My favourite rejection so far

This is part of the crime novel blog series, but it’s also the pioneer of some kind of masochistic sub-category or soul-baring splinter group. I’m regularly receiving rejection emails for my new crime novel, pretty much as expected because that’s how the world of an unknown author works, and the first [enter a number of your choice here] rejections I received were all drawn from the same generic “Thanks but no thanks” brush-off pool.

Then this one turned up today and I thought it was worth mentioning for several reasons. First, it’s personalised rather than being just another copy/paste “there’s the door” rejection. Secondly, it is incredibly positive, despite being what it is – a rejection. And finally, the reason cited for rejecting my work is not any kind of a criticism of my work. Have a read, see what you think. I’m expecting you’re going to want to read my book, but I could be wrong.

This is the main content of the rejection email, completely unedited:

Your opening chapters are very well done: cracking pace, plenty of tension, with credible characters and dialogue. But – I’m afraid there is a “but” – it’s so hard to sell new fiction in the current harsh climate, even well-written crime fiction like yours, that I just don’t think we’d succeed in persuading cautious editors to take you on.

Seriously, that’s far from bad. I’m not personally aware of this “current harsh climate” but I’m guessing that’s because I’m an unknown author with no real understanding of how there are dozens of new crime novels every time I look on a bestseller shelf in any book shop or supermarket, or Amazon.

From that rejection email, it seems to me that the problem here is “cautious editors”. I’m thinking that my book needs an editor who isn’t a timid mouse. Might that be you, or someone you know? If so, you know what you need to do.

If you are interested in finding out some more about this book, please get in touch via the contact page on this site. The same goes for anyone who fancies being a test reader, or just wants a free copy as soon as it is available.

Crime novel blog part 3

 

There’s a big difference between being able to write a book and being able to market it, convince pretty much anyone to read it, or get any interest at all in it from a literary agent. That’s what I’ve managed to figure out. It could be wildly inaccurate assumption based on limited experience, but I couldn’t tell you whether that’s the case or not because guess what – I do not know.

I also don’t know what I have to do to get past the kind of insta-rejection responses that I’m encountering when submitting my crime novel to agents. I’ve done all the right research, taken a great deal of care when writing my query letter and synopsis, and I’m not spamming loads of agents at once. I’m finding that the rejections come back quickly enough that I can afford to submit to no more than two agencies at the same time without feeling that I’m wasting time.

Test reader response has so far been extremely good. Personally, I believe I have finally found the genre where I always needed to be writing. I put off writing a crime novel for ages because that level of plotting scared me. Then I read a bunch of recent crime novels, where the titles on Amazon are always suffixed with something like “A gripping thriller with a twist you will not see coming”, and I knew that I could not just compete with these books but shoot bloody great holes through them.

For a start, I’m not using an unreliable narrator to tell the story. I don’t have drunk protagonists, or delusional ones, or ones who might not be the person they are telling the reader that they are. Because, frankly, that’s all just bollocks. I spent a long time figuring out who was going to do what to whom, and why (because that is very important), then I planned the whole thing out scene-by-scene to make sure there was no filler, no bullshit, no point where the reader would want to look up from the pages, let alone stop reading to make a cup of tea. I’m sorry if you miss that cup of tea, but that’s how it’s got to be.

My test readers keep telling me there’s an agent out there who will bite my hand off for this one, but I’m still not sure. It’s those damn rejections… they just seem to come back way too quickly. I suppose that’s the way life is for an unknown, debut author, and I just have to deal with it. I’ll just get on with writing the next one while I wait and wait and wait for someone to pick this one up.

If you are interested in finding out some more about this book, please get in touch via the contact page on this site. The same goes for anyone who fancies being a test reader, or just wants a free copy as soon as it is available.

Crime novel blog part 2

This is the second instalment of the ongoing progress of my sixth novel, a crime thriller set in England, in the winter of 1985. I’m still not giving away any plot, character or title details until my test readers have given their initial feedback.

