WIP Blog Twelve: Ready for Proofreading

WIP Blog Twelve: Ready for Proofreading

This week’s Work In Progress news is that ‘Agents of the Truth’ is (almost) ready to go to be proofread. I say almost because it’s not booked in until the 25th which gives me enough time to leave it alone and wait for last-minute thoughts to pop into my head, and enough time for my PA to give it a read. She’s already picked up a few typos I’ve missed, and the more of those we find, the better.

Am I happy with it? Yes. When will it be available? Hopefully, by the second week in February, before Valentine’s Day if I can, as I don’t want it to get caught up in the slew of releases that day always brings. So, keep watching the blog and my Facebook page for more news. Also, keep watching for the next WIP, as work on Larkspur Four has already begun.

More about that next week, and coming soon… the cover reveal for ‘Agents if the Truth.’

WIP Blog Eleven: Nearly There

WIP Blog Eleven: Nearly There

Welcome to the Work In Progress blog. It has been 11 weeks since I started on ‘Agents of the Truth,’ and I have just finished line-editing the manuscript. I have just under two weeks before it goes to proofing, so there is still time to make adjustments should I need to.

This week, I thought I would give you an extract to whet your appetite and leave it at that.

This is from chapter two. To set the scene: Archer, Lord Clearwater, is to hold a masked ball at Larkspur Hall. The newspapers have already covered the story and prematurely announced that the Queen’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor (Prince Eddy, as he was also known) is to attend. Invitations have been sent out, and Archer and Tom have been dealing with the acceptance letters.


There was no letterhead, no date, and not even a letter. Just a piece of plain paper on which were glued a series of words in different fonts. At first, he assumed it was James replying to his invitation in a way designed to be a joke. The unconnected words, however, suggested something far more sinister.

Prick, Bleed, Poison, Die, Wrong…?

They brought a memory of his youth, and although it was partly pleasurable, it was mainly unnerving.
‘What is it?’ Tom was at the door with a collection of envelopes. ‘Are you unwell?’
Archer slipped the note beneath a book and looked up, feigning ease. ‘Hm? Oh, no. All is well, thank you. Just, er… Just pondering Shakespeare.’
‘What on earth for?’ Tom took three long strides into the room and placed the letters on the desk. ‘Never mind. Here are today’s acceptances. The genuine ones. Where are you going?’
Archer had collected his jacket and was making for the door with his pace and pulse quickening. ‘To the library,’ he said. ‘I have an urgent meeting.’
‘With whom?’
‘The Merchant of Venice.’


And so, the mystery begins… and deepens… and becomes more mysterious… and then another mystery starts… and things really get interesting!

WIP Blog Ten: ‘Agents of the Truth’ Draft Three

 

WIP Blog Ten: ‘Agents of the Truth’ Draft Three

I am in week ten of writing the next Larkspur Mystery, ‘Agents of the Truth.’

Today, I will set about chapter 15, giving it a line edit. I’ve spent the last few days editing every line in the book from the start to the end of chapter 31, going through them for grammar, ease of reading, and picking up as many typos as I can.

My writing process so far:

Draft One: Write the story for me and keep each chapter as a separate file, titled by Number, Day of story, Point of Chapter. I just sit down and write it and don’t care how well I write the sentences but keep in mind the plot, character arcs and consistency.

Draft Two: I read-through for plotting, pacing and repetition. I eradicate what has become unnecessary; add in what I forgot last time. If I notice a typo, I run a search/find in Word for that typo, to check I’ve not done it elsewhere. I often do this with names. I might write Jams instead of James, so I search/find ‘James’ just to be sure it wasn’t a one-off. At this stage, the MS is in one large document. *Tip* Add oft-mistyped words to your autocorrect list.

Draft Three: I pull the draft two MS into separate chapters again, and run ProWritingAid (PWA) for grammar and style, overused words, sentence length, clichés and then, once again, style. This process picks up on the repetition of words and verbs (too many have/had/has in one block of text, for example). It identifies long sentences where I’ve joined separate thoughts/threads together with and, but, while… I also avidly check for adverbs. (Words like ‘avidly’.) These can be signs of lazy writing, and influence the ‘show don’t tell’ rule. Better than writing, ‘he said angrily’ is to show the character being angry. The PWA check also helps with typos and punctuation.

