Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Best Books We've Edited in 2014

We’ve edited a fair few books that have made it to market in 2014 and it seems appropriate in the dying days of the year to give the very best of them a mention. Have a look and see if anything catches your fancy; I’ve provided links to where you can buy them.

Note: Fiction Feedback has not been paid in any way for these honourable mentions: they're honest-to-goodness recommendations.

George Valentine’s Retirement Plan

A fabulous satirical romp, taking in the worlds of politics, PR and music with characters as varied and fascinating as the worlds they inhabit. Original and well written, this is a treat of a comedy with bite. A book you’ll be keen to recommend to your friends, and a debut author to remember.

By Laurence Cooper

Ignoring Gravity

A book about identity, and about why who you are makes a difference, whether you want it to or not. The story connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Finding her mother’s lost diaries, Rose discovers she is not who she thought she was and has to adjust her view of herself and of those close to her. It’s not an easy journey for Rose, but it is an intriguing read.

By Sandra Danby

Art of a Small Camera

We edit non-fiction as well as fiction, and this revolutionised my approach to taking photos on my phone and with my pocket automatic. Great results!

By GS Tyler

Limited Liability

The third of the Jenny Parker novels – a Manchester accountant caught up in a seamy world of money laundering, people trafficking and payday loans, not to mention kidnap and violence. If you don’t believe accountancy can ever be exciting, this is the edge-of-the-seat book for you, harnessed to a spiky, feisty character you really want to win through.

By DJ Harrison

And finally, a thriller we’ve not edited but we’d like to recommend…

Jason Monaghan, writing as Jason Foss, has seen his archaeologist thrillers re-issued as ebooks by Endeavour this winter. They’re all good fun, and my stand-out favourite is Lady in the Lake. Called in by an insurance company to check claims that a discovered sword is Excalibur, cynical archaeologist Dr Jeffrey Flint gets sucked into a world of myth and folklore…and modern-day murder. A pacey, expertly plotted read for fans of archaeological mysteries and Arthurian devotees alike.

By Jason Foss

To find out more about our editing services, contact edit@fictionfeedback.co.uk or check out the relevant page on our website: http://www.fictionfeedback.co.uk/proofing_and_editing.php

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Carys Bray who wowed us at Write Now is shortlisted for Costa Book Awards

I’m perosnally delighted by the news that Carys Bray, who captivated us with her talk at Chorley Writers’ Circle event Write Now on 15 November, has had her first novel A Song for Issy Bradley shortlisted for the First Novel category of the Costa Book Awards 2014. Carys enchanted everyone on Saturday with her unassuming approach and her story of unlooked-for publishing success.

Speaking from beneath my Chairwoman of Chorley Writers’ Circle hat, we knew it was a coup at the time, securing Carys as one of our four speakers. I for one was very impressed by her novel and another of the Circle’s committee, Jeanette Greaves, knew Carys as a fellow short-story writer and asked her to come. We’re very pleased she did.

Carys, from Southport, was amazed at the publishing furore her novel caused as several top publishers fought for the rights. The book is set here in Lancashire, and is about a Mormon family trying to cope in the wake of tragedy. I found the book achingly sad and yet hopeful, wistful although at times very funny, and elegantly written. It was a pleasure to meet the author behind the book, and I’m thrilled that Carys has been shortlisted for one of the most prestigious awards in literature. Fingers crossed that she’s on the winners list come January.

I’m pleased to report that Write Now was an all-round success. The other three speakers were just as entertaining and informative. Hannah Sheppard, a literary agent from London, gave useful advice about how to find and approach an agent that’s right for your manuscript. A number of attendees were able to talk to Hannah informally after her speech about submitting their work to her. Hannah recommended using professional critique services such as Fiction Feedback for authors looking to lick their novel into shape before submitting to an agent or publisher. (Use the link at the top of this blog to visit our site or click www.fictionfeedback.co.uk)

Kevin Duffy, owner of independent publisher Bluemoose Books, entertained his audience with riveting stories of the publishing world and also gave forthright views on the chances of unknown authors getting a publishing contract with the large companies. He talked about how Bluemoose’s approach to publishing – putting the quality of stories first and foremost – and again several attendees got the chance to pitch their work.

