Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How long does it take to write a book?

c. 50                                 Image via WikipediaBooks take on average about six hours to read. It doesn't sound like much. In that time, one can consume literally thousands of words that took one writer - or very rarely a whole team - a much longer time to write.

Depending on the subject, the genre, and the length, books can take a lot of work. That means they take a considerable time to write - many times longer than it takes to read them.

Writers say that books are not only written when they are at their computers: they think a lot, scribble handwritten notes, talk into recorders, discuss their subject, research online, look material up in other books, visit libraries, watch films... a lot of different activities can go into 'writing' a book that amount to much more than just the physical writing.

Many authors will tell you a book takes them years. Some others write two or more a year. This makes a reader realise different writers do it in different ways.

How do I do it? Good question! I have to think before I answer... well, I do think a lot before I start to write. I discuss the plot with my family - we make it a very animated Sunday breakfast topic, where everyone gets their say. It can be fun, and a great number of subplots are hatched and discarded. Characters are invented and left behind, fleshed out or forgotten about. Themes and locations are sought and found.

I take notes. Not many, but I do scribble them in the margins of Sudoku puzzle books, shopping lists, and odd pieces of paper, at the bottom of my diary and other places! Finding them again can be a problem. When I start to write, I draft a list of chapter titles that signify scenes. These generally follow the plot line, more or less. Writing the scenes is the hard part. Sometimes, I get on a roll, and know exactly what to write next. When I get to seventy thousand words, I know I have something: I'm more than halfway through.

Writing all the scenes gives me a first draft. I leave this to settle for a couple of weeks. This is the exciting part, when I feel I can now start to really work. So I read the draft a couple of times, trying to figure if the story is told in the order I want. Then I start to re-write and change things. I start to edit. This part of working on a book is the most time-consuming, but it's the part I like best. Sometimes I cut the whole text up into large chunks and re-arrange its order. Sometimes I put it back the way it was!

But how long does all this take?

The first draft usually takes a bit longer than two months or so. Re-writing, editing and fixing takes more than a year. A year! Oh yes: this is a long, painstaking process. What happens then? Then I send it out to be read by my faithful readers. They make notes. This means I have more work to do, reading and incorporating the suggestions I agree with and making the corrections to errors that were found. My readers sometimes suggest I change the order of chapters, so large re-writes can be necessary. In a few weeks, I have what feels like a real book. The manuscript goes out to my final reader, who always has more suggestions, more notes and more corrections for me to make.

The manuscript then gets put away for a long interval, after which I come back to it with fresh eyes. With the improvement of a few more revisions, the book feels ready to go out on submission. With any luck, a publisher will like it, and a contract is signed!

The period between getting the first idea and signing a contract is never shorter than 24 months for me. For other authors, it can be very varied. Asking this question on Google will raise hundreds of results, all of which give a different answer. On the whole though, most writers say they have a very intense, condensed period of writing that gives them a first draft, and then a longer period that involves a number of edits.

When one sits down with a new book, knowing there are five or six hours of pleasure ahead, how many would consider the time it took the author to conceive, work on, and create the work?

To gain an idea of how a novel starts to take form, why not read Chapter One of Death in Malta on my website?
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Contests for Writers

A couple of blogs ago I wrote about the importance of awards. They help writers gain credibility. Achieving a win or a commendation in a competition for writers can be worthwhile validation towards publication in book form. It doesn't have to be the Pulitzer or the Man Booker: all prizes add value and credibility to your experience.

I spoke about how a stack (no matter how little) of awards shows prospective agents and publishers that you have jumped through a number of hoops, and that you know how to go about certain processes. That you have gained visibility and readership. That your resume means something real.

These processes are: working to deadlines; writing accurately within a theme; facing stiff competition; understanding the importance of high quality writing; following submission guidelines, and so forth. A writer who shows familiarity with these aspects is streets ahead of someone who does not know the ropes.

A string of achievements is a track record, one that shows a publisher or agent where you have been and how much experience is under your belt. You have also proved you are better than some others.

Some respondents to my blog asked me to compile a list of awards: it is below. You can return to this blog time and again to click on the links that take you to guidelines you can follow to start building your award track record. Good luck!

