Guest Post: An Annotated Chapter of RAVENCRY by Ed McDonald (Gollancz/Ace)

McDonaldE-AuthorPicWhen I was asked to provide a first chapter critique of my own book, I thought that this was an excellent way to explain the way that my own writing craft works, and to point out the level of complexity that comes into play through many rounds of editing.

I think that I have to stress that the first chapter did not look like this at the end of the first draft. So many of the details, the events, even the character of Levan Ost, all changed multiple times during the editing process. These were the details and events that remained when the dust settled.

Throughout this text I’ve interrupted the narrative to point out why I made particular decisions. Everything in this chapter is a conscious choice, and hopefully I’ve been able to explain why I made some of them. Writing is a deeply personal and individual craft and no two people’s are the same. These were the right choices for me.

It should be noted that although there are no direct spoilers in my commentary, if you’ve not read RAVENCRY yet, then I will be pointing out particular details that are specifically of interest later in the book.

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Guest Post: “The Books That Made Me” by R.S. Ford

All writers are influenced by stories, be they in TV, film, novels, comics, etc. Nowadays you can throw video games in there for good measure. Influence comes from all sorts of sources, but here’s a list of what influenced me the most when I was but a wee whippersnapper:

2000AD19242000AD

The first reading material I ever consumed voraciously, this seminal British comic gave us such classics as Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Sláine and Strontium Dog. It’s only since I’ve matured that I’ve realise all these characters were basically the same bloke – a hard-bitten future cop/future soldier/bounty hunter/celtic warrior that roams the land, violently being violent to other more violent villains. Obviously, 2000AD also gave us the ahead-of-its-time Halo Jones and the post-modern Zenith, but seven-year-old me was rather too young to appreciate them at the time. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Plotting the Perfect Murder” by Steve Cavanagh

CavanaghS-ThirteenUKI get a lot of compliments about the plotting in my books. I’ve been lucky, in that way. And yet every single piece of praise about the plot of Thirteen, or any of the other Eddie Flynn books makes me feel like a fraud.

Now, let’s be serious here. I’m also a writer, and that means I love it when people enjoy the books and when they say nice things. Keep those compliments coming. And the nice Amazon reviews. I like those too. I may feel like a fraud, but I’m willing to forego my feelings for event the faintest praise.

What I really mean is I don’t know how to plot a novel. I have no clue. In my mind plotting means colour-coded flash cards, whiteboards with all the names of the characters written large with arrows flowing between them, an outline, a beat sheet, a corkboard covered in Post-It notes, pages in a journal with notes for every character, a line graph showing the five-act structure, a detailed plan of the book with every scene sketched out from beginning to end.

I don’t do any of that. I can’t. See, told you I was a fraud. Continue reading

Excerpt: BLACK DAHLIA, RED ROSE by Piu Eatwell (Coronet)

EatwellP-BlackDahliaRedRoseUKPiu Eatwell’s latest book is a narrative history of the notorious Black Dahlia murder in Los Angeles. The inspiration for a number of novels and movies, it’s an interesting new account of the murder that gripped the headlines. Here’s the synopsis:

On 15th January 1947, the naked, dismembered body of a black-haired beauty, Elizabeth Short, was discovered lying next to a pavement in a Hollywood suburb. She was quickly nicknamed The Black Dahlia.

The homicide inquiry that followed consumed Los Angeles for years and the authorities blew millions of dollars of resources on an investigation that threw up dozens of suspects. But it never was solved.

Until now.

In this ground-breaking book, Piu Eatwell reveals compelling forensic and eye witness evidence for the first time, which finally points to the identity of the murderer. The case was immortalised in James Ellroy’s famous novel based on the case, in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon and Brian de Palma’s movie The Black Dahlia.

This is a dark tale of sex, manipulation, obsession, psychopathy and one of the biggest police cover ups in history.

Now, read on for an excerpt from the first chapter…

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Guest Post: “Writing a Trilogy — Lessons Learned” by Tom Doyle

DoyleT-AuthorPicThe final book in my American Craft trilogy, War and Craft, has just been released. It’s like sending the last kid to college — bittersweet emotion with a practical “so now what?” Before I move on to my next project, I’d like to share with you a few of my personal observations about the process, particularly if you’re a new writer planning on writing a series.

First lesson: never plan on writing a series.

Yeah, sounds like a joke, but seriously, don’t do it–unless someone has already said that they’re going to pay you for it. When I wrote American Craftsmen, I had intentionally not planned for a series. I recommend this same self-discipline to all new writers — don’t engage in heavier worldbuilding than necessary for something which may never see the light of day. The odds are long against your selling any given book to a publisher, so every minute you spend creating further material in that book’s universe has a high probability of being wasted. The best thing you can do for yourself while trying to sell a book is to start writing a completely different one. Continue reading

Guest Post: “On Theon Greyjoy…” by Mark Alder

AlderM-AuthorPicTheon Greyjoy – do you like him now? Did you ever like him? Will you ever like him?

As a writer, I find Theon by far the most interesting character in Game of Thrones. He illustrates a lot about how to make a character disliked. He also, in his long redemption, illustrates the techniques novelists and screenwriters use to build sympathy in a character.

Theon has had many of these sympathy building techniques applied to him in the course of his redemption, but here’s the thing – up until the very last scenes of the last series of  the Game of Thrones TV series, they simply have not worked.

He’s particularly interesting when compared to another GoT character who has undergone his own redemption – Jaime Lannister.

[Please Note: Spoilers for Game of Thrones!] Continue reading

Guest Post: “Bookshop Bliss” by William Sutton

SuttonW-AuthorReadingWriters write alone.

It’s what we do. it’s how we are. But but but… sometimes it is hard. Where better to look for a focal point than your local bookshop?

Here is my paean of praise to Blackwell’s on Soundcloud.

I have always loved bookshops, as much as libraries. I seek them out, whenever I am in a new town. When I hear of a good bookshop, I am much more likely to go to that town.

Can’t I buy online? Sure – but where’s the fun in that? And if we book lovers buy online, there will soon be no bookshops left. Continue reading