The fourth speaker was Dave Harrison, of Open Circle Publishing. Dave, who has written several crime novels featuring Manchester accountant Jenny Parker, told his audience about his own career as a writer. He also shared various fascinating facts and figures about self-publishing in particular, and about how to give yourself the best chance of sales. He explained more about how Open Circle, at www.opencirclebooks.com have benefitted from the help of a bestselling author, and have now launched an author services arm offering top quality production, editing and distribution services to authors. Open Circle are holding a self-publishing seminar in January, and also sponsor Chorley Writers’ Circle.

Write Now was a fabulous event. Thanks to all four speakers and our enthusiastic audience who made it so.

For more info on the Circle, see the website www.chorleywriters.org.uk

Carys Bray (L) with me, Dea Parkin, at Write Now

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Improving your chances of publication

Some writers work in a vacuum, and that works all right for them. But for the vast majority of serious-minded writers, they realise that they need advice, help, tips and explanations from outside, whether that’s from other writers who are struggling along the same path, authors who’ve made it, literary agents and publishers or editing and critique services like Fiction Feedback.

It’s not always easy to get that advice and it’s certainly hard to find advice that’s free, or nearly. That’s why I’d always advocate going to events that offer up professionals as speakers on subjects we all find fascinating: how to find an agent or publisher, whether self-publishing is the way to go, whether or not we should bother with an editor (any regular reader of my blog will know it costs me to even pose that as a question!), and what we should do to give our writing the best chance of success.

I attended The Word last month in Preston, and am delighted to be organising a similar event aimed at would-be novelists, held over a half-day in November. This is called Write Now, and will take place at Astley Coachhouse on Astley Park in Chorley, Lancashire on the afternoon of November 15.

Speakers will be: Hannah Sheppard, a London literary agent and long-time fiction editor. Carys Bray, author of bestselling A Song for Issey Bradley. Dave Harrison, who is just opening an author services arm to his publishing business, Open Circle Books. And Kevin Duffy, of Bluemoose Books, an independent publisher of highly successful fiction based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Four top quality speakers offering their views on how to get published, and open to questions afterwards. Cost? Just £10. If you’re interested, pop along to http://www.chorleywriters.org.uk .

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Books and Bookmen

Since I last posted, I have (of course) been very busy.

Partly having fun at Theakston’s Old Peculier Festival of Crime-Writing at Harrogate in July, where I caught up with friends from the Crime Writers’ Association. Highlights of the Festival were the zany Lynda La Plante; the delicious combo of ace writers Laura Lippman and Belinda Bauer (who carried off the Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award with a book I gasped at even if I didn’t exactly enjoy, Rubbernecker); the forum I attended on Keeping It Real; Sophie Hannah; Peter May; and JK Rowling aka Robert Galbraith being interviewed by Val McDermid in the sold-out-in-minutes event of the show. The Festival was, as usual, a wonderful occasion with insights into what makes crime-writers tick, what makes crime novels work and what crime readers like most of all (apart from queueing up to get new books signed.)

I’d popped two books onto my Audible account in advance of author appearances at Harrogate, one The Murder Bag, which I thought was Tony Parsons aspiring to the style and depth of Robert Galbraith and succeeding to a degree, and The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar. I didn’t get a chance to hear any of that one before Harrogate, which is a great pity, because there are a host of questions I’d have asked him as a result; like, what made you think of mixing Victorian personalities, twenty-first century technology, singing whales, poet prime ministers, pirate ships, disappearing islands and an alien lizard race in a novel that’s also a paean to practically every book I’ve ever loved?? It’s a staggering tour de force and I’m thrilled to say I haven’t finished it yet. I want it to go on for ever.

