Crossing Genres

My Exploration into Crime Writing

They say you should write what you read, but what if you love two distinctly different genres? I fell in love with romance from an early age, devouring Johanna Lindsay’s novels featuring strong, stubborn men and feisty damsels in distress, as well as an unhealthy number of Mills and Boon and racier novels like Lace and The Thorn Birds. I lived the heroines and daydreamed about finding such a man. It seemed obvious to me that one day I’d write my own romance novel.

Then as I matured, I moved on to crime. I read a Sydney Sheldon that my parents had in their bookcase and I was hooked. I sped through all of his books, then went on to Robert Ludlum, Michael Connolly, David Baldacci and the list continues…

Funnily enough, when I finally sat down to pen my own book, it was romance that I tried first. I signed up for a romance writing short course and loved it. I was addicted. After many false starts I finally finished a 50K word romance novel – and boy was I proud of it. I knew it wasn’t a work of art, but it was a fine starting point. It motivated me to write harder, learn more about the romance writing craft, delve into conflict, relationships and resolutions. I devoured every book I could find on the topic. I joined the RNA and went through the New Writer’s Scheme. Words cannot express how valuable that lesson was for me. Eventually I got a romantic suspense novel published and self-published some of my older works, that I’d reworked. I was a bona fide romance author. Woo-hoo!

Then the inkling began… If I could write romance, surely I could conquer crime thrillers too? My reading tastes became more crime oriented over the years and now I rarely read romance anymore. I’d been writing romantic suspense for a few years, so I was ready.

I outlined a suspense novel, tentatively, after reading in-depth about creating suspense, conflict in crime novels and analysing all the hundreds of crime novels I’d read in the last ten years. Then I outlined it a second time, and a third. I left the outline for a while and wrote another romance. Then went back to it and fleshed it out, worked on some of the more complicated plot points and ironed out some creases in the story. Now I was ready to put pen to paper.

It took me three months to finish the first draft. I wrote every day for about 3 hours. That was the only time I had available. Luckily, I’m a fast typist and if the story is flowing I can hit 6000 words per day with relative ease. I sent the draft to my mother, who is a big crime reader too. She made some valid points and I reworked the manuscript a second time, smoothing the rough edges and building in deeper conflicts, past traumas and adding tension.

I think the hardest part for me was the plotting. With romance, the story is more character driven. So while there is a plot, it’s the personalities of the characters that drive the story forward. While this is true to a certain extent in crime, a good, well thought out, intricate and clever plot is worth it’s weight in gold. The idea behind the story that hasn’t been done a thousand times before – that’s what really got to me. I laboured over the plot for ages in the outline, slept on it, researched certain angles and added more layers. This is an art in itself and is way more difficult that I expected.

When it came to writing the novel, layering on the suspense, foreshadowing and building tension required a great deal of thought. Often, I’d reach a point in the book, and go back and add in some foreshadowing earlier in the novel before continuing. Or I’d set something up and then it wouldn’t materialise… and I’d have to go back and rework that section.

On the flip side, the development of the characters came easily to me. Their past traumas, the psychology of the villain, the developing love interest between the main characters were all things I’d done before, practiced and got right. I felt this was a strength that I’d carried through from writing romance.

The danger, of course, is adding too much romance into a crime novel – and this is something I am aware I may have done. Old habits die hard. But since this is my first attempt, I’m not being too critical of myself. My second thriller, set in the United Kingdom, will be grittier as I get a handle on the tougher nature of crime novels and the lack of demand for romance. I’ve already outlined it and am waiting for the moment to sit down and let it take me on it’s journey.

What I’ve Learned:

1.     Writing romance will set you up nicely for developing characters in crime novels. Your additional insight into what makes people tick will give your characters depth and hidden layers that will be useful in other genres.

2.     Building suspense is a multi-layered process and (in my opinion) impossible to get right in one draft. As your story changes and develops, tension will escalate, but foreshadowing and plot points will need to be reworked.

