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Posts Tagged comedy
Last Sunday I guested again at Litopia, an online writers’ colony and community. Every week they have a YouTube show, Pop-Up Submissions, where five manuscripts are read and critiqued live on air by literary agent Peter Cox @agentpete and a guest, or sometimes two (this time we had PR agent Kaylie Finn @kaylie_finn ).
The format is simple. Five manuscripts, each with a short blurb. We hear the opening pages, then talk about how they’re working – exactly as an agent would think about a manuscript that crossed their desk. This time we had YA post-apocalyptic fiction, a World War II spy thriller, a farce set in the world of British TV, a literary post-apocalyptic adult novel and a Cold War memoir. Issues we discussed included introducing a world and characters, stylised language, versatility of tone, orientating the reader so you don’t lose their attention, introducing a character with a peculiar problem, writing comedy, believability of a story concept, what makes a YA novel YA, ingredients for a historical novel, and how to get a toehold in the very competitive market for special forces memoirs.
Fascinating stuff – as ever, I talked loads, and I also learned loads from the responses of Peter and Kaylie. (That’s Kaylie and Peter in the preview pic.)
Enjoy! And if you’ve got a manuscript you’d like critiqued, apply here.
audio, beginnings, comedy, historical fiction, hook the reader, how to get published, Kaylie Finn, literary agent, Litopia, memoir, Peter Cox, Pop-Up Submissions, post-apocalyptic, spy thriller, thriller, video, video posts, what literary agents look for, YA fiction
I find it so interesting how one novel’s soundtrack can absorb so many styles. My guest this week has written a supernatural mystery wrapped up in a 1920s comedy of manners and her soundtrack is a glorious tour of classical, folk and madcap jazz. Even more interesting, she uses Thomas Tallis – as my guest did last week – but with such a different outcome. We all operate in our own key of creativity, which is one of the wonders of this series for me. Anyway, this week you can enter the classical, folky and knock-bones skelly-shaking jazzy world of Alice Degan – with her Undercover Soundtrack on the Red Blog.
1920s, Adele, Alice Degan, authors, classical, comedy, comedy of manners, Desert Island Discs, False Doctrine, fantasy, folk, invocation, jazz, jazz music, Loreena McKennitt, Maddy Prior, medieval literature, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, playlist for writers, Ralph Vaughan Williams, romance, Roz Morris, Sarah Slean, soundtrack, Squirrel Nut Zippers, supernatural, supernatural romance, The Undercover Soundtrack, Thomas Tallis, undercover soundtrack, Women Writers, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing to music
I see a lot of manuscripts by writers who tell me they’ve been honing their book for years, sometimes even decades. Often these are first novels, slowly maturing as the writer feels their way – not just with that story’s material but with all the controls of their writing craft, and the influences they’re absorbing from other fiction they read. Even their idea of what kind of writer they are might change.
And quite often, I can see these phases in the novel itself, like a Frankenstein monster. In some paragraphs the narrator sprouts a personality, and starts to present a humorous view of proceedings that wasn’t in the narrative before. Sometimes the plot events or dialogue abruptly switch to the conventions of a different genre, or the writer’s vision for the characters seems to change from tragic to dreamy.
When I flag them in my report, the writer usually says that the line or section came from an earlier version, or they were unsure whether to include it or not.
Mood to mood
It’s inevitable that we’ll write or edit in different moods from one day to the next. That’s fine; we’re not machines, after all. And we often get our best revelations from messing and experimenting. But we don’t want to develop a patchwork of tones.
One of the many things we must do as we edit is to create an even tone to give the reader a consistent experience – or at least make sure we don’t change it unintentionally. That doesn’t mean we can’t create characters who are contradictory or multifaceted. Or narrative styles that are flexible and supple. But we must watch out for the moments when our narrative veers too far from variety and we have slipped into a different version of the book.
This is difficult to spot. If we’ve been working on a book for a long time, we’ll have got used to assembling it piecemeal from bits we like. As we read through, we know what it all means and we don’t realise when we’re giving the reader an unwanted mental gear change. We become tone deaf to our book.
We need to edit with an awareness of this moment. If at any point we catch ourselves making a mental hop to process a sentence, this could be because its tone doesn’t quite belong.
This kind of editing is usually only possible in the late stages of the novel, when we’re happy and have stopped experimenting. It isn’t until then that we have the coherent vision of our work, the deep knowledge of what we are trying to do, and therefore the certainty to feel when something fits and something doesn’t. Or, indeed, the strength to let go of the parts that don’t fit – the evergoing purge of darlings.
But if you learn to recognise the shadows of former versions of your novel, you’ll give the reader a smoother ride.
Thanks for the pic petsadviser.com
NEWS If anyone’s in or near London, I’m teaching in the one-day Guardian self-publishing seminar, along with Joanna Penn, Orna Ross, Ben Galley and Polly Courtney. Funnily enough, most of them have been or will be guests on The Undercover Soundtrack – except for Joanna, who writes to the sound of rain. I’m working on her to write me an Underwater Soundtrack. I’m teaching the module on print books, and other modules include marketing, formatting and using social media.
