Thursday, 29 October 2015

Homage to my Writing Team!

I’ve never been much of a team player. When I played the cello, I loved being in an orchestra, but it was the solo performances that I cherished most. In athletics at school, I sprinted for my county, but it was taking off at the gun and running just for me, that was the real thrill. I’ve never liked open-plan offices or ‘team-building’ away days. As a Psychotherapist, I ran my own business – working one-to-one in a quiet room tucked away somewhere.

As a writer, you’d think I’d chosen the most solitary of professions, all holed up in my little study tapping away, on my own. But when it comes to getting my books OUT THERE, it’s a different story. I have a TEAM and what an amazing bunch they are!

Firstly, I have beta-readers in Lincoln, who scour my early drafts and answer a series of questions, such as ‘Does the story drag anywhere?’ and ‘Did you find out certain facts/reveals too soon/too late?’ etc. I also want to know if they worked out ‘who dun it’? And if so, where? It’s always a fantastic feeling when one of them gets in touch, saying, ‘I’m still reeling from the big twist at the end – never saw that one coming’…

My copy editor is in Plymouth and she also gives me structural edits, pointing out, for example that one strand of the story is too implausible or the main character contradicts herself. She has the most amazing eye, having worked as an editor for major publishing houses for years. She also irons out clunky sentences and proofreads. I’m always shell-shocked to see how many back to front and awkward phrases I manage to produce in the beginning! She also points out the technology I get wrong. Not being much of a techie, I often mention a 'video' instead of a 'DVD' or 'CDs' instead of 'iPods' or 'smartphones'.

During this time, across the other side of the world, my fantastic cover designer is sending over draft versions of the ebook and paperback covers from Texas! We go back and forth for a while until we get the main image and the atmosphere right. The new book is all about snow, but the feel of the cover has to be savage and remote, so we try to find a dark, menacing mood, rather than the look of a pretty snow globe! The covers all match the branding my designer has set up for me, giving each book a distinctive look in terms of the all–lower-case font for the title and the distressed texture.

In the meantime, my Agent is focusing on the books that are already selling. She is putting me forward for special promotions on Amazon, so they will appear in ‘Kindle Daily Deals’ not only in UK and US, but also in, say, India or Australia. As I write, all my books are in the Top 30  Psychological Thrillers listings in the UK.

Then, when all the edits come back, I knuckle down and fix everything in the story, tighten up the plot, tidy up the narrative, swap the order of events to make it more dramatic. Then I check for continuity – as I mentioned, the weather is a particular issue in this new one – with shoulder-high snow drifts which thaw, then freeze over into treacherous ice. I love the chance for lots of imagery and the way the conditions plays such a big part in the plot, although one astute beta-reader reminded me I needed to pay more attention to down to earth issues like grit, anti-freeze, ice-scrapers and so on.

After that, I proofread – this is the stage I’m at right now, running through the whole book in two to three days, in long blocks, so that I keep on top of the story without too many interruptions. Then, I’ll sort out the formatting. The print book looks very different from the ebook version, which has no page numbers for a start, and needs individual links to each chapter at the beginning. I’ve mentioned it before, but Catherine Ryan Howard’s book is a huge help at that stage.

Then the book will go to my proof-readers; two more helpful souls from Lincoln. One is female, in her mid-fifties, the other is male, mid-twenties. It’s good to have a range of readers! When that is on the go, I’ll start my preparation for the launch, setting up blog tours, planning giveaways and writing features for book sites.

So here is my little homage to my fantastic Literary Team – you know who you are – and you’re all brilliant!

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                AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order.
  • Girl on a Train became a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.
  •  Awarded Kindle KDP Top 100 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)

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