3.     Plotting is crucial to a fast-moving story. There can’t be any holes, and to drive a 80K word story, it has to be complicated or intricate or else it won’t sustain the novel. Plot twists are hard to get right, as so many things have been done already and you don’t want your reader finding the book predictable.

4.     Reading thrillers and analysing what other successful writers do is a worthwhile pursuit. I’ve made notes on countless other books and learned from them. Be your own teacher, if you want to try out another genre.

5.     Give it a go. As a storyteller, there is no reason why you can’t tackle another genre, especially if you read it and enjoy it as well. I took ages to work up the confidence to write my first thriller, but I’m so glad I did.

UNDERCURRENT

BY LOUISE ROSE-INNES

UNDERCURRENT is the new suspense novel by Louise Rose-Innes, and is currently under review with various publishers.

Sign up to Louise’s newsletter to be notified of it’s release date.

Ex-special forces private investigator, Munro Crane, is forced to betray the man who saved his life in order to see justice served.

A seemingly innocuous assignment leads Crane into a web of murder, deceit and betrayal where he must question everything he believes in.

Donna, my violin-playing heroine

Research for Donna, which is book 3 in my Levante sister series, took me to some very interesting places around London, namely parliament square, Westminster Cathedral, Buckingham Palace gardens, St. James Park and of course, the Southbank Centre where I watched – mesmerised – while the brilliant London Philharmonic played.

 

The violinist I chose to watch, was the magnificent Ray Chen who performed Brahms’s Violin Concerto. At one point he burnt out all the strings on his violin, and had to borrow the first violinists bow for the encore. It was a frenzied, mesmerising performance and it highlighted the phenomenal talent that musicians possess, as well as their onstage charisma and complete unflappability under pressure.

My heroine, Donna Brunner, is an Austrian violinist who manages to secure an audition to play with the LPO. What a prestigious orchestra that is! I realised that my heroine would have to be very talented indeed to secure a position there. But with Dame Serena Levante, the famous opera diva and national treasure, as her mother, why wouldn’t she be that talented?

So the story begins…

Donna arrives in London for her mother’s funeral, where she meets her three half-sisters as well as the handsome family solicitor, Greg. Greg is kind to her when she needs a friend, and helps her recover from the bitter betrayal of her last relationship which left her self-esteem in tatters.

As with any good romance, you can guess what happens next. Friendship leads to love and before long Donna runs out of reasons for not being with Greg. The only problem is a man almost ruined her career once before, can she take the chance it will happen again?

Set in London and Surrey, this romance glitters with glamorous details of Chelsea and Mayfair, Surrey country villages and local flavour. It also highlights events on the classical music scene and gives a sneak peek into the lives of the musically gifted and the shenanigans that go on in the professional music industry.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing Donna, even though her personality is more subdued and introverted than the rest of the Levante sisters. At first, it was a challenge to make her as interesting, but then her personality exerted itself and before long she was burning up the pages with her own exciting story and road to fame. The fact that she was coming from a position of insecurity and anxiety (something many of us can relate to) only made her journey more interesting.

Donna will be released on August 1st but is available for preorder now.

DONNA (BOOK 3 – THE LEVANTE SISTERS SERIES)

Donna’s problem is she’s too naive. She knows that. Her ex-fiancé strung her along for years, when all the time he was married with no intention of leaving his rich wife. Then, when her birth mother dies, leaving her a legacy and a life-line, she packs up and moves to England. Here, she meets her three sisters and is welcomed into a life more glamorous than she ever imagined.

A talented violinist, Donna plays at her late mother’s funeral, wowing the congregation with her skill and mesmerising beauty. She also grabs the attention of her late mother’s solicitor, Greg, who being tall, charming and successful, is used to getting any woman he desires – and he’s out to get Donna.
Fresh from her breakup and determined to focus on her musical career, Donna is not interested in being anything more than friends, but as their friendship develops, she realises she’s more than a little infatuated with Greg. The only problem is Donna is not prepared to put her heart on the line again. Not for anyone.

