting them in fiction. I like the idea of dramatic events happening to ordinary people. Mainly, I think the difference in my writing is my style – a number of people have said it has beautiful flow with good imagery and atmosphere, which I’m very pleased about.

WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?


I’ve always loved mysteries – since the days of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. I love clues and twists and turns. As an adult I was first drawn to psychological thrillers by Nicci French and Patricia Cornwell, although I don’t think they were given that genre name, back then. I like exploring moral dilemmas and what happens when love turns to jealousy or revenge. I like writing ‘domestic noir’ – what could be more scary than thinking you’re safe in your own home and finding that’s where your worst nightmares begin…


HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?


I tend to start with a single idea or 'hook' and I like to get a title early, so that I have a clean focus for the story. I used to wing it from the start - now, it's safer to do an extensive outline of the whole plot, although I do like to leave flexibility. For THE EVIL BENEATH, I had the idea of a woman finding a body in the water and realising that the corpse was dressed in her own clothes. That was all I had, but I was very excited by it. I know exactly when the idea came to me – I was in Mayfair with my sister, talking about something entirely different. I then had to build ‘who, why, how, what’ after that. Research is usually on the internet these days, but there’s always lots to check and I enjoy discovering new information. I don’t want to give away the end of the book, but Juliet goes to a hidden and dangerous place in London and I talked to people who had been there and got books out of the library about it. I knew the parts of London I was writing about well and did go back to get a feel for space, sounds, smells of the river Thames and atmosphere around Putney Bridge, as Juliet Grey, the lead, lives nearby.

In terms of actual writing, I tend to do a short sketch of an idea to start with, then fill it out, then fill it out again, so that eventually I have a list of scenes. I do full character profiles these days to make sure my protagonists come alive. I know there are plotting systems for writers on the computer, but I’m too impatient to learn how to use them – I want to get the story down. So I tend to stick to the old fashioned long story outline (usually in 3 acts) and cut and paste to shift scenes around. And I press ‘save’ – always.

Now it’s my turn to pass the baton on to another writer. I’m going to stay with the same genre and hand over to a fellow writer with the same agent as me, Kathryn Croft. Her new book, THE STRANGER WITHIN came out in October last year and has got great reviews. I’d love to know her writing secrets…
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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Fabulous site for Writers - published or not...

If you've been following my blog, you'll know I'm at the 'ideas' stage with a new novel - ferreting around inside my brain for that nifty little 'hook' that is going to blow a publisher away... Mmm. In shuffling my ideas together into something my agent can fathom, I've come across this brilliant site which covers just about every writing issue you could possibly imagine - from pitches to synopses, submissions to book selling:

http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.co.uk/ by Nicola Morgan

Nicola also has a new site now, where she gives more information on training, public speaking, advising and her work on 'Teenage Brains and Stress', but the information on her first blog still stands and I'm going to be taking a tour of it over the coming days.


So far, I've learnt the difference between jacket blurbs and pitches and how a pitch to an agent needs to have the ending - not just rhetorical questions, like 'Will Lucy learn the truth before her best friend blows her life apart?' - that kind of thing (that's not the story, by the way).

I've also learnt more about 'hooks', 'pitches', the 'premise' and how long these should be to be most effective. There are lots of examples on Nicola's site and the content feels very 'live' with mini tutorials with visitors to her pages.

Nicola has also written fiction, non-fiction books for writers, as well as books about difficulties facing teenagers. Why not take a look?

Talking of IDEAS - just learnt that my opening to a novel has won a copy of  The Facts of Life & Death at Transworld publishing! I had to tweet the fictional opening line to a crime novel... Here it is:

'You turned your back. I told you never to turn your back.'
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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.

To get regular Blog posts SIGN UP in the side bar --->

SIGN UP HERE for AJ's Newsletter with Competitions and Giveaways in 2015! Plus up- to-the-minute info on her new novels, sneak peeks and exclusive insider content.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Back at my Desk - Yippee '#amwriting'

Thank goodness -  that awful lull between books seems to have come to a close. I know it was only about a week – but still…

Problem is, I find it very hard to feel my time is well spent when I don’t have a book I’m working on. When I don’t have any ideas and no energy for writing – that’s when the panic sets in. With it, comes the writers' version of the Grim Reaper – ‘You need better ideas – because you need to write a better book this time.' Rash fears flit through my mind – ‘Maybe this is it – the end of the line – perhaps you don’t have another book in you…’ Horrors of horrors! No, no – this is my life now…

As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s inevitable to feel drained after finishing a first draft of a book. The thought of starting again and writing a whole novel (around 93,000 words in my case) feels too much. Too big. It’s not knowing how long that period of inertia will last that feels precarious. And very unsettling.