Writer's Digest Competitions


WordPress Contest Page

Google Writers' Resources  

Proof Positive Contest Page 

Canadian Authors Markets and Sources 

Fellowship of Australian Writers Competition Page 

Australian Association of Writing Programs 

Competitions Around the World
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why I love Interiors Magazines

Courtesy House to Home
Come into my study, my bedroom or my lounge, and you will be astonished at the number of interiors magazines that are stacked, filed or simply lying around, waiting to be read. There are British home decoration magazines, American interiors journals, and of course Australian residential style periodicals.

Is it a covert passion, is it wishful thinking? Have I missed my calling and secretly desire to be an interior stylist, rather than a novelist? Why is this creative writer so taken up with the fine detail that goes into the furnishing and equipping of a home?

The answer is a simple one. Interiors are very good indicators of the character and life-attitude of the occupier of that space. Displayed belongings, kinds of books, colour, design and style are things that tell us a lot about the person who lives there. So I mentally choose the rooms the characters in my books might live in, and think of them in those spaces. Levels of tidiness are not as important as what a particular protagonist chooses to place on a shelf, or what colour to have the walls of a kitchen, or what kind of crockery to place food upon.

A character whose belongings are retro, say... sixties, would dress, think and behave in such a different way from another whose rooms are decked out in carefully chosen Regency antiques, with furniture that looks like it's been dipped in honey, and expensive curtains and carpets that reflect the era. A reader would know exactly how to mentally conjure these two different persons. A reader would imagine them accurately right away: simply from a description of what their houses look like on the inside.

Courtesy Best Home Design
When creating a 'baddie' I could put him in a house that is totally meticulously and scrupulously tidy, decorated in ultra-modern, sparse urban chic, in shades of beige, grey and dull white, with black and white steel-framed pictures on the walls. Here and there are highlighted objects in bright red: a cushion, an ornament, a vase. You can see him already, can't you? His hair is sleeked back, and he carefully adjusts a single tall ornament to precisely the correct position after his housekeeper has left. Then he takes the keys to the safe, which is in plain view in the bare office, where one sheet of paper lies on the desk. It's all sterile, and exact, particular and ... deadly.

All this from seeing a minimilist interior in a magazine! It is a visual metaphor: the steel is a precursor of his gun, the red splashes are of course blood.

Interiors: they can be so important in fiction. And my magazines provide the personality of every single character I create.
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Award-winning Authors: Why Winning is Winning

Winning an award for writing can be a big thing for a writer. Big because writing on the whole can be a thankless, lonely way to spend a large chunk of a life.

Awards are validating: they say Well done! A writer has the pleasure of knowing someone who knows about writing has read the entry and valued it. Someone has weighed it and measured it against some stiff competition. And it has succeeded.

There is another way awards add merit to writers' work. If placed well in evidence, details of awards can work to earn the writer credibility. Placed on a CV, in a signature line on emails, as part of the credits on book trailers, or in the biblio-biography on a writer's site, awards are testimonials of work done... work done very well, in fact. Such details speak volumes: they tell editors, agents and publishers that the writer has fulfilled criteria that matter. These might seem like obvious things, but they carry weight in the publishing industry: understanding rules, keeping to a deadline, submitting correctly, writing to a theme, composing creatively for a particular audience, sticking to a defined length... and doing all this better than other entrants.

All writers know how hard it can be to interest anyone in their work. After one has exhausted family and friends, finding anyone willing to read what you write is not easy. Submitting a piece of writing to a competition guarantees a willing eager audience - at least for that piece of carefully prepared writing. This ought to be great incentive to writers working in isolation.Someone will welcome your entry and give it all their attention.

I have a list of awards I have won on my website. They are evidence of hard work, writing skills ... and that I am at heart a very competitive creature!

There are many contests open to writers: googling the words 'writing contests' brings up literally thousands of results. Writers can make their own list of possible contests to enter. A word of caution is necessary here: there are a number of scams running, so it is useful to check the credentials of any site running a contest to see whether it has been tested and found to be sound by experienced writers, or whether anything has been found to be suspect about the people running the award. After that, setting oneself a goal and looking forward to hearing the results can only be exciting and motivating.

