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Posts Tagged crime
Hit the ground running with your first pages – 5 book openings critiqued by a literary agent (and me!) at Litopia
Phew, this blog has been busy this week! Last Sunday I was the guest of Litopia, an online writers’ colony and community. Every week they have a YouTube show, Pop-Up Submissions, where five submissions are read and critiqued live on air by literary agent Peter Cox and a guest. This week, that guest was me!
The genres can be absolutely anything, so I found myself assessing a young adult fantasy, an urban American thriller, a travel memoir, an Irish literary character piece (aka ‘upmarket fiction’) and a humorous fantasy crime. We picked out issues such as where to put back story, establishing the tone with the writing style and the choice of events, trying to make a character too likeable… and lots more. It was a fun challenge, and also fascinating to see Peter’s commercial instincts in action. While I concentrated on elements craft, he was asking: ‘Are there too many of this kind of book already? How do you stand out in today’s market? Or is it right on trend?’
We had some technical difficulties, so for some reason the video is a whopping two hours long, even though the show was only one hour. I’ve set it up to start when we actually start talking…
Enjoy! And if you’ve got a manuscript you’d like critiqued, apply here.
audio, back story, beginnings, crime, getting published, how to get published, literary agents, literay agent, Litopia, Peter Cox, Pop-Up Submissions, travel memoir, upmarket fiction, video, young adult. YA
‘A sequence of notes to transport you to a time and place’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Debbie Bennett
My guest this week says she was always secretly a rock chick, and has provided pictorial evidence to prove it. When she turned her creative impulses to writing, music helped create the mood and tone. She writes gritty crime with a heavy dose of psychological thriller, and drew on a aural landscape of Alice Cooper, Soul Asylum, Bon Jovi and Skid Row. She is Debbie Bennett and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
Alice Cooper, Bob Dylan, Bon Jovi, contemporary fiction, creative impulses, crime, Debbie Bennett, Desert Island Discs, drama, entertainment, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, playlist for writers, psychological thriller, Rat’s Tale, rock chick, Roz Morris, Runaway Train, Skid Row, Soul Asylum, The hero, The Seekers, The Undercover Soundtrack, thriller, undercover soundtrack, Whitesnake, Women Writers, writing to music
My guest this week is an old hand at The Undercover Soundtrack. She made her first appearance here in 2012 with a soundtrack she had composed, sung and recorded herself – which earned my undying envy (in a good way). She’s a singer-songwriter as well as a poet and novelist, so music is a natural way for her to understand her characters. In her latest novel, she writes from the perspective of five people, and used music to help her create their different voices and mentalities. Join me on the Red Blog to meet Jessica Bell (once again) and the Undercover Soundtrack to White Lady.
authors, contemporary fiction, crime, crime fiction, Desert Island Discs, first appearance, Hole, Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop, I Killed the Prom Queen, Jessica Bell, Judy Garland, Lene Lovich, Magic Dirt, Metallica, murder, music, music for writers, music for writing, musicians, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, playlist for writers, Roz Morris, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, White Lady, Women Writers, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing to music
On The Undercover Soundtrack, we’re used to writers using music to summon the muse. My guest this week goes one better. One of his main characters is a computer hacker, who limbers up by listening to Vangelis’s music for the film 1492: Conquest of Paradise. In real life, the author has a lifetime’s experience in the IT industry and seems adept at opening files in people’s pasts – Dave and I used to play 1492 incessantly as background for our own writings. My guest did it again when his editor revealed she had trained as a musician, like another of his characters. He is Ian Sutherland and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack – when he’s finished hacking the pasts of his production crew and blog hosts.
500 Days of Summer, authors, Bryony Sutherland, cello, computer hacker, computer hacking, contemporary fiction, crime, crime fiction, cyber crime, cyber thriller, Dances With Wolve, Dances With Wolves, debut novel, Deep Web Thriller, Desert Island Discs, Elgar, Ennio Morricone, film 1492: Conquest of Paradise, hacking, Ian Sutherland, Invasion of Privacy, John Barry, Leftfield, main characters, male writers, Moby, movie soundtrack, movie soundtracks, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, playlist for writers, Roz Morris, The Beach, The Mission, The Smiths, The Undercover Soundtrack, thriller, undercover soundtrack, Underworld, Vangelis, web thriller, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing to music
My guest this week describes his writing as a constant state of striving – to achieve the same visceral punch of great music. His books come to him that way too – protagonist, thread and plot in one hit. In fact I’ve actually seen this thunderbolt descend; I was with him on a course one day when he told me he’d just overheard a conversation that gave him an entire plot and its characters in an instant. After that comes the hard work, of course, and music helps him return to that state of fever. The novel he is talking about this week is the first in a crime series, set in the final years of Moorish rule in Spain, and its soundtrack is full of sweat, guitars, lutes and bass. He is David Penny and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, bass, Counting Crows, crime, David Penny, Desert Island Discs, Grace Potter, guitars, historical crime, historical fiction, historical thriller, Joe Satriano, John Hiatt, literary fiction, literary novels, lute, male writers, Moors, murder, murder mystery, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, neil young, playlist for writers, protagonist, Roz Morris, Spain, surgery, The Red Hill, The Undercover Soundtrack, thrillers, Tinariwen, undercover soundtrack, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing to music
My guest this week says his friends assume his crime novels are inspired by other noir thrillers, but they’d be wrong. His novels have all come from songs. An opening scene sprang from Springsteen; the relentless grind of a fight from House of Pain; a tender moment from the soundtrack to Gladiator. He is Terrence McCauley and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