Back to tone! Do you have problems with your novels shifting tone? How have you solved them? Let’s discuss
authors, Ben Galley, comedy, deepen your story, editing, editing tips, fiction, Frankenstein, how to edit your book, how to edit your novel, how to write a book, how to write a novel, Joanna Penn, My Memories of a Future Life, novel, novels, Orna Ross, polishing, Polly Courtney, publishing, revising, Rewriting, Roz Morris, self-publishing masterclass, The Guardian, tone, uneven tone, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
Wherever you are, you can be at the Edinburgh ebook festival. It’s a two-week programme of online bookish events starting at 11am every morning with a short story and rolling on until 11pm with reflective conversations about reading and writing. That’s 11am BST, Being Scots Time. There are author events, residencies where writers discuss issues for publishing and creatives, workshops and a daily sheeping forecast. When in Scotland…
Each night at 10pm I’m providing the music via selected reruns of The Undercover Soundtrack. So here I am, explaining to what an Undercover Soundtrack is and what listeners can expect. Do come over.
authors, book festival, comedy, deepen your story, Edinburgh, Edinburgh ebook festival, fiction, guest post, guest posts, how to write a book, how to write a novel, inspiration, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, sheeping forecast, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing to music
It’s Morrissey all the way for my guest this week. The contrast of dark lyrics and lifting melody became the sense of threat that runs through her novel. The force of his ‘take-me-or-leave-me’ personality becomes a main character’s demeanour. Even better, it states a principle for her own writing. (If I may bring in a touch of Frank Sinatra via Fleetwood Mac, writers do it our own way.) She is contemporary women’s fiction novelist Joanne Phillips and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
IN OTHER NEWS I’m taking a short break from blogging this weekend. There are guest posts bubbling up here and there, and if one surfaces in the next few days I’ll pop back to share it about. If not, I’ll definitely see you this time next week with another Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, comedy, deepen your story, fiction, fleetwood mac, frank sinatra, how to write a book, how to write a novel, inspiration, Joanne Phillips, Morrissey, music, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, publishing, Roz Morris, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing to music
‘Music and creativity is for everyone – and life can be a musical’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Cally Phillips
My guest this week has always made up lyrics, whether alternate versions of existing songs or not-terribly-serious inventions of her own. She says she wishes life was more like a musical, where people might burst out singing if the fancy takes them. Her deep-held belief that life should be lived with lusty vocals led to a collaboration with a theatre group for adults with learning disabilities, and, by circular means, a novel that commemorates the experience – A Week With No Labels. She is screenwriter, playwright and novelist Cally Phillips and she’s on the Red Blog with her very individual Undercover Soundtrack.
A Week With No Labels, adults with learning disabilities, alternate versions, authors, Authors Electric, belief that, Cally Phillips, comedy, Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?, fiction, how to write a novel, inspiration, inventions, learning disabilities theatre group, music for writing, musical theatre, My Memories of a Future Life, novelist, phillips, playwright, publishing, Roz Morris, screenwriter, self-publishing, The Undercover Soundtrack, theatre group, undercover soundtrack, unexpected paths, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing to music
My guest this week was an award-winning horror genre writer, but turned indie to try to write the sort of novel he loved to read. For several years he published nothing while he struggled with his new challenge – a high-octane blend of suspense, swagger, humour and romance. Looking for a way to humanise an unlikable hero he found a guiding light in Rod Stewart’s interpretations of American classics – a rocker thug who’d matured with surprising tenderness. He is Reb MacRath and he’s on the Red Blog today with the Undercover Soundtrack for Southern Scotch.
american classics, authors, comedy, deepen your story, fiction, genre writer, having ideas, horror genre, how to write a book, how to write a novel, independent publishing, indie, inspiration, Kindle, music, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, publishing, Reb MacRath, Rod Stewart, romance, Roz Morris, self-publishing, Southern Scotch, suspense, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing to music
‘Writers and songwriters can create memorable shared works’ – The Undercover Soundtrack inside out: SJ Tucker
This weekend I’m celebrating the anniversary of the launch of My Memories of a Future Life. And since the story explores reincarnation in reverse, I thought I’d turn the Undercover Soundtrack inside out and talk to musicians who have been inspired by novels.
Today I’m hosting SJ Tucker, who has a long-running collaboration with award-winning fantasy novelist Catherynne M Valente. Their partnership goes way beyond a song for a book trailer; Cat writes song hints into her manuscripts for Sooj to find, and they tour together with their very own multimedia song and story circus. Sooj is talking about all that – and how she turns a novel into songs – today on the Red Blog.
authors, Catherynne M Valente, comedy, cross-creativity, cross-media, fantasy novelist, how to write a novel, how to write a song, how to write an album from a book, how to write an album from a novel, inspiration, literature, music and stories, music and writing, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, publishing, SJ Tucker, The Girl Who Navigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing and music, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing songs, writing to music
‘The Greatest Love Songs In The World…was the most awful writing track’ – Fiona Walker, The Undercover Soundtrack
My guest this week is a multi-bestselling author of romantic novels, once dubbed ‘The Jilly Cooper of the Cosmo generation’. Her characters frequently express themselves with a lusty song or two and she writes to a soundtrack that never appears on the page. But, as you see from the post title, there are some choices that are not as suitable as you’d think… She’s Fiona Walker and she’s on the Red Blog sharing her Undercover Soundtrack
authors, comedy, deepen your story, fiction, Fiona Walker, how to write a novel, Jilly Cooper, literature, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, novels, publishing, raunchy romance, romance, Roz Morris, The Love Letter, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
- Getting to the truth about strong women and troubled teenhood – novelist, playwright, essayist, writing coach Martha Engber @MarthaEngber January 24, 2021
- How to write captivating characters – interview at @Sacha_Black Rebel Author podcast January 17, 2021
- How to write a memoir about difficult times January 10, 2021
- Should your book be first person, third person (or even second)? Ep48 FREE podcast for writers January 5, 2021
- How I built my career – writer, typesetter and editor Amie McCracken @amiemccracken December 13, 2020
- Stuck at the beginning of your novel? How to get going December 9, 2020
- From bust to trust (the tale of a little horse) – guest post at Martha Engber @marthaengber December 8, 2020