I took heart from Barry Gibb’s words in a recent TV documentary about the Bee Gees, when he said:

"We had a grim determination and persistence, taking all the blows and kicks and not worrying about it. Just getting on with it. ‘Well, it wasn’t this time – but next time, you know’. It’s always perceiving that something great was gonna happen, no matter what."

Okay – even the Bee Gees went through low periods of resistance and hard grind. Reality check...

Thankfully, my barren period lasted only around 8 days. I was re-reading The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan, a superb and chilling little number, and a scene towards the end about a frog struck a loud chord. Jack, the teenage narrator in the story, crushes it with a rock and buries it in the garden – but when a curious bystander digs it up - it’s still alive… (cue Hitchcock-style scary organ music). Given it's incredible symbolism (I won't say why, in case you haven't read the book) it's one of the most powerful moments in the story.

I can’t tell you exactly what my 'new idea' is at this stage, but I’ve drawn up a short summary and sent it to my Agent for approval. I really appreciate the way she works with authors right from the start – there’s nothing worse than finishing a novel then getting an unequivocal thumbs down. If I get approval, I’ll need to draw up a full synopsis and see if that gets full approval too – then I can get started on it. If the idea doesn’t hit the mark – I find another one.

Whatever happens – the excitement and anticipation is bubbling away now. Another book is definitely in there, breathing below the surface and trying to get out. Will it be ‘good enough’ or ‘better’ than what’s gone before? I don't know. I’ll do my utmost – my goal is always to improve - but I won’t be held back by this. And as long as I remember that I only have to write the next sentence, the next scene - I don’t need to be daunted by the enormity of the project.
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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.

To get regular Blog posts SIGN UP in the side bar --->

SIGN UP HERE for AJ's Newsletter with Competitions and Giveaways in 2015! Plus up- to-the-minute info on her new novels, sneak peeks and exclusive insider content.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

What do writers DO between books?

There’s no doubt that writing has taken over my life. Ever since those tentative beginnings in 2008, when I thought; ‘I know a whole novel is beyond me, but maybe I could try 2,500 words’…then found I couldn’t stop.

One minute I was just having a go – the next I was listed on a literary agent’s website alongside HG Wells! Surreal or what?

To be fair, I was looking for something new, having been a Psychotherapist for 15 years and ending up burnt out. I love images and words – so it's a natural step from therapy to fiction. But nevertheless, I am now obsessed. I admit it. I think books, I dream books, I live inside books...


These days, I write full time. I’ve just sent my latest novel off to my beta-readers and lo and behold, I feel totally lost… What do other writers do when they’re not writing? I know in my bones, it’s too soon to start a new book. I’ve written two novels this year and – *foof* – I just need to stop for a bit. You wouldn’t expect a marathon runner to towel themselves down and embark on another 26 miles, now would you? (Not unless you’re the 65 year old Japanese guy in 2009, who ran 52 consecutive marathons…gleaned that from a Christmas sports game).


Yesterday, I found myself washing the kitchen floor – so it looks like it could be time for all those neglected domestic tasks that don’t usually get a look in. I feel restless, though. I’ve got that feeling that I should BE somewhere, DOING something. Ah yes, at my desk – writing. Problem is – I don’t have a story bursting to be written, just yet. I feel I need to fill up my ‘creative well’ a little, in the meantime.

So, what to do? Read – yes – reading lots and outside my own genre – is good, and analysing aspirational books and checking out what kind of thriller themes are getting published. Catch up with social media, articles, blogs, guest posts, prepare the next newsletter – yes – I’m chugging along with all those. Research? Well – I’ve got no concrete story ideas yet, so no specific research is required. Looking for ideas? Yes – I’m keeping an eye open for items in the news, Radio 4, podcasts, book reviews, jacket blurbs…

But none of it quite hits the spot like writing does. None of it gives me that amazing feeling of being ‘in the zone’ – where I come to my senses after hours have whooshed by and I find a new scene in my book has been born. I keep coming back to the wonderful quote by Gloria Steinem:

“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.” 

What do other writers do between books? Let me know…
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If you enjoyed this post, PLEASE SHARE it using the buttons. Thank you!

AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.

To get regular Blog posts SIGN UP in the side bar --->

SIGN UP HERE for AJ's Newsletter with Competitions and Giveaways in 2015! Plus up- to-the-minute info on her new novels, sneak peeks and exclusive insider content.