That’s where I am right now. Draft four will be another read-through before the MS goes to be proofread. I should point out that, if I feel it’s warranted, I will completely rewrite a chapter or section from scratch. I did this more when I was starting out than I now have a handle on construction and flow. These days, I know when to stop writing in draft one, tear that page out and start again, rather than leave in a substantial chunk or chapter to be dealt with later. So, drafts two onwards tend to be editing rather than rewriting.

And, while that’s going on, I have made a date with my proof-reader, so I have until January 24th to complete my edits, and I have sent a cover idea to Andjela and asked her to think about the image. The images today are some of the ‘idea shots’ I sent her.

The cover won’t be of a cute young man this time, because ‘Agents of the Truth’ is more of a classic detective story than it is about a dreamy young thing falling in love. It’s an adventure that changes a character’s life (two characters, actually), and it follows on from book two ‘Keepers of the Past.’

I am aiming for mid-February as a release date (while avoiding the Valentine’s Day deluge of romantic shorts that flood Amazon and KU every year.)

If you’ve not started the Larkspur series yet, you have time to begin at ‘Guardians of the Poor’ and enjoy the ride.

See you on Saturday for my regular, weekly author’s blog.

Jack

 

WIP Blog Nine: Draft One Complete.

WIP Blog Nine: Draft One Complete.

Hi, just a quick update as promised. My Work In Progress, ‘Agents of the Truth’ has reached the end of draft one at 111,000 words. Yippee!

I am about to start a read-through for a story edit, to make sure all points of the mystery add up, and to check my timeline. I feel it is going to come across as ‘bitty’, because it feels like I have had to work on it in fits and starts. Christmas caused a two-day hiatus, but only between the end of the climax and the epilogue, but organising and playing the piano for a carol concert and other pre-Christmas activities also caused hiccups. While they were going on, I was also looking around for freelance writing work, assisting newbies with stories, editing and restructuring website reports and things, so having to pay the bills also rather gets in the way of the creative flow.

However, I have brought to an end a three-part adventure starring Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner (and others), and feel that now, Dalston and Joe can settle into a stable new life, while I bring new characters into the Larkspur Academy. That will start once ‘Agents’ is finished, and there is a way to go yet. I am still aiming for the end of February as a release date, and will soon fix up a time for proofreading and organising the cover.

Meanwhile, it’s back to draft two, and a mound of Christmas leftovers we still need to get through before I can extract myself from the sofa, get out and do some walking, and settle back into my more usual routine.

I will be here on Saturday for an end-of-year round-up. See you then!

WIP blog Eight: Nearly There

WIP blog Eight: Nearly There

Hi all, and welcome to Wednesday and my work in progress update. When people ask me how long it takes to write a novel, I usually have no idea how to answer because by the time I get to release it, I’ve forgotten when I started it. This WIP blog has helped change that, and I can say that it has, so far, taken me eight weeks, and there is still a long way to go. Not so much in the first draft storytelling because I am now about to climax, if you’ll excuse the expression, but once that is done, and I have epilogued (excuse the made-up word), there is still a way to go.

A random photos of the model kits I like to build in my downtime.

Yesterday, I finished chapter 27 yesterday and made inroads into chapter 28. Last night, I was running through ideas for the climax with hubby Neil, because he makes a great sounding board, and I worked out I still had, probably, about, maybe… five scenes to go before the story will be concluded. That would put me at roughly 110,000 words, which is a nice ‘get your money’s worth’ length. After that, however, and after Christmas, comes the draft two-stage and the editing down, ‘bettering up’ and putting all things as right as I can before I can be happy with the finished product. After that comes the cover design, the proofreading, the layout and all that jazz, so we are still looking at February as a release month, all being well.

Sensible storage is important.

And a random photo of our main town.