1930s, America, American fiction, authors, crime, crime novels, deepen your story, fiction, how to write a book, how to write a novel, how writers work, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, noir fiction, novels, NYC, Prohibition, publishing, Roz Morris, tender moment, Terrence McCauley, The Undercover Soundtrack, thrillers, undercover soundtrack, USA, 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 describes his novel as having a subliminal soundtrack that wormed into his head and influenced the period, the tone, characters and the ties that connect them. The novel, Blow Your Kiss Hello, is a mystery and a thriller with a bit of Other too. It’s the story of a man searching beyond the boundaries of here and now in the hope of finding his missing girlfriend. It’s set mostly in the 1990s with threads of 1640, a crossing that becomes apparent as Faithless meets Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aenas. He is Andrew James and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
Andrew James, authors, Blow Your Kiss Hello, contemporary fiction, creativity, crime, deepen your story, fiction, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, inspiration, literary fiction, My Memories of a Future Life, mystery, novels, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, The Undercover Soundtrack, thriller, 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
My guest this week is best known for his poetry collections, but has had a weakness for crime fiction ever since he was a 10-year-old, smuggling a radio to bed to catch Mystery Theater. Music – and a few fingers of bourbon – were his close companions when writing his first novelet Not Forgiven, Not Forgotten. The Hank Dogs made the main character a dark angel in a corrupt town. Billie Holiday stopped the romance getting too sweet. He is Dave Malone and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, billie holiday, bourbon, corrupt town, crime, crime fiction, crime novels, dark angel, Dave Malone, deepen your story, fiction, hank dogs, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, inspiration, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, mystery, mystery fiction, mystery novels, Mystery theater, noir, noir fiction, Not Forgiven Not Forgotten, novels, poet, poetry, poetry collections, poets, publishing, Radio Mystery Theater, 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 routine, writing to music
Ideally we’d all write from personal experience, but most of us have much bigger imaginations than our pockets, lives, bravery levels or the laws of the land can accommodate. So we have to wing it from research.
Ghostwriting is the ultimate rebuke to the idea that you write what you know. We pretend all the way, even down to our identity, outlook and heart. When I was ghosting I became a dab hand at travel by mouse – there was no way the publisher paid enough for me to jet to my book’s location. Or would spring me out of jail.
So here are my tips for bridging the experience gap.
Good first-hand accounts
Obviously the web is full of blogs about just about anything. They’ll give you up-close, spit-and-sweat details from those who are living the life. But look further afield. Good memoirs and novels will not only provide raw material, they’ll show how to bring a place alive on the page.
There are scores of books published for writers who want to bone up on unfamiliar areas – whether crime, ways to kill or die, historical periods and what might be possible in steampunk. Or how to write a vampire novel. Some of you may know I’m an obsessive equestrian, and Dave’s roleplaying fraternity used to ask me constant questions about what you could do with horses until I wrote this piece for them.
What everybody else may already know
If there are famous books or movies that tackle your subject or feature your key location, get acquainted with them. Some readers hunt down every story that features their favourite keywords. They will not be impressed if you miss an obvious location for a murderer to hide a body, or an annual festival that should muck up your hero’s plans.
Flickr is wonderful for finding travellers’ snaps. But don’t discount professional photography. The best captures the emotional essence of a place, not just the visual details. I wrote one novel set in India and found a book of photographs of the monsoon. Those exquisite images of deluge gave me powerful, dramatic scenes.
Before the days of broadband, my go-to was National Geographic on searchable CD-ROM. I bought it as a Christmas present for Dave many years ago and probably you can now get the same thing on line. Sublime photography and descriptive writing that will get your fingers tapping.
Befriend an expert
Misapprehensions are inevitable if you’re appropriating others’ experiences. If possible, tame an expert you can bounce ideas off – especially if you’ve hung a major plot point on your theoretical understanding. When ghosting, I could ring my ‘authors’ for advice, but they weren’t always available so I found other sources to get my facts straight.
You’ll be surprised where these experts could be hiding. I never noticed my neighbourhood had a diving shop until I needed to write scenes featuring scuba. They were flattered and excited when I asked if I could pick their brains for a novel. When I was working on My Memories of a Future Life, a friend mentioned her family knew one of the BBC Young Musicians of the Year. Voila – I had an introduction to a concert pianist. Right now, I’m recruiting high-altitude climbers and pop musicians. Say hi in the comments if you know any.
What do you use to write what you don’t know? Share your tips in the comments! And do you have any research needs at the moment? Appeal for help here and you may find your perfect partner!
authors, crime, deepen your story, fiction, Flickr, gaming, ghostwriting, having ideas, historical fiction, historical novels, how to find experts, how to write a book, how to write a novel, inspiration, literature, memoir, My Memories of a Future Life, National Geographic, photography, photos, publishing, research, Roz Morris, scuba, steampunk, The Mountain Novel, thrillers, travel, travel memoir, unblocking, where to get ideas, Write what you know, 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
‘I wanted music that was angry and soulful, both at the same time’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Zoe Sharp
My guest this week writes to everything from Gregorian chant to grinding rock. For her latest novel in her crime series, she wanted to explore themes of regret and loss – and she looked for resentful, raw emotional songs to echo the pressures in her character’s life. She is Zoe Sharp, the novel is Fifth Victim: Charlie Fox book nine and she is on the Red Blog with its Undercover Soundtrack.
Anthony Award, authors, award winner, Barry Award, Benjamin Franklin Award, Charlie Fox, crime, CWA Short Story Dagger, deepen your story, Edgar Award, fiction, Fifth Victim, Macavity Award, murder, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, Roz Morris, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writers, writers who use music, writing to music, Zoe Sharp
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- How I made my writing career – poet, publisher and creative writing tutor David Starkey @WhatHaiku August 4, 2021
- Making my honest art – writing and publishing literary fiction: interview at @thecreativepenn July 27, 2021