One of those CWA friends I caught up with at Harrogate is Martin Edwards. Martin is probably one of the most under-appreciated crime novelists writing today – though not within the CWA – and has recently (and deservedly, oh yes) won the Margery Allingham Short Story prize for Acknowledgements. His latest Scarlett Hannah/Daniel Kind Lake District Mystery The Frozen Shroud is probably his best yet, though it has tough competition from earlier books in the series, with some very sneaky yet successful plotting and atmosphere by the bucketload. I notice the ebook is currently on special offer with Amazon – a good bet for your Kindle at 99p. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Frozen-Shroud-Lake-District-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00CW0G6WW/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1405889246&sr=8-1&keywords=frozen+shroud

Finally I have to say a word in respectful tribute to David St John Thomas, who passed away last week at the age of 85. In his sleep, on a cruise – wouldn’t we all like to go that way? He had an inspiring life, creating his own publishing house (speciality: books on trains) and publishing magazines like the excellent Writers’ News. That magazine brought me into the writing world – I started subscribing not long after its inception in the late Eighties – and while it’s now published by Warners, it’s still one I’d recommend to the serious would-be writer. David St John Thomas was keen to encourage writers and good writing and did a lot of charitable work in this arena. He made a career of his passions, and passed on his passions to others: a life well lived.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Critiques, Structural edits, Copy-edits.... Let's Define the Beasts

In my last post I wrote about how I was interviewed by author Sandra Danby for her blog about editing and tips for writers, after Fiction Feedback had copy-edited her book.

Since then - is it by coincidence? - I've been asked several times what's the difference between structural or developmental editing and copy-editing, and whether a critique is the right choice rather than an edit.

So it makes sense to reproduce some of the info I gave to Sandra here on Fiction Feedback's own blog. Enjoy!

What’s the difference between a critique, structural editing, copy-editing and proofreading?

A critique takes a broad view of your story or novel and highlights major strengths and weaknesses and makes outline suggestions for improvement. It’s a good starting point.

Structural or developmental editing looks at all the strengths and weaknesses and helps you make changes. It’s very hands-on. It looks at the nuts and bolts of how the MS is working as a story or novel – structure, narrative arc, characterisation, plot, pace and style.

Once that’s done – and allow for two more drafts after your first – it’s time for copy-editing. This is where we examine the prose word by word. Yes, we pick up problems with spelling, grammar and punctuation, and ensure all-important consistency, but you’ll also be encouraged to test that every word is doing its job to the utmost. So we’ll look at vocabulary choices, naturalistic dialogue, facts, logic, repetition, minor glitches in characterisation or plot, anachronisms and verisimilitude. Do you quote a TV show of 1963 and mention its host? We check it was broadcast then and that the host is the right one. Do you write about watching events at the bottom of an unlit garden from an English home at 5pm in January? We respectfully point out that might not be feasible. Do you use one expression of amazement no matter which character is speaking? We suggest you create different expressions for each character. Allow for two copy-edits.

Once you’ve checked the final copy-editing amends, you shouldn’t really be making any further revisions. But just in case you do, and to pick up any oversights or inconsistencies, the novel needs to go through a final proofread before publication, preferably by a different pair of eyes. At Fiction Feedback, we use a different proof-reader from the editor whenever we’re asked for the service.

So there you are. If you've any questions, leave a comment below, visit the Fiction Feedback site or email us: info@fictionfeedback.co.uk


Monday, 9 June 2014

Editing for Quality

Apologies for being away for so long. It's had a lot to do with being almost submerged by the amount of editing work I'm currently undertaking.

This includes a historical adventure, a historical gothic thriller, a modern-day crime novel, three works of narrative non-fiction and a very stylishly written chick-lit novel. Wow! Written down like that it's even more than I thought. No wonder I've barely had time for my own writing.

It has also included over the last months a second copy-edit and a proof-read of the excellent book by Sandra Danby that I talked about in my last post, Ignoring Gravity. I was very glad we had the chance to re-visit this after the rather demanding first deadline and, while I'm pleased to say there was nothing outrageous we'd missed, we were able to hone and polish and help make this lovely novel the best it possibly could be.