The book is ‘finished apart from some editing’, which means it’s half-finished. Editing will follow my usual routine, where I re-read it with a chainsaw a dozen times, at the same time that my test readers have a go at it.

Considering how many crime/thriller novels I’ve read, it’ surprising that I didn’t try to write one a little sooner. It’s also a relief that I waited this long, because I’ve learned a hell of a lot from writing the first five novels, mostly that my choice of marketable genres was terrible.

If you are interested in finding out more about this book slightly earlier than everyone else, please get in touch via the contact page on this site. The same goes for anyone who fancies being a test reader, or just wants a free copy.

I’ll be keeping these blog posts short as I’m using whatever free time I have (not much, as always) to edit the novel and write the intro letter and synopsis that I’ll be using when I start contacting literary agents.

Crime novel blog part 1

I’m 70,000 words into the first draft of my next novel, a crime thriller set in England, in 1985. For now, I’m not giving away any plot, character or title details at all, but I will be sharing all that as soon as the book is in a 90+% finished state and my test readers have had a chance to rip it to shreds.

I’m going to give this one a chance to be traditionally published, rather than abandoned to fend for itself in the self-published wasteland with my other novels. This book deserves that chance, and I thought it would be fun to report its progress on my site in this blog.

If you are interested in finding out about this book slightly earlier than everyone else, please get in touch via the contact page on this site. The same goes for anyone who fancies being a test reader, or just wants a free copy as soon as it is available.

I’ll be keeping these blog posts short as I’m using whatever free time I have (not much, as always) to get the first full draft finished as soon as I can.

Painting The Dragon – in pre-order for 12th Dec publication

The latest novel in the Kate Hayes series – Painting The Dragon – has been submitted to Amazon for pre-order. I’ll add the Amazon .com and .co.uk links on this site as soon as they’re available.

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Painting The Dragon should be available for pre-order within 24-48 hours, depending on your Amazon region. The publication date is set for 12th December 2016.

Once again, I have managed to hit a promised publication deadline. Just imagine how great this would be if I was writing for my day-job, not to mention how great it would be if anyone actually read any of these books.

As always, if you would like a free copy to review, or just to save yourself 99p, all you need to do is ask.

Branded (more writing tips & opinion)

Your protagonist has a phone. Heck, yeah, we all have phones. But your protagonist only needs “a phone”.

Cody reached into his pocket and pulled out his Samsung Uberphone ZX81 and…

No, no, no. And no. It’s a phone. Your reader will imagine it to be whatever phone they want it to be. But not if you tell them the make and model. They could even begin to despise the character because of the phone he or she is using, but mostly they just won’t care.

The same goes for tablets or e-readers. Either don’t mention the damn things or just mention in passing that Cindy was reading. Does it really matter to your story or plot whether Cindy was reading a paperback or on a Kindle? No, it doesn’t. Unless she’s being stalked by the Kindle Killer, in which case it’s essential that we know (or at least suspect) that she is reading on a Kindle.

But 99.9% of the time we do not need to know what make or model of electronic device a character in a book is using.

Playing The Ace – permanent price drop

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I have dropped the price of Playing The Ace, the second book in the series The Truth About Kate Hayes, to mark the imminent release of the third book in the series – Painting The Dragon. This means that the first two books in the series are 99p/99c each.

The Kate Hayes series is now officially labelled Fun, filthy, feel-good bloke-lit. Because why not? Anyone who feels excluded by that sub-genre should embrace their inner rebel and just read the damn books anyway.

It started with a dream

Never, ever start your book with a dream sequence.

The wall exploded inward, showering her with chunks of plasterboard and shattered fragments of glass. A deafening, inhuman screech forced her to clamp her hands over her ears as a massive, green-scaled claw forced its way through the six foot hole in the wall. She backed against the jammed door, knowing that the next breath she took was going to be her last, her eyes squeezed shut to block out the vision of terror as the creature’s grasping talons closed around her…

Jenny woke up and turned off her alarm clock. 