At the beginning of a writing career, especially, entering competitions can mean the difference between achieving status and being able to use it to advantage, or remaining an unknown quantity. Although it can be hard work, submitting entries to writing competitions can be seen as an important part of a writer's discipline and a great way to add to a portfolio of writing. Winning can bring kudos: sometimes a monetary prize is awarded, or an offer of publication made.

Awards are definitely something writers can say testify to the quality of  their writing.
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vision or Delusion - my favourite eBook

Centro Portugu√™s de Fotografia - Old studio ca...                                Image via Wikipedia
Have I ever written about Vision or Delusion? It is a historical novella I wrote quite a long time ago. Writing novellas was a good transition between writing short fiction and authoring long novels, which is what I do now.
I like researching history, especially when it relates to places: location is a big motivator for this writer! When we go to Europe, we invariably return with art and history books from the cities we visit. A large format book about photography in Belgium set my creative juices flowing.
The result was a novella of about 10,300 words, which took an awful long time to write, when I think of it now. But I enjoyed every minute.
Now, I have created a PDF download of the book, and put it up for sale on my website. This is purely an experiment: I would like to see how I do as a 'merchant'. It took quite a bit of tweaking and HTML creaking to get what I wanted, but I feel it looks good and should work. It feels entrepreneurial, and the thought of a direct interface with my readers is something that suggests immediacy and authenticity.
What I hope is that this little novella will show another side of me and my writing to my fans. It is a whole different style of writing: literary fiction necessarily demands another tone. Perhaps comments will come tumbling in.
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Very Brief Interview With My Keyboard

Caps-Lock is FULL OF AWESOME!!1!                 Image by catcubed via Flickr
Me: Okay keyboard: what motivated you to choose this career?

Keyboard: I wanted to be tickled pink... er - black. And white!

Me: What do you like most about your life?

Keyboard: Being useful to you, and knowing I am an indispensible partner in creating your novels. See? I can spell indispensible, even.

Me: Is there anything you hate?

Keyboard: You need to ask? Duh! My E and my O are all but gone. You often push Caps Lock when you mean Shift... what is a guy supposed to do? Confusion reigns in the morning, when you 'forget' your glasses but are desperate to read your emails, so you hit Insert instead of Delete, and End instead of Down. Need I go on? ... it's embarrassing.

Me: Sorry. If you stopped sliding around on the desk it would...

Keyboard: So this is a guilt trip now. Great. Indispensible guy gets barrowload of ...

Me: Sorry! I did apologise. Hey - where are you going? Keyboard! come back... hey ... h

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What it feels like to be interviewed

Image courtesy Wikipedia
Most writers know publicity and promotion are part and parcel of what one does to make readers aware of books they have written. Many authors go on tour, guided by a publicist; appear at literary festivals; give talks at libraries; hold signings at sales of their new books, and so forth.

Being interviewed is one of the things that happens. Submitting to an interviewer's questions can be nerve-wracking if one has never done it before. I find it fun - and it makes me think about writing processes and how my writing life has gone so far in a bit more depth than if I was never asked. When I have to think before framing an answer, it makes me reflect on how hard I have worked on some things... and how much more work is necessary to tie some other things up!

So far, while promoting my forthcoming thriller According to Luke, I have been interviewed by publicist Cathryn Isakson, whose very popular blog, Novel (Book) Expectations is visited by authors, readers and all those with some interest in publishing. 

A visit to Cathryn's blog will give readers an idea of my writing life so far. Enjoy !

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Choosing props for your fiction

Two lemons, one whole and one sliced in half                               Image via WikipediaTelling stories your readers will enjoy involves the five senses: we all know that. It is common knowledge that humans are very sight-focussed, and that books that involve the other four senses seem to be more evocative and stirring. Good authors evoke smells, textures, tastes and noises as well as sights.

One way to intrigue and absorb readers is to use props that ensure the senses become involved. Even without lengthy descriptions, some props have the ability, even if they are mentioned briefly, to make writing come alive and palpable, palatable, or audible: all in the reader's mind. A character's suit, if made of corduroy, is suddenly textured. A villain's words, if breathed through whisky-laden breath, are even more forceful. A bell ringing in the distance, if it has a deep baritone sound, can be even more poignant.

