Today I’m delighted to have a Guest Post from Tony J. Forder, as part of the Blog Blitz for his new book, “Scream Blue Murder”. He has some great advice for aspiring authors!
About the book:
Mike Lynch is going through hard times. But things get much worse when he witnesses a murder in a lay-by. Snatching the victim’s car in order to get away, Mike soon makes a shocking discovery – the victim’s young daughter and her nanny are hiding in the rear footwell. This is when the real trouble begins.
Mike wants to go to the police, but the nanny, Melissa, wants to delay until the daughter, Charlie, is somewhere safe. Mike agrees to this request before finding out the seriousness of the situation, and just how much danger they are really in.
Who exactly was the man he saw murdered? And who is the man he saw pulling the trigger?
In a situation where nothing is what it seems, Mike will have to fight for his life to protect a woman and a child he doesn’t know. And when the death count rises, he will discover what kind of man he really is.
Guest Post: A Survivor’s Guide to Writing
The biggest lesson I have learned this past year is that we authors are very much individuals. There is no one way to write a book. No correct way, either. The most effective method, it seems to me, is to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Plotters may opt to draft out an in-depth storyline and follow each stage with great care and attention to detail, knowing every sequence and character before they write the first sentence. This is certainly a safe method, because at least then you know who did what, when, why, how, where, and to whom.
Then there are those who write by the seat of their pants, starting out with only a vague notion of what should or should not happen, perhaps with only a few key characters sketched out, a thin storyline to be guided by, and no clue about how it will all end or even who did it or why. Whilst this does allow room for your characters to grow (even some to appear almost from nowhere, or for secondary characters to develop way beyond anything you originally had in mind for them) and for the story to ripen in ways you may not have considered even after 20,000 words have been set down, it does make for a nervy time when you realise you are 80,000 words in and you still don’t have a denouement in mind.
You can spend a fortune on self-help books only to discover that the rules don’t always apply. Different editors will pull you up on different technicalities, different publishers will allow different nuts and bolts to be loosened, and the only rule that seems to always apply is that the rules are there to be broken. I have lost count of the number of books I have read in which the POV has shifted within the same scene. That is supposedly a red flag to an editorial bull, yet authors get away with it all the time. Short chapters or long chapters? Long descriptive passages or pile on the dialogue? Using ‘said’ or avoiding it at all costs (check out the fine writer Nelson DeMille for an example of the latter style)? Rules, it seems to me, are for those who want to write rather than those who do write.
To survive you have to have faith in your own abilities, plus skin like a rhino. Never before has it been so easy for so many to criticise so few. Time was when someone could put out a book and there may be only a dozen reviews that ever made it into print. Now there’s both Amazon and Goodreads, of course, not to mention the many social media sites, each of which allows absolutely anybody to criticise your work for everyone else to see. That’s fine – we all have our likes and dislikes, and provided the criticism isn’t personal and not hateful, readers have a right to express their views. Even so, it is hard to fully understand why one in, say, forty people, seem to hate what all the others have either liked or loved. One man’s meat and all that, I guess. Ultimately, if you put yourself up there as an author, you have to be prepared to be shot down in flames.
If you think writing is just about writing, think again. It can be, I suppose, but my guess is it rarely is. Social media is a tool you may need in order to reach the masses. Building a presence is the easy part. Expanding it and keeping it current is another matter entirely. Blog tours are very much part of the publicity process these days, and not only do you have to keep up with them you also need to ensure you have thanked everyone involved – or at least, you should. Then there’s the possibility of attending a reading or signing event, maybe a literary festival or two. You cannot afford to underestimate how much time needs to be devoted to publicising and networking.
Don’t forget that if you are an author who sells books, you are self-employed, and therefore you have accounts to keep and taxes to return, bank accounts to keep an eye on, and royalties to check. Research can be extremely time-consuming, and whilst I would always advise writers to put in a marker for anything requiring a fact check rather than disrupt the creative flow, that is yet another difference in how we all do what is essentially the same thing: create a story.
Down the years, when you tell people you write, you will often get this response: “I’d love to write, but I just can’t find the time.” I suggest your response to this consists of two words: “Bull and Shit (okay, one word if you’re a perfectionist). Anyone who says that to you wouldn’t actually love to be a writer, they are simply in love with the idea of being a writer. Because anyone can find the time. Think not? Let me put it this way, then: if you write 500 words a day, 5 days a week, within a year you can write a book. Can’t manage 500 words a day? All right, make it 250 words and take 2 years to complete your tome.
Fine, so the above paragraph is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that if you have a full complement of faculties and you want to write, then the only thing stopping you is you. It’s unlikely that you will write a genuine literary masterpiece on your first attempt, but why should anyone think they would? Writing a novel is a craft, something to be learned. There are some naturals out there who just seem to have that magical it, but believe me they are few and far between. Settle instead for learning and producing the best work you are capable of at the time.
It seems to me that the majority of writers are racked with anxiety over their work, but you have to push beyond that and feel the burn. Patience is a virtue I do not possess, but it’s a fact of life that the process of producing a novel from the first word to publication is a lengthy one at the best of times, so strap in for the long haul. It is also perfectly natural for the style of your favourite authors to bleed into your first piece of work, but you have to find your own voice. That can also take time, so be prepared to set aside your first attempt – it can always be revisited.
Finally: Lao Tzu wrote, ‘The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.’ Nothing will get written until you write it, and it begins with the first letter of the first word of the first sentence of the first paragraph of the first chapter of the first book. Plot it, pants it, whatever works best for you. But to finish, you first have to start.
So, stop reading this, and get writing!
About the author:
Tony J Forder is the author of the critically acclaimed crime thriller Bad to the Bone, the first in a series featuring DI Jimmy Bliss and DC Penny Chandler. The second book in the series will be released in 2018, with a third currently in progress.
On 19 September 2017, Tony’s dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, featuring ex-detective Frank Rogers, was also published by Bloodhound Books. This was intended to be a stand-alone novel, but Tony is now considering the possibility of a follow-up.
Today, Bloodhound Books publish Tony’s new fast-paced action thriller, Scream Blue Murder. This is the first novel in an intended series, and has received praise from both Mason Cross and Matt Hilton.
Some years ago, Tony won a short story competition judged by an editor from Pan Books. The story, Gino’s Bar and Grille, went on to be published in Dark Voices 2, part of the celebrated Pan Book of Horror series. Three further short story sales followed: Book End, published in Dark Voices 4, Character Role, in FEAR magazine, and finally A Grim Story, which featured in A Rattler’s Tale. It was the start of Tony’s publishing journey.
Tony is signed to Bloodhound Books for a minimum of four books, but believes there is much more to come.