The Inspiration Behind My Latest Book

Floria (Book 1: The Levanté Sisters Series)

There were several factors that came together to inspire Floria, and indeed the Levante sisters series. I live in beautiful Surrey (in the U.K.) and wanted to set a novel amongst the rolling hills, sprawling properties with their golden facades and quaint little villages with picturesque churches and twinkling streams. With Floria (and the subsequent books, I was given the chance.)

View of the Thames from Richmond Hill

One hazy afternoon last summer, I was sitting on a bench in the terraced gardens in Richmond, and thought of a story about a famous opera singer. Someone who put their career before anything else, even her own children. Someone who was so driven to succeed that music became her only love. Her name became Serena Levanté.

This woman had two facades, a public one and a private one. Publicly, she was a brilliant singer, world renown, a ‘National Treasure’, but privately she held dark secrets…

Pregnant at seventeen she gave her twins up for adoption, not knowing or caring where they went. Then again, a few years later, she abandoned her third daughter to her Spanish lover, compensating him financially to raise their child. It was only Floria, several years later, who grew up in the family home in Surrey, but who suffered cruelly due to her mother’s neglect.

Floria – based on a plus-size model

Floria was raised by au pairs and the kindly Italian housekeeper, Violeta, then sent off to boarding school at a young age. Despite all this, Floria has a happy, breezy manner, a bubbly personality and is socially very well-liked. She is something of a wild child though, a flamboyant party-girl, with a desperate need for attention. It’s no wonder, really, given her upbringing. Too much money, too little love.

I also made her voluptuous, not your normal skinny IT girl. This was so she could learn to shine, as herself, and succeed in her own right. Her journey is one of self-discovery and self-love, as well as a romantic one.

When Serena Levante dies under mysterious circumstances, her past is revealed in a blaze of publicity. Who murdered her? Was it for a missing painting? Who are these illegitimate children she left her fortune to? The press have a field day and Floria is caught in the middle of it. On top of all this, she’s still reeling from her boyfriend dumping her for being a ‘bimbo’, and a liability to his politicking career.

At her mother’s funeral, Floria meets her half-sisters, Mimi, Donna and the feisty Carmen, all very talented musically (of course). Mimi is a pop singer, Donna a violinist and Carmen opera (like the mother she hates). Floria is the only one who does not posses their mother’s phenomenal talent.

So the first book in the series, Floria, starts with the heroine in a state of devastation. Dumped, dumbstruck by her mother’s death and the subsequent revelation of her three half-sisters… And of course, then there is the hunky finance whizz, Josh, who has the potential to make everything better… or much much worse, and send Floria flying into a downward spiral – which is why it would be much better for all concerned, if she could just stay away from him. But we all know that’s never going to happen… 🙂

Floria is out 7th March!!

COMPETITION ENDS TONIGHT!

To stand a chance to win an Amazon voucher worth $100, a Kindle Fire and 3 books in my Island Romance series, click on the link below.

New Series and Pre-order

Welcome to 2017! I hope it’s a wonderfully happy and peaceful year for everyone.

I’ve got big plans for this year! The first book of my new contemporary romance series, FLORIA, is due out March 7th. It’s a sizzling, fun-filled romance that was an absolute joy to write.

Floria is a party-loving socialite with a famous opera singing mother and a wealthy politician boyfriend who is soon to propose. Life couldn’t get any better!

Then, after an unfortunate incident involving the paparazzi (and a jacuzzi) her boyfriend dumps her – and that very same week, her mother is found murdered in her Surrey mansion. Suddenly, everything she thought was secure in life, has fallen down around her. While dealing with her heartbreak, she has to contend with the police murder investigation and the unwelcome press.

Then her mother’s solicitor informs her she has three siblings, who all stand to inherit part of her mother’s fortune. After a lonely childhood and being shipped off to boarding school, Floria is ecstatic that she has three sisters with which to share her life. They all meet for the first time at Dame Serena’s funeral. But not all of them are as eager to welcome the new changes into their lives as Floria…

Enter dashing saviour of damsels-in-distress, Josh Hamilton. Financier and all-round good guy. The sparks fly between Floria and Josh as he endeavours to help her set up her new business, so she can prove to the world she is more than just an empty-headed socialite.