It takes a mere two or three words to add sensuality to a sentence. The props you create have the ability to deepen and widen your scope as a writer. Rather than just have a shotgun, have one that smells of  rancid Tetra-oil. Rather than have a bicycle, have one with a squeaky wheel. Rather than have a cocktail, have one that tastes of lime and pineapple. Rather than have a plain sandwich, have one filled with shrimp and lemon mayonnaise. Don't just write about a car: have a 1969 Morris Minor Woody.

Novels are full of props that can be used more than just one way, and for more than just one reason. They serve a purpose in the story, but they can also serve to make the writer more memorable. Not that readers will be able to put a finger on what made the book more enjoyable: but they will come away with sounds, smells, sights and feelings that brought the story to life.

Many of my stories are about food. I also use memorable locations, works of art, money, artists' implements, tools and electronic appliances. The things I use in my stories are never more important than my characters or their names, but they are vital in the atmosphere I want to create. When characters move about within a location the reader can easily visualise, and use or see props that are more than just props, the story comes alive, and is remembered as one of the most impressive things they have ever read, because it involved all their senses.
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Short VS Long Fiction: How to Choose

55 Short Stories from the New Yorker                           Image via Wikipedia
At some point or other, you are going to be faced with a choice between short and long fiction. Short stories versus the novel. Many readers find that they place themselves on one side or the other. Shall we look at the pros and cons of both?

Short stories are perfect for the kind of life we lead nowadays: most will take less than half an hour to read for most people.  In that short read, they get a whole story, from beginning to end, complete with climax and resolution. Short fiction can easily be read on a digital device, and is perfect for commutes, standing in line at the supermarket, or that half hour in a dentist's waiting room. With less to memorise about situations, characters and plots, they make instant entertainment real in reading. Collections of short stories are easily available: famous authors such as Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Nora Roberts, Rose Tremain and Joyce Carol Oates all have collected stories of theirs into collection volumes. There are even some excellent anthologies of different authors, all gathered in one book: what a smorgasbord this can be.

Novels, on the other hand, go into greater depth, and sketch out the finer details of character, demonstrating the talent of authors to show nuances and subtle personality traits. Situations, plots, locations: they all come to life in the hands of a capable author of fiction. The joy of delving into a novel that transports the reader to another time and place is not replaceable by any other kind of entertainment. It all takes place in your head, without intervention of another person's interpretation, as you would get in a movie.  A novel is an object of wonder and delight. A reader can dedicate whole evenings to a story, since the average novel takes about 6 hours to read, in all. No one can deny that the novel has been a great art form, that includes such great exponents as Victor Hugo, Virginia Woolfe, Ernest Hemingway, down to today's famous authors such as Richard North Patterson, Anita Shreve, and Jeffrey Archer.

So is there a real choice to be made? Yes - it is important to choose reading material appropriate for the time, place and state of mind. It might make a great deal of sense to read a discrete story that starts and finishes in one sitting, while snatching a peaceful interval on a hectic day. And it is very clever to choose a long novel to fill more than just a stolen half-hour: a long, long story that captures you with its detail and depth of revelation for a week.

Both short and long fiction have a place in a reader's life. And it is possible to choose. The real choice lies in which goes for which time and place. When it is better to read something on one sitting, and when there is time to savour something longer.
For one week only, a short story of mine, called The Day of the Bird, is being featured at Charissa Weaks's blog. You are very welcome to start the story there, and then finish it on its own page at my site: read Day of the Bird.
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How to Have an Ad-Free Blog

Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...Image via CrunchBaseExcept for a link to Amazon that features my first novel, you will note something about my blob that speaks louder than words. My blog is an ad-free zone. I have made this choice for a number of reasons. A few of them are below.

Let's talk about YOUR blog for a moment. Does your blog look very busy? Is it crammed with eye-catching elements, all competing for attention? Perhaps you should sit back and take a good look at your pages: look through new eyes. A newcomer's eyes. What do you really see? Write down the reasons visitors would stay on and read what you write.

Your topics need to be interesting, your pictures relevant. Your links should travel to expansions on the topic you chose. Entertainment, education, business: it does not matter what life area your blog is about. It simply needs to be interesting, and your writing needs to be vibrant and informative. It cannot simply be grey space that just supports your ads. Writing that is only a vehicle for your ads is wasted writing.

