Friday, 3 July 2015

The process of writing a book..... mine at least!

Writing a book is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiartion.... or roughly in that proportion. I forget who said it (probably Mark Twain!) but he was definitely a perspiring author!

In my case I sweated Leap of Faith, the first in the Temporal Detective Agency series, for around 8 years before it became properly published by Crooked Cat in both eBook and paperback format. However at some point in that period there came the magic 10% when I was (ahem) inspired!

For 15 years I was a Scout Leader and for 10 of those I wrote and produced the Scout and Guide Association Gang Shows. Ralph Reader started them some decades ago and they were tremendously popular in the 1960's with several million tuning into BBC to watch them once a year on Saturday night and an annual 2 week run at the London Palladium. Mt Gang Shows may have been on a slightly smaller scale, bu they were great fun and we had 80 kids on stage and the same number of people doing backstage, front of house, lighting and sound, security and car parking. A producer's lot is not an easy one! 

The second show was called Timescape and it always struck me that it had the kernel of a book hidden in it somewhere. I was lucky enough to have convinced Terry Pratchet to co-write one scene with me and even to act in it on video so we could show it every night. I broached the idea of turning the show (or part of it) into a book, and he rightly told me to keep the day job. However I did ask him if I could use his name and character in the book, or any sequel and he laughed before agreeing. He probably never expected a book to see the light of day, but to his surprise he apears in the second book in the series. He has a signed copy which nis agent read to him (he was blind towards the end of his life). It's the only book Terry Pratchett ever appeared in!

The first draft was nearly 500 pages long and my agent sent it back. She told me to put the letters GOWTS on my keyboard. They stand for Get On With The Story and it was the best advise I ever had. I cut Leap of Faith down to around 250 pages and I have to admit that the book now races along as an adventure, without losing anything in the reduced version! I used the same criteria in the rest of series and will continue to do so for as long as the Temporal Detective Agency is having fun.

So, back to the process:-
- Get an idea (inspiation)
- Look at it from all sides and examine it in detail. Scrap the idea if necessary!
- Storyboard it. Hopefully see the beginning, the middle and the end. I've even started a book by writing the last 3 chapters. They were good too!
- Write the first page and make it a humdinger!
- Complete the book, then look at each character and ask yourself if they really "live" in 3D. Do you believe in them, because if you don't, no one else can.
- Take out all adverbs and adjectives except those that are absolutely necessary. Be strict and remember that your reader has an imagination and will put in their own adverbs and adjectives.... probably better than yours!
- Don't get friends and family to read the book. They'll tell you it's magnificent.... or too awful for words. Either way, they'll be wrong!
- Get an agent if possible. The hardest part of the whole process, but often necessary as most publishers won't talk to authors, only agents who they presume have filtered out the dross and are presenting the cream. Sometimes the cream sinks to the bottom!

So you've got a book, it's published and you have a paperback copy actually in your hands. Er.... where's adoring queue of fan wanting you to sign copies? Now comes the really hard task.... marketing!

But that's another topic for later this week!

Remember for the next week Leap of Faith is available from Amazon as an eBook for 99p or $1.56. So go to...

Blog on, Dudes!


  1. Great tips, Richard. Oh, the agony of trying to actually get down to writing that second book.... but once I do actually sit down with my notebook and pen, and achieve that first scratch, and tell myself it doesnt matter what I write, so long as I just WRITE - it is amazing how it flows from there.

    1. I have to admit, Jane, like you I love writing, and especially developing characters and a fascinating plot for them to work in!