But Josh is unavailable and Floria is focused on her new business so any relationship between them is impossible and would only cause trouble. But then that’s what Floria is good at… Trouble.

I loved writing this book. Floria is such a bubbly, vivacious heroine who is friends with everyone and everyone loves her. She has a knack for getting into trouble, which makes for some LOL moments, but is so deserving of love that one can’t help rooting for her at the same time.

FLORIA is due for release on March 7th, 2017 – but is available for pre-order now. So do pop over and grab yourself a copy.

Take advantage of pre-launch deals, contests and special offers, and sign-up to my monthly newsletter.

(All subscribers receive a free copy of my last release, A PASSION SO WILD, as a thank-you!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research for My Latest Series

For my latest series of contemporary romance books (The Levanté Sisters Series) I travelled into London to do some much needed research.

The beauty of living in Surrey, is that London is only a half-hour train ride away. It was a brisk, but sunny winter’s day as donned with my trusty Barbour jacket, I set off on the train to Waterloo station.

My talented and beautiful violin-playing heroine, illegitimate daughter of Dame Serena Levanté, arrives in London for her famous opera diva mother’s funeral. Reeling from her recent break-up and anxious about meeting her sisters for the first time, Donna feels lost and alone.

Enter the dashing hero – family solicitor, Greg – who takes the sad, but very lovely Donna under his wing and shows her around London. This is where the sparks first start to fly.

As I was writing this scene, it suddenly struck me that it had been a while since I’d been to the city, and even longer since I’d done the tourist thing.

I have to admit, there are few sights more wondrous than crossing Westminster Bridge on a bright winter’s day. The sun shone off Big Ben and coated the magnificent Houses of Parliament in a golden glow so bright it took my breath away. The ancient clock conveniently struck twelve o’clock as I made my way along the bank of a grey and restless river Thames. I stared up at it’s beautiful golden face, along with hundreds of other tourists, and listed, enchanted as it chimed twelve times. I got shivers as I thought about how this clock had been setting London’s time for centuries.

Westminster Bridge was typically lined with red London busses. It made a great photograph.

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After gazing in awe at the Houses of Parliament, and admiring the coats of arms on the cold, stone walls, ornate wrought-iron gates tinged with gold, and perfectly landscaped lawns, I walked up Birdcage Walk and through St. James park to Buckingham Palace. This is the route, I imagined, my hero would have taken with the woman who would become the love of his life by the end of the book.

St James Park was alive with wildlife, both of the tourist and animal variety. School children chased birds on lawns covered with fallen gold and bronze leaves, while suited men talked earnestly on mobile phones and groups of tourists gawked at the beautiful but wintery scenery. I felt humbled to watch a surprisingly violent, but very macho fight between two colourful, big-chested geese (at least I think they were geese) over a dull-looking female. Who would be victorious and end up as her mate? Appropriate really, given the context of my visit.

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The Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace shone brightly as the clouds parted and the sun hit it like a laser-light. The golden statue, wings spread, was blinding in its intensity.

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Then men with rifles appeared, along with a motorbike escort and the gates to the palace opened. A cavalcade of darkened cars emerged and disappeared down The Mall. I couldn’t see who was inside, but it seemed a fitting end to what had been an inspired walk and a great research opportunity.

After that I made my way through Green Park to Piccadilly, and of course, Fortnum & Mason’s for some much-needed tea and scones – and of course some Christmas shopping. They always have the most delightful things to give as gifts.

PS. The window dressings at F&M are excellent this year. I fully recommend making the trip just for that!

Floria, Book 1 of the Levanté Sisters Series is due out in February 2017, and available for pre-order soon. 

The Levanté Sisters Series (Books 1 to 4)

When much-loved opera diva, Dame Serena Levanté is murdered in her Surrey mansion, she leaves her vast fortune, not only to her legitimate daughter, Floria, but also to three illegitimate daughters (Mimi, Donna and Carmen) who were adopted at birth. The four young ladies, reeling from the revelation that Serena is their birth mother, meet for the first time at the funeral. The series follows Floria, Mimi, Donna and Carmen as they come to terms with their famous legacy, their own startling musical talents, and their quest for love and happiness.