My blog is about books and writing. I try to provide little tidbits of information for fellow writers. I put in news about my own books. I talk about Death in Malta and According to Luke, my novels. I write about my research and the way I incorporate facts into my fiction.

Giving readers and visitors a break from ads can prove to be very refreshing. People tend to stay around longer, because there is no pressure to buy, no pressure to click on other items. A change is as good as a holiday. Enjoy your ad-free visit: it might be the only one you get all day.
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Keeping Track of What I Do !!

Maya inscriptions were most often written in c...Image via Wikipedia
Each new day is a haze of words: blogging, commenting, and reading the works of other fascinating writers. The pile of books in my room is growing, and my 'to read later' bookmarks increase. They seem to multiply on their own.

It cannot be too different for those of you who have a finger in a number of Web pies. One day is not enough to read all you want, visit all the sites you follow, and put in a decent wordcount of original writing as well.

But we have many aids to help us keep track of who to follow, what not to miss, what to keep an eye on, and hopefully, where to take up on our current work-in-progress. That's the hardest one, I think. The distractions available to take an author away from writing are so numerous and so fascinating, it's hard to pull yourself back into the discipline you swore you would observe.

It's not hard for YOU to keep track of ME. Simply click on follow, over here to your right... yes, right there! And you can find my new posts by going to your Blogger Dashboard. Remember to keep your dashboard up, so you can check on all the changes taking place on the blogs you follow. It's simple really.

All you have to do now is find the time to read everything. Easier said than done.

Wish me luck - I'm doing exactly the same thing.
I'll keep track of what I do... or what I need to do. Accompanied by bill-paying, repair-making, family guiding and housekeeping, it becomes a daily juggle that requires energy and staying-power. 
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Monday, September 6, 2010

Giving Your Characters Appropriate Names: and Making them Eternal

Sherlock Holmes                                     Image via Wikipedia
When a writer tells a story, by far the most important aspect is the characters that populate the narrative. They need to be given a life of their own: they need life breathed into them. Most authors will agree that deep and intimate knowledge of each and every character is essential: an author needs to not only create, but fully understand all characters in a piece of fiction.

So labeling them with appropriate names is important.  Many authors go to some length to ensure that the names they give their characters match their personalities. How can one do this without stereotyping them, or falling into the ridiculous by using sweet names for pleasant heroines and rugged labels for the baddies?

Thinking of landmark books and their characters might give an idea of what has gone before, and how the names of certain characters have stuck in the collective mind of readers: who can forget Scarlett in Gone With the Wind, and the equally memorable Rhett Butler? Even the name Robert Langdon conjures the mental impression of an earnest symbologist! 

A reader would have to admit that some novelists had great knack for chosing names that went on to become household names: Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Atticus Finch, Bridget Jones, Sydney Carton, Artemis Fowl and Holden Caulfield will never be forgotten, and will always instantly fetch for us the titles of the books in which they appear.

How do authors do this? What goes into finding good memorable names that make characters in books eternal? Use of a dictionary of names is vital to many authors. There are good ones to be had. Some are simple baby-naming books that give a brief indication of the possible meaning of names and their cultural origin. Such as "Erin (female) - Irish: poetical form for Ireland, meaning 'Western island." Sometimes all an author needs is a brief and simple line like that to name an Irish character, or a woman whose mother was Irish, for example.

Sometimes the first thing that comes to mind when writing a story is the character's name, but more often, an author needs to research a protagonist's character, delve deep into the personality, and then go on a search for a good solid name that represents the aspects of the character the author wants to make spring to the mind of the reader when the name is read. The Dictionary of First Names, by Leslie Dunkling and William Gosling is one of the most popular books among authors. It not only gives meanings and cultural origins, but also dates names to when they were most popular. Essie, for example, was a popular name in the 1860s, which is great information for an author of historical fiction looking for a pet name for someone christened Esther. it gives the impression of a desire to be less grandiose than the original name, or an affectionate diminutive used by a housekeeper for a parlour maid!

It is truly amazing what atmosphere and character a name can conjure.  A vision of power and strength by Maximus, a very common Roman name used by early Christians; a vision of studiousness and modesty by Crofton, an English surname often used as a first name between the wars; a vision of lighthearted glamour by Marilyn; a vision of seduction and flightiness by Salome; a vision of Jewish thrift and canniness by Reuben.

An