“What a terrible dream. Oh well, never mind. Time to go eat some cereal and have a chat with my best friend, Tracey.”

See, now that right there is appalling. The reader thinks they’re getting one thing (which may be awful, but that isn’t the point) but they’re actually getting something infinitely worse – they’re getting let down.

The best thing to do if you want to start your book with a dream sequence is to … NOT DO IT.

If you absolutely have to put a dream sequence somewhere else in your book, always clearly introduce it as such and don’t play a stupid game with your reader, who is absolutely not going to find any entertainment value in being duped by an author who thinks dream sequences are clever or fun. They are neither.

Painting The Dragon – Title & cover reveal

I’ve grown up, accepted the truth, become a born-again realist. Take your pick. But for now, here’s the cover of the next book I’m going to release.

Painting the Dragon Cover Kindle final

I’m publishing this one because it’s already written and I already paid for the cover art tattoo and got the cover designed and produced by a very good friend of mine. All I need to do is edit what I’ve written and get it formatted.

Then I’m going to do what I have spent a few years learning the hard way. I’m going to write books that you are going to want to read.

I’ve missed the contemporary romance comedy smut boat, I know that. That one has sailed and I wasn’t even on the dock to wave goodbye. Nobody wants to read these books, and I was kidding myself when I thought these were the kind of books I’d get anywhere writing. I know that now. I enjoyed writing them and I’ve heard a few people say they enjoyed them too. But it’s going nowhere.

Everyone else out there who is getting somewhere with what they create – I read your books and I listen to your albums and I watch your movies. And I’m grateful to you for creating the good stuff.

Character descriptions are stupid

Okay, they’re not; not all the time, and not when the way a character looks adds something to the story. But, generally, it does not.

Any author who feels the need to describe the colour of the protagonists’s eyes, or the length of their hair, or the make of their suit in the first couple of paragraphs is sending out the clear message that they have nothing more interesting to say in those first paragraphs.

We’ve all read it, and you may even be one of those authors who does it. This kind of thing…

Misty Blade the teenage vampire hunter crouched at the edge of the steeply sloping roof. She pushed her long, deliberately unkempt style raven black hair over one shoulder and looked down at the dark street below through her matching pair of emerald eyes under arched eyebrows that were the same ebony shade as the aforementioned hair on her head.

Truly awful, I know. But come on, we all know someone who thinks that would be a great opening paragraph for their next novel.

Before describing a character, you need to ask yourself a few questions, of which these are just a sample:

1 – If you do NOT mention the character’s eye colour, will it affect the story at all?
2 – Can the character’s hair length be mentioned as part of an action sequence rather than just for the sake of it?
3 – Will the reader have a better time imagining how the character looks based on the character’s actions and behaviour, rather than being given an A-B-C description of eye colour, hair length, etc.?

If you absolutely have to mention a character’s physical features and clothes, try to avoid dumping them into the opening paragraphs like some kind of shopping list. And ditch the green eyes. They have been seriously overused.

Don’t use a mirror when you’re writing first person. You know what I mean, and if you don’t, well here’s another example.

I’m Byron Alpha, the extensively tattooed billionaire Mafia don. I paused as I strode past the mirror. I nodded with satisfaction at my mane of thick, glossy black hair (that every woman I met loved to run her hands through), hooded green eyes, aquiline nose, roguish two-day stubble, perfect cheekbones, and washboard abs that I knew were there but couldn’t see at the time because they were hidden beneath my very expensive Ermenegildo Zegna suit.

I am not completely opposed to describing a character’s appearance. I have done it myself, as anyone who has read any of my books will know. The point that I am making is that you do not need to shove details of eye colour, hair length and designer labels into the opening paragraphs of your book.

This is the first of a series of posts on specific writing issues where I feel that I need to add my own opinion to the millions that already exist. I have already posted a version of this on Wattpad, and I may post it elsewhere if I feel that it would be appropriate to do so. Or maybe just because it seemed like a good idea at the time.