Book 1 – Floria (February 2017)
Book 2 – Mimi (April 2017)
Book 3 – Donna (June 2017)
Book 4 – Carmen (August 2017)

To receive updates on The Levanté Sisters Series, sign up to my mailing list. There will be pre-sale competitions and giveaways too!

Yes! Keep me posted:

How To Write An Engaging First Chapter

I met up with the inspiring London Writers’ Cafe group again last week, at our usual haunt at a local pub near Liverpool Street station. This time the topic was “First Chapter Feedback”.

We had all submitted our first chapters and went along excitedly to hear what literary agent, Ella Diamond Kahn, thought about our work.

Ella was one of those lovely, chatty agents who freely offered heaps of advice to budding authors. She began by giving us some very useful tips on how to write an eye-catching first chapter. I’ve summarised the key points below:

  • Engage the reader from the first word.
  • The first sentence is the most important. Use it effectively. Short, punchy or catchy works best, but longer sentences can be effective too.
  • Root the reader in the main character by bringing out their personality, their quirks, their uniqueness. Avoid anonymity by introducing the main character immediately.
  • Create a sense of place and atmosphere in your first chapter. This helps to anchor the reader and let them know where the story is set. Without this, readers can get confused.
  • Focus on what is happening in your first scene, rather than overloading the reader with information. The info you can filter in throughout the chapter, or later on in the book. You have 70,000 to 90,000 words in which to dish out information. Don’t dump it all in the first chapter. Leaving the reader with things to find out also creates the will to read on.
  • Resist over-elaborate descriptions. While some description is vital, using too much flowery language can be off-putting and confusing for the reader. If you’re submitting to an agent, let them “get it” without having to work too hard. BTW. This was a very common mistake, and one that was pointed out repeatedly, later in the meeting, during the personal critiques.
  • Don’t start with a lot of dialogue. It’s important to ground the reader and dialogue can be a bit confusing before the characters are introduced, or before the reader has a feeling for who is talking. Also, don’t use dialogue as a device to info dump. For example: He pointed upwards. “The Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. It was named after the engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.” This doesn’t ring true, unless your speaker is a tour guide.
  • Land your reader in the middle of the action.
  • Be consistent with your tense and narration. Don’t switch from first to third person, or stick in bits of omniscient narrative. Head-hopping is confusing for the reader. Ground the reader in the first chapter by keeping your narrative and tense steady.
  • Try to create a sense of anticipation in the first chapter, that gives the reader an idea of your plan for the rest of the story. This makes the reader feel like they’re in good hands, that the journey you’re going to take them on is well planned, and will be satisfying.
  • Raising questions in the first chapter is a great device, especially if the protagonist doesn’t know what is going on. This gives direction to the novel.
  • Little clues planted in the first chapter are always a good idea, especially if you’re trying to show that this is an alternative world, or a different time.

After keeping us scribbling manically for half an hour, Ella, who had kindly pre-read all of our first chapters (where does she find the time?), went through them one by one, offering constructive criticism along the way.

I’m not going to divulge the short-comings of my own personal offering, but I am going to summarise the most common errors that she found. This will highlight what to concentrate on when writing/re-writing/editing your own first chapter.

  • Many first paragraphs fell into heavy descriptions which detracted from the story.
  • Switching from first person to omniscient disorientates the reader.
  • Be careful of disembodied body parts (a personal hate of Ella’s). E.g. gaze swimming, eyes darting, arm reaching out…
  • Always, always proof read your manuscript for typos before submitting to an agent. Even though we all know this, it was amazing how many typos there were in those submissions.
  • It might be better to hint at a place, rather than spell it out. For example, the thick, tropical trees… the dust… the funicular (all means they’re in a mine, rather than just saying, “In the mine…”)
  • Avoid stereotypical dialogue. Inject more personality into your speakers.
  • Orientate the reader before launching into dialogue. Many writers began with dialogue, without letting the reader know who was speaking, or why. And if the dialogue doesn’t inform the reader, they will be confused.
  • Avoid information dumps.