Sandra interviewed me for her blog about the ins and outs of editing and has reproduced it on her blog.

It includes:
* 5 things a writer should do
* 5 things a writer shouldn't do
* what's the difference between critiques, structural editing, copy-editing and proofreading?
* what to do to an MS before submitting to an agent - or self-publishing.

Well worth a look! http://sandradanby.com/2014/06/08/the-copy-editing-experience/

I also want to mention here the proliferation of freelance editors who are asking me for work. They're all screened before they can become Fiction Feedback editors and many fail as they don't have much of an idea; they seem to think it's just correcting spellings (and then they miss some).

If you're a writer looking for an editor, ask to see samples of work they've done. And you might want to ask for a short editing sample of your work so you can see what you're getting - we still offer 500 words of fiction copy-edited free. The last writer we did this for had sensibly asked around and got a few samples. He came back to Fiction Feedback for the full novel edit, saying our sample edit was 'technically far superior'.

It's nice to know.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Impossible deadlines, impractical timescales and new routes to publication

Well, I’ve kept my promise! I’ve sent my novel in part to one of our reviewers. We’ll see what she has to say. And I’m still working on the rest of the novel with a view to sending out that too, to one or two reviewers and published writers. What’s more, a fellow writer and I are giving each other deadlines and encouraging ourselves to keep to them – I’m hoping we can spur each other on.

I have to write about the comment exchange on this page. A reader asked how to find a good editor and in my reply I mentioned I wouldn’t be comfortable with an editor who said they could turn round a 100,000 word novel in a week. Guess what? The day after I’d written that, I got a call from a journalist I used to work with some years ago. She’d written a 100,000 word novel. She needed it editing for a particular deadline...a deadline just a week away!

Well, one of my best editors had just finished one piece of work so I knew she was free. And she’s fast, committed and deadline-friendly. So I said yes! But in doing so I was very aware of going against my own advice in the comments below. So now I would revise that advice, I suppose, although I certainly wouldn’t advocate this course. You’ll have spent a long time writing a novel and it deserves more editing time than a week – but the author, Sandra Danby, was in an impossible situation and sometimes this happens. I’m glad we were able to help.

This particular novel, Ignoring Gravity, is now featured on a brand new website, Britain’s Next Bestseller: www.britainsnextbestseller.com

You might want to take a look. The site's premise is interesting. If sufficient people order the book, then it’s published.  An older site, www.unbound.co.uk , runs on similar lines but so far it’s only featuring authors who’ve already been published, so BNBS is exciting. Sandra’s novel is witty, touching and fascinating, especially if you’re intrigued by identity and the nature v nurture debate. It’s also very well-written – I’d expect nothing less from this former journalist and star blogger – so Ignoring Gravity might be a novel you’d like to support.

Thought-provoking, isn’t it, how many new approaches to publication are springing up. Indie publishers are evolving too, so that authors who are happy to pay for more of the work upfront like editing and marketing receive a correspondingly larger proportion of the profits. We work on several titles for such a company – Open Circle Publishing, www.opencirclebooks.com

Then there’s crowd-funding. More and more authors are turning to such initiatives to raise the money they need for editing, marketing, distribution and production. Good for them, I say.

Traditional publishers need to work hard now to make the cachet of being published as opposed to self-publishing really worth the trials and traumas of trying to interest an agent in your work. In my last blog post I mention the importance of a ‘contemporary’ novel being set in contemporary times – well, given the amount of time it can take just to get an agent willing to represent you, let alone a publishing contract, that novel is certain to be some years out of date when it's launched. So perhaps I needn’t worry about mine being a decade or so behind the times after all!

Seriously, I think self-publishing is beginning to evolve and grow up. Sites like Britain’s Next Bestseller are proof of this. Self-publishing is becoming more sophisticated and there are new routes for the cream to rise to the top. I am long past the days when I used to recommend traditional publishing to Fiction Feedback customers with self-publishing a second, lesser choice. Not any more. Now I say, if you want to get your book out there within the next six months, look seriously at self-publishing. And go for it.