Writers’ Tools: Scene-by-Scene

As NaNoWriMo drains words from me like a gigantic novel leech, I have to take that tried-and-tested piece of November advice and silence my inner editor. The emphasis of Nano has always been word count above all else, with the idea that we can fix all in the edit - in a similar way that film-makers "fix it in post". If you're an intricate plotter, you probably start any new project, novel or screenplay or other, with a thick wedge of notes and an exact play-by-play of how your finished project is going to look. If, however, you're like me, you probably start with broad brushstrokes and then fill in the finer details as you go on. You may have a beginning, a middle and an end but how exactly those are going to fit together may be a complete mystery. I hold an interesting position in that I am both a screenwriter and a novelist. Screenwriting tends to be much more heavy-handed...
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NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide

The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the supermarkets are full of pumpkins. It is almost that time of year again... For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is simple: write a 50,000-word novella in the 30 days of November. This year will be my fifth NaNoWriMo. I've participated in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2013. 2011 and 2013 birthed my two published novels, Binary Witness and Code Runner. If you are thinking of taking the plunge and participating in your first NaNoWriMo, I have a few words of advice to help get you through... Plot as much or as little as you need You may heard the question "plotter or pantser?" addressed to authors. Basically, do you plot our everything that happens in your novel or do you just write whatever you feel like at the time? I'm somewhere in the middle. I need to know how the novel begins and ends...
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CrimeFest 2014: Must-Have Books

CrimeFest 2014 rocked Bristol last weekend and I had a great time meeting crime writers, readers, reviewers, agents and publishing folk! In the first of my CrimeFest posts, I share the books that tempted me into buying at CrimeFest and why they are crime must-haves. The Axeman's Jazz - Ray Celestin New Orleans, 1919. The birth of jazz, the advent of prohibition, Mafia, racial tension and a man putting axes in people's heads. Based on a TRUE STORY. The Beauty of Murder - AK Benedict Time-travelling serial killer in Cambridge - who could resist? The Big Over Easy - Jasper Fforde I'm late to this party, but as a Thursday Next fan, I had to try this out. First in the Nursery Crimes series, this book asks the question: did Humpty Dumpty fall or was he pushed? Desecration - J.F. Penn From bestselling indie author, this London-based mystery delves into the supernatural, pairing a police detective with a clairvoyant. Joanna Penn also writes excellent books for authors on self-publishing...
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Binary Witness Photo #2: Brains bridge

it's Brains you want! The cameras grew sparser away from the city centre and Amy struggled to follow her. Melody crossed roads haphazardly before finally disappearing under the Brains bridge towards the Bay. Amy frantically searched her camera database, but the next set she had was in the Bay proper or much farther along the Taff. Photography by Amy Davies. Like what you see? Read the book! You can buy Binary Witness at the following retailers: Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Google Play Add to Goodreads | Read an Excerpt...
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GUEST POST: Second Thoughts: Writing The Next Novel In A Series by Lucy V Hay

I am delighted to welcome Lucy to Swords and Lattes for our first guest post. Her screenwriting advice is always practical and rooted in years of industry experience. Recently, she has turned her talent to novelling and, while in the grips of my sequel writing, I thought it would be great to explore another writer's point of view on wrestling with the agony of writing The Next Book. Without further ado: If you’ve ever written a novel, you’ll know it’s a painfully frustrating, isolating and generally miserable experience. It’s also like winning the lottery and all your millions are delivered in molten chocolate (or whatever is *your* fave, all the choc’s mineallminegetyerhandsoff). It’s a weird thing, novel writing. You spend all your time wading through soul treacle, desperate to write THE END … And then you DO and you feel like your child has left home – those painstaking, slo-mo years rushed by so fast! – and then you burst into tears. So, really:...
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Retitling: A Book by Any Other Name Would Sell as Sweet?

Further to my post last week about the acquisition of my novel by Carina Press, I thought I'd shed some light on one aspect of my journey to publication: retitling. The working title for my novel was Ctrl+Alt+Del. I'll admit that I was pretty happy with it - I felt it captured the elements of hacking, stalking and murder pretty aptly. However, Carina rightly pointed out that search engine results would commonly bring up the keyboard shortcut in preference to the novel. Therefore I was asked to go through a retitling process. It started with a Title Worksheet. This involved teasing out information about the book that could feed into a new title: genre, themes, conflicts, etc. The next stage was coming up with a new list of possible titles. I was surprised how difficult I found this, as I've always found picking a title one of the easiest parts of writing. Of course, this may because I'm naff at it... For inspiration, I decided...
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NaNoWriMo 2013

This is the blog post in which I nail my colours to the mast: I am doing NaNoWriMo 2013. For those not in the know, National Novel Writing Month is where one can write a book in 30 days - 50,000 words at a pace of 1,667 per day. However, I am a masochist, so I am writing 80,000 words in November. I have tortured myself in this manner before. I participated (and won) in 2006, 2007 and 2011. It was in 2011 that I decided to go for an 80k target. And that novel will shortly be coming to an eReader near you, because it is being published by Carina Press in May 2014. My NaNoWriMo 2013 novel is its sequel, which has also been earmarked for publication. So, for any folks thinking that NaNoWriMo is just a fun thing to do when the nights are drawing in, remember that it can lead to a whole lot more. Happy Nano!...
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Getting Back On The Horse

I've been away from the keyboard for a while due to family things. I was lacking in inspiration and I had no idea where to start. So when an e-mail popped up asking me to meet with a producer to discuss feature film ideas, I thought this might be a good water-testing exercise. Get the creative juices flowing again. He gave me a location brief and I threw together a handful of ideas, condensed them into loglines and character sketches, and set off to London Waterloo for coffee. I come out of that meeting feeling positive. One of the ideas was adapted from an old story that had been brewing for a while but I hadn't found a way to make it work. It had been set aside for a number of months, occasionally pulled out for inspection, and then returned to the virtual drawer. Said producer was also enthusiastic about my percolated idea and, before I knew what was happening, I had...
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#scriptchat Multi-Platform transcript

Thank you to everyone who joined us for #scriptchat last night - it was frantic and exhausting, but I really enjoyed blagging my answers to your questions! You can find the Storify transcript of the chat here (because Wordpress won't play nice with Storify code)....
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The Writer’s ADHD

I was a hyperactive child. My parents are very polite about it, but I suspect I was an absolute nightmare and the surviving video from that era bears out my suspicions. When I discovered reading, I calmed down and learned to channel my energy more creatively. However, I'm still easily influenced by orange juice or a sugar high, and I probably talk more than is strictly necessary or desirable. When it comes to writing, I often struggle to focus. Not on time = words = pages particularly, but more on chasing my next project instead of actually finishing the one I'm meant to be writing. (As evidenced by the fact I'm writing a blog post instead of adding pages to my latest screenplay...). But this even bleeds into those two writing basics: Format and Genre. It's the first words of your pitch - "a half-hour TV sitcom" or "a ninety-minute science fiction feature". More recently, perhaps: "a two-minute horror web series" or "bi-weekly fantasy...
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