I was amazed to find that out of a diverse group of about 20 writers of different genres, all of the mistakes/comments were variations of the above. This type of feedback, I think, is invaluable to authors, whether they’re starting out or established. It pays to go over that first chapter to hone out the common mistakes, tighten the prose, engage the reader, leave clues, inject personality and basically raise the overall quality of your writing.

Have you got any tips or advice regarding first chapters that you would like to share? If so, we’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave your comment below.

ella diamond kahnElla Diamond Kahn is co-founder of Diamond Kahn & Woods Literary Agency.  She represents upmarket commercial adult fiction across all genres, with a particular interest in historical fiction, science fiction, and crime, and some non-fiction. She also represents a wide range of children’s fiction for the 9-12 and YA age groups.

Jim’s Writing Masterclass

James-Patterson-006After seeing so many internet adverts pop up on my screen about James Patterson’s Masterclass, I felt like the universe (or the God of Google’s Search Algorithms) was trying to tell me something.

So eventually (after a relaxing two week break on a Greek island recharging my batteries), I succumbed and downloaded the class.

Let me say outright that for me, it was money well spent. Jim, as I now think of him, shares a great deal about his writing process… What works for him, what makes him more efficient, plus he gives us heaps of useful advice to incorporate in our own writing or “tricks of the trade” as he calls them.

These little gems are what makes our writing easier, faster and just plain better. I listened to the entire masterclass in one day, scribbling away on my notepad, pausing only to fetch my son from school, and making supper. I felt like the tips kept on coming. The hard part, I think, is remembering to implement all of this stuff in my manuscript and writing process. Even now, while I’m well and truly into writing my next book, I keep going back to those notes I made, to remind myself of the advice he gave.

As he says, the more you write, the better you’ll get, and building good habits now will help you improve faster. So I’m focusing on my writing process, and trying to implement as many of Jim’s tips as I possibly can.

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He covers things like what it takes to write. Do you have the passion? It’s okay if you don’t, but that just means you aren’t cut out to be a writer, and your talents probably lie elsewhere.

He talks about how he finds ideas for his novels, and how to throw it all together in an engaging plot. This was a big section for me. I scribbled furiously as he talked about plot lines and how to keep the reader turning those pages.

With any complex novel, be it crime, or romance, or literary fiction, there is always going to be an element of research. Jim tells us how to research effectively, and how to incorporate this into our writing.

The outline is a big deal for Jim, and many other authors I’ve listened to or read about. The more complex the plot, the more essential the outline. An author needs a road map to refer to along the way, and Jim shows us how to do this effectively.

Characters are a big part of any novel. For romance, they are the driving force. The characters are what the reader relates to. They share their experiences and laugh with them, and cry with them. So Jim’s notes on creating memorable characters were extremely useful for me.

Other chapters include dialogue, creating suspense, and editing, as well as those all-important first lines that have to hook the reader. He covers marketing and promotion at the end, which although is important, shouldn’t become the focus of our work. The most powerful marketing tool you’ll ever have, is your book.

I feel I’ve truly benefited from doing Jim’s Masterclass and, in my opinion, even if you get nothing from the course content, it is worth it for pure inspirational value. The day after I finished the course, I sat down and wrote 4000 words in one sitting. James Patterson is motivational and his love of his craft shines through.

Here’s a link to James Patterson’s Masterclass if you want to check it out – https://www.masterclass.com.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a quote from James Patterson:

“Keep that passion alive. It’s going to drive you through the hard times, and really make you enjoy the good times.”

Have you listened to Jim’s Masterclass? If you have, I’d love to know your opinion? Did you feel it was worth the money spent? What great advice did you get out of it? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

How To Write A Synopsis

It’s a generally acknowledged fact that the synopsis is the hardest part of any submission to write. Sure, you can write 60,000 words, but when it comes to summarising it in a catchy, emotive and well-written synopsis, authors freeze.

Last weekend I attended a very useful agent feedback evening with the London Writer’s Cafe run by PR guru, Lisa Goll. Here, agent Ben Clark and editorial genius Ben Seales spoke to us about what goes into a synopsis and what they consider to be one that will catch your prospective agent or editors attention.

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An avid crowd had gathered in the pub’s meeting room, pens poised, ready for feedback. Below, I’ll share with you what the main points of the discussion were:

Four essential elements of any synopsis, according to Ben Seales, are:

  1. Plot outline – Outline the key turning points in your plot. Agents want to see where the story is going and how it ends.
  2. Tone – Try to mimic the tone in your novel.
  3. Emotional arc – Your characters personal arcs need to be fully expressed here.
  4. Back story – Detonate your back story in two or three key moments in your synopsis.

Synopses should be between 300 and 1000 words. Ben Clark stressed that he prefers shorter synopses, and that as an agent he reads the covering letter first, then the chapters submitted and then if he likes what he sees, he’ll read the synopsis to see where the story is going.

Here are some other key pointers:

  • Keep your synopsis short (this is a recurring theme for both experts)
  • Make sure you include the ending of your story in your synopsis.
  • Show that you are able to write in your synopsis. Agents and editors can work on ironing out plot points with you, but they need to know up front that you can write.
  • Include your main characters and motivations, even a one-line bio on the character if it gives the agent a better sense of who he or she is.
  • Cut out all excess words such as “and then”.
  • Your synopsis should flow, and have a narrative voice that mimics your own, as in your novel. This is difficult to do but helps give the agent a sense of how you write.
  • Synopses are really useful when pitching a series or film or foreign rights. The editors use them to pass on to other industry third parties.

If you’re struggling with your synopsis, here are some links that might help:

https://literaryconsultancy.co.uk/media/press-publicity/how-to-write-a-synopsis/
https://janefriedman.com/novel-synopsis/
http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/Synopsis.html

The Panellists:

• Agent Ben Clark, LAW Literary Agency 

• Editor Ben Seales, Ebook Editorial

If you have any tips to share on writing a synopsis, please share in the comments below. We’d love to hear your feedback.

Thanks and happy writing!

~ Louise

Turning to Crime

This weekend I attended the Write on Kew literary festival. What a beautiful venue for it. The weather cooperated too. It was a stunning afternoon in south west London, as I made my way through Victoria Gates into the great botanical gardens. The lecture theatre took a little finding, but I got there in the end, after a detour that saw me admiring a gaggle of waddling Egyptian Geese and the remarkable board-walk borders, as they are locally known.

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Turning to Crime was a talk hosted by Mark Lawson, and included esteemed crime writers Sophie Hannah, Stuart Prebble and Paula Hawkins. The authors revealed what made them ‘turn to crime’. I was most interested in Paula Hawkins, as she wrote romantic fiction under a pseudonym before penning this year’s runaway bestseller, The Girl on the Train.

I found the talk amusing and interesting, with some great insights that I’ve listed below.

There seems to be a trend in crime writing at the moment to explore the psychological thriller. Normal motives for murder, like sex and money, are no longer enough; authors are turning to deeper, more psychological motives, like paranoia, self doubt and pathological conditions.

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The “unreliable narrator” also seems to feature strongly in new crime fiction. Paula’s book features an alcoholic who has blackouts as her main narrator, which has the reader (even the character herself) questioning if what she is seeing is the real thing. Sophie explores pathological lying, where the character truly believes what she’s seen is the truth. There has even been instances where the narrator is the killer… but there was some debate over whether this is satisfying to the reader. The reader, it seems, likes to trust the narrator, and as Sophie pointed out, sometimes it is better to have a reliable narrator in a world where nothing makes sense. Food for thought.

There was some discussion around red herrings and the overuse of them to the point where the reader is totally confused. Alternatively, as James Patterson once said, red herrings can’t be so convincing that the reader closes the book thinking, “well, that was SO predictable.” There is a fine line between convincing the reader and still maintaining that shadow of doubt.

An interesting topic of conversation revolved around the use of modern technology in novels. While the mobile phone makes it hard for anyone to be out of touch, it can also be used to a writer’s advantage, in so far as tracking is concerned. Likewise with DNA testing, which can make a who-dun-it much easier to solve, it can also be used as a plot device.

Finally, the discussion around US crime drama, with deeply flawed characters like Dexter and Breaking Bad, was interesting, as Stuart said it was unlikely that they would have been excepted for British TV when they first came out, as the characters weren’t ‘likeable’ enough. So they discussed the impact of likeable characters in crime fiction, and how important is it really, for the reader to ‘like’ the characters in a book?

All in all, a very interesting talk, and money well spent.

If anyone has any of their own insights into crime writing, please let me know in the comments below.

Another Decade and Lessons Learned

My beautiful little boy turns 10 years old today. Double digits. Quite a milestone.

I can’t believe how time has flown by. It was almost exactly ten years ago that I penned (or typed) my first novel. My son was in his cot, gurgling away and I sat down at my laptop, with an idea that had been brewing for sometime and began to write. It wasn’t a seamless process. How could it be with a newborn? It took a lot of stopping and starting, revising and re-writing, but finally, by his first birthday, I had a rough draft. (Yes, it took a year!)

After that it simmered for a long time until I finally got round to re-writing it again, properly and in one sitting. I had gone back to work by that stage, so I took two weeks off and rewrote the entire rough draft, elevating it to another level entirely. It was my first completed novel, Antarctic Affair.

Since then I’ve written two more contemporary romances, one non-fiction book and two novellas. Not a great track record for ten years. But with a young child, a day job, and an international move, it’s all that I could manage. So I’ve stopped beating myself up about it.

What have I learned from the last 10 years?

1. That writing is a journey. It’s not something you can master quickly. Rather, it’s a constant learning curve. With every page you write, you get better at it. Practice is the key.

2. Write everyday when writing a novel. If you’ve started a book, the best thing to do is to write every day so you don’t lose momentum. If you can’t write every day, then at least read through what you’ve written the day before so the story stays fresh in your mind. If it’s left alone, you lose your train of thought and the story fizzles out. It’s much harder trying to resurrect an old story, than to keep going with a new one.

3. Planning. It’s important that you plan your novel. You don’t have to outline every chapter but you must know all the key turning points in the story. I recommend creating a “Beat Sheet” to steer you in the right direction and to keep you on track.

4. Join on-line writing communities for support. You’re going to need it. There are many questions that you’ll need answering and research that you will need to do, and writing forums, Facebook groups and local chapters provide a wealth of information and support. The same goes for writing associations such as RWA (Romance Writers of America) or RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) in Britain. You will meet lots of other authors, who have valuable advise to offer, attend social functions, Christmas parties and luncheons. And make lots of new friends.

5. Don’t ever quit. Writing is hard work, time consuming and creatively draining. You sacrifice a lot of family and social time along the way, and sometimes for nothing but a big fat rejection letter. Don’t take it personally. Keep at it and keep going. You will get there.

6. Enter writing competitions. It’s motivating and inspiring and gives you something to work towards. Plus, you often get great feedback from other authors/judges.

7. Enter Nanowrimo (www.nanowrimo.com) – National Novel Writing Month (November). It’s really does get you going and help you hone your craft. You can almost knock out a rough draft of 50,000 words in a month. Plus you get to enjoy the social side of writing, and join meet ups and write-ins with fellow authors in your area.

8. To be a writer you have to be disciplined. There are a lot of distractions out there, including Facebook, Pinterest (my worst!) and group interaction. While they’re all very useful, stick to your writing schedule and don’t procrastinate. If you want to finish that book, you have to put in the time.

9. Plan what you’re going to write that day before you start writing. That way you don’t have to stop to ponder things and work out plot points. If you’re scene is mapped out in your head, or on paper first, then you can just put your head down and write. That’s how I clock up the most word counts in a day.

10. Enjoy your craft. Writing is a lonely endeavour so you have to love it, to keep at it, despite numerous rejections and distractions. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. That simple.

Happy writing,

Louise x