As I write each chapter, I save it in a file that is automatically linked to me OneDrive just in case, and I give each one a number, of course. What I also do, however, is name the file with a piece of action; the more critical the action the better. This is so I can remember where certain things occurred, and can easily find them if I need to go back and change or check something. I just looked down my list of saved, individual chapters and thought you might like a small insight into what’s to come with ‘Agents of the truth.’ Some examples:

01 Newspaper announces ball

02 14th October threat one

08 18th Friday The Killhaddocks

16 Archer letter to James and 26th Sunday

20 After Newgate

27 D leaves London 3.15 at Larkspur

That should mean absolutely nothing to you, and that’s how I like it. All will be revealed in time.

Double-Check for accuracy

A vague attempt at a Christmas scene, our-house style.

Something that was revealed to me the other day has put a bit of a groan in my step. This novel runs to a timeline, as I like to do, with some chapters starting with the location and date. I checked the legitimacy of these dates with what I thought was a reliable online calendar. I.e ‘What day of the week was October 30th 1890?’ and from that, I drew my own calendar of days/dates. All well and good until I got to chapter 24 ’30th Wednesday Larkspur preparations’ and checked the news for that day in history with the British Newspaper Archives. There, in print from 131 years ago, I found the Morning Post, Telegraph and others were published on Thursday 30th October. So, when I go through draft two, I’m going to have to change all dates/days and double-check references to ‘three days to go’ kind of stuff and make sure things remain accurate. I guess I don’t need to add this authentic detail, but I like to do things properly. That is why, for example, in ‘Agents’ you’ll find the climax happens under a moon that was full two days previously, and the newspaper articles the characters read were actually published in those papers on those days. Background detail is fun!

Happy Christmas

Anyway, I must continue with chapter 28 and hopefully get into chapter 29. I don’t think I’ll be finished with draft one by midday on Christmas Eve as I hoped, but I’ll be close, and after taking the weekend off, I’ll be right back at it. Meanwhile, have yourself a lovely Christmas if you celebrate it, or holiday if you don’t, or weekend if you don’t take a holiday, and I will be back with you next Wednesday for WIP Nine.

WIP Blog Seven: Towards the Last Reel

Towards the Last Reel

(And a Christmas competition)

I’m heading towards the last reel of ‘Agents of the Truth’, with the word count now at 72,000 words (draft one). Because of one thing or another, I’ve not been able to set aside as many hours per day for writing as I would like. As you might know, I also freelance for a living, and recently, a job I’d been working for several years suddenly came to an end. Not only has this left a gaping hole in the income stream, but it’s also left me looking around for a replacement job. I’ve been working up some proposals for Fiverr and PeoplePerHour, offering creative writing developmental services, and have a couple of other feelers out, but until things are back on track, I have to concentrate on finding work, while balancing the novel-writing with promotions.

So, instead of writing up to five or six thousand words per day, recently I have only been able to manage two thousand. What this has done, strangely, is make me write more slowly. I am correcting as I go. Rather than correcting a sea of red underlines at the end of a three-hour sprint, I am writing a paragraph, rereading it and making corrections and changes, and then moving on. Odd, I’ve not worked this way before.

It may be because I have the story planned in my head. I am already a few scenes in advance of myself, and, mentally, putting in the details. These often change when the fingers get to work on the keyboard, but at least I have the structure, hurdles, complications and ‘hit points’ ready for when I need them.

On which note, it’s five in the morning and I’m up early so I can do my job-hunting before I settle down to grapple with a guest appearance by a character from the Clearwater Mysteries. After that, my agent of the truth, Dalston Blaze, has another hurdle to overcome before he can move on emotionally and within what’s turning out to be a slowly building climax to a double mystery.

Talking of Dalston…

Christmas Competition with Giveaway

I’m planning to feature Dalston Blaze on the cover of a future book, but what does he look like? We already have Joe Tanner on the ‘Guardians’ cover, but how do you imagine Dalston? We know he’s six-foot, and there are a few other descriptions of him in ‘Guardians’ and ‘Keepers’, but who do you see when you read about him?

Tomorrow I will be the featured author on the fabulous M/M Euro Book Banter Facebook Page. Come over and join me and have your chance to share your image of anyone you’ve seen online who you thinks looks like Dalston.*

Do that, and you’ll be in the draw for a free eBook giveaway of ‘Agents of the Truth’ when it’s published. (Kindle or ePub version.)

Check my FaceBook page for more details.

* This may not be the person I use. I will have to license a photo/model for the cover, but it will be a bit of fun and give me a good idea of the kind of guy you’d like to see on the cover.

WIP Blog Six: Newgate Prison

WIP Blog Six: Newgate Prison

Before we get to today’s WIP update, here’s some great news. I have been nominated in ten categories in this year’s GoodReads Awards.

If you head to my FaceBook page, you will find all the nominations listed, plus links to where you can cast your votes. there are also links at the bottom of this post. I think you have to sign in to GoodReads (free) to vote, but it won’t take you long, and you can vote for as many titles as you want. It’s also great to see Andjela nominated for the best cover for ‘Guardians of the Poor.’ This has been possible thanks to my readers and members of GoodReads, and it’s got my day off to the perfect start.

Now, though, I must take you back in time and to another prison…

Yesterday, I was researching Newgate Prison. This was for a scene in ‘Agents of the Truth’, the third Larkspur Mystery, currently in its first draft (just over halfway through). I found a very useful website (link below) that shows a collection of the very few available photos of Newgate from the late 18th century. With the rain blustering in, and the temperature here dropping, and with true horror stories to read on websites and in the National Newspaper Archives, it was something of a dismal, yet fascinating day.

In the story, two characters are tracking down a third who was in Newgate Prison before and after a trial at the Old Bailey in 1889. You might remember that a week ago I was researching Millbank Prison, also in London, and that venue has yet to play its part, but it will soon. Victorian prisons were not pleasant places, as you might imagine. Prison reform took a long time to come about, and Newgate didn’t close until 1902. During the Clearwater period, it was mainly used for those awaiting trial at the Old Bailey, so I wasn’t able to keep my character there for long after sentencing; hence, Milbank comes into play in the next chapter.

For those who like the character of the barrister, Creswell, you’ll be pleased to note that he makes a cameo appearance in ‘Agents of the Truth.’ It’s only a short appearance, but it was as exhausting to write as it would have been to live through. The man simply does not stand still. He is as physically active as his mind, but still as brilliant and quick as before, and his appearance gives us a little light relief from the slowly building tension while remaining pertinent to the plot.

Plan of Newgate Prison 1880

So, that’s where I am at right now, 61,000 words and over the halfway hurdle, heading towards the last few days of the timeline, with things happening the reader knows about, but the characters don’t. That’s a fine old storytelling technique and used to make the story more compelling. I’m pleased to say, I am compelled to write more, so I will leave you with the link to Peter Berthoud’s handy blog, Discovering London, which is now bookmarked in my research folder because of his collection of old photos and his knowledge. Take a look, and if you’re in London, perhaps even take one of his guided tours. The page about Newgate Prison is here.


If you would like to vote for me and my books then please hurry over to the polls and cast your vote! You do need to be a Goodreads M/M Romance member but it is easy to sign up and then you will have access to the polls. I will post more details on Saturday. I hope to see you then.

WIP: Week Five. Halfway Mark

WIP: Week Five. Halfway Mark

This week’s update on my work in progress, ‘Agents of the Truth’ sees me at 47,800 words, which is nearly at the halfway mark of the planned timeline of the first draft. To be honest, I’m surprised I have made it this far in what seems a very short time. I have been managing between 2,000 and 4,000 words per day, depending on what other (paid) work has come in. There seem to be so many other little things to do, and together, they add up to a fair chunk of my writing time. I’m talking about things like replying to emails, filling out a census, looking for Christmas presents, and playing Scrabble.

Actually, the Scrabble thing is work, because I use the tiles and the board to help me with anagrams. I’ve tried online anagram makers/solvers, but they are never as satisfying as doing it yourself, and using pen and paper is trickier than having lettered tiles to move around. Also, using tiles (or cards if you don’t have enough Scrabble letters) is safer too. You find the word(s) you want to make into an anagram and select only those letters, put all others aside so you don’t get mixed up, and then you can’t go wrong.

So, nearly halfway and the story has, as I intended, split into two mysteries. In one, we have two of our new Larkspur characters now in London, and in the other, we have some of our existing Clearwater characters down at Larkspur, both working on mysteries that may or may not be related. The research is going well—everything from the British Museum and Flinders Petrie, and from the Bible to Edgar Allan Poe… Those who like a twisting mystery filled with unusual characters and led by gay men in Victorian times are in for a real treat with ‘Agents of the Past.’

I am still aiming for early next year as a release date, though probably not until the end of February at the earliest. We shall see. And now, back to writing.

I hope to see you on Saturday for my other regular weekly blog.

WIP: Week Three. Act One.

WIP: Week Three. Act One.

‘Agents of the Truth’ is coming along. I am now up to 20,000 words and am halfway through chapter eight. I had intended to reach 25,000 and the end of act one, but I may go over that target, which means we might be in for a longer novel. Either that, or there will be lots to edit. It’s zipping along, though, as per my usual style. Plenty of intrigues, some pressures building in the background for the characters to be challenged with later. I’ve also dropped clues for later (and noted them so I don’t forget to resolve them), and there has been some humour.

You might wonder what I mean by ‘Act One’, so let me explain. I’ve picked up the term from my screenplay writing, because films are all about structure, and are divided into acts. I have several books on the subject, and if you want to know more, I suggest two:

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler Mythic Structure for Writers

The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

Here they are on my shelf beside my Jackson Marsh collection. Ann Zouroudi, who writes the Greek Detective Mysteries published by Bloomsbury, gave me the Vogler book, so it has a special place on my shelf. It’s a great book for understanding the journey of a hero through a classic story, which he breaks down into acts. The Aronson one is more filmmaking centred, and discusses other structures besides the four-act structure I favour. Both are invaluable for plotting, character arcs, and structure, whether for film or fiction.

Act One

I’ve read many discussions of the four-act structure of storytelling, and when you know what they are, you recognise them in films. A standard film script will be roughly 20 pages for each act, leading to an 80-page script, with each page being one minute of screen time. During that time, things happen that turn the plot and move things forward, and they always happen at the end of acts. I’m referring to the plot there, but along with the plot, a character will also develop, and that process goes through several stages of the four acts. (We’ll have a quick look at that in a moment.)

We often refer to act one to as ‘The normal world’, where everything is in its place and the hero/heroine is undisturbed. Then, a challenge comes along, he resists it, gets mentored, accepts it, and ‘steps over the threshold’ into the new and unexplored world of act two… and off we go. That’s known as the reluctant hero’s journey beginning. In my Clearwater world, the heroes are rarely reluctant, but I still use the same basic structure.

Without giving away too much, ‘Agents of the Truth’ starts out in Archer’s normal world, a villain makes a subtle appearance, the men at the academy are existing in their normal world too, but then one or two are asked to assist with something outside of their usual day-to-day. They accept the challenge, and away we go. Simple?

You can rest assured it won’t be!

Four Acts

Think of any standard horror film and you’ll easily be able to identify your four acts. Crudely put, they run like this.

Act 1, There is no shit

Act 2, What is this shit?

Act 3, What do we do about this shit?

Act 4, Shit dealt with

Or to use Titanic a more gentille example, with the end of act turning points:

Act 1, People board the Titanic, and it sets off

Act 2, Rose and Jack get it together, ship hits iceberg

Act 3, Ship is sinking, panic, ship sinks

Act 4, Jack dies, stories resolve, Rose dies

20,000 words

Having written many books and screenplays in the four-act structure, I now find I don’t need to remind myself of turning points, character arcs and so on. They come naturally to me, although they are always at the back of my mind. So, having reached 20,000 words and approached my end of act one target, I find I will go beyond it. That’s fine, the novel can be longer, or it can be cut, because I have not yet reached the turning point that will take us into act two.

In terms of writing, I should have written 25 or 30,000 words by now, but in the last couple of days, a few home-life things got in the way. I.e. Needing a new washing machine, having to take some paid work to make money, cooking a chocolate mousse, etc.

So, I shall leave this here, and get back to ‘Agents of the Truth’ (I like the title more each day), and I’ll see you on Saturday when there will be an interview with one of my characters. Dalston Blaze will be along to talk about his life in the workhouse, his love for Joe Tanner, and his move to the Larkspur Academy. I hope to see you then.

WIP: Week Two, Plotster and Panster


WIP: Week Two, Plotster and Panster

I am in my second week of writing Larkspur Three. I have the working title, ‘Agents of the Truth’, and I am currently halfway through chapter five of the first draft. I don’t know if you remember, but last week I said that I had plotted the four acts of this story, and was wondering what was going to take up the middle two. Well, now I find I have plenty going on in the middle two acts, and at the end, but not so much in the first quarter. Maybe what I mean is I have too many ideas for the middle and just enough for the first and last, but that, for me, is the point of a first draft. As you may know, I live by the maxim:

Don’t get it right, get it written (and then get it right).

And that’s the point of a first draft. Tell yourself a story and then perfect it. You can’t edit a blank page, so write something.

In this case, I have written nearly five chapters, but I shan’t tell you what’s happening, as that’s not the point of WIP Wednesdays. The point of this blog is to tell you how I am writing it, and to catch you up on any other news, books-wise or personal, and that, I shall do at the end.

Plotster/Pantster

When I first hear these two words, I had to scramble around to find out what they meant, and once I’d done that, they were obvious.

Plotster. Someone who plots a story before writing it.

Panster. Someone who makes it up as they go along.

I am a hybrid because I do both, but why ‘they’ don’t just use plotter and freestyle is beyond me.

In the case of ‘Agents’, as we will call the WIP, I needed facts at my fingertips because the story involved eight murders over 10 years, and some of the details were discussed in ‘Keepers of the Past’, therefore, I needed consistency. Along with those notes, I plotted a basic outline because there are to be two points of view; one MC remaining in Cornwall while the second MC heads to London, and I need a timeline so I know where and when everyone is. There is also a deadline and I have a date for that (October 31st 1890), so, I thought, I need to plan every day of the story.

Well, I don’t actually, because I can always go back and redate the chapters if I need to, as long as I am not relying on a factual event that took place on a specific date in 1890, and so far, I am not.

I am, however, usually more of a panster, and I am being one in the case of ‘Agents’ — to a certain degree. I have a timeline, I know how I want Act 1 to end, and I know what the middle-point twist is at the end of Act 2, what the crisis is at the end of Act 3 and what the climax is during Act 4, but I haven’t yet thought of the details. Much of that will come from the characters as I put them together and let them lead while using their own reasoning. Example: I might think it best that characters A and B do this… But, when the dialogue and action are flowing, one of them may come up with another idea and they end up doing that

That’s happened to me before. I get so into a scene, I let it run away from me, but I keep typing and let the characters talk and interact, and usually, I end up with a twist or turn I’d not thought of. I know it still comes from me, but when you free yourself from the plotster stricture, you can do more inventive things.

And that’s where I am right now with ‘Agents’, banging through draft one, and currently at… [does a quick check] …11,160 words. Oh, that’s not bad, actually. I usually aim for the first act to end around 25,000 words, so I am nearly halfway through the first quarter of the book.

I’ll chat about the four-act structure another time. For now, here’s some random book and home news.

See below

Book and Home

In the book department, ‘Keepers of the Past’ shot to #6 in Amazon’s LGBTQ/Historical ranking within a couple of days of release. I now have three titles in the top 100, and that’s great news.

Symi yesterday morning

Meanwhile, at home, I’ve started taking myself off for a couple of miles walking in the morning. This is after I’ve done a little freelance work, and before I sit down to do chatty blogs and write chapters. I like to go as soon as it’s light, and before I get stuck into creative writing, because then I have the rest of my day free. I usually take the same route, but I’ll post the odd photo now and then so you can see what I am looking at while I walk and plot the next chapter. Talking of which…

Back to work.

See you on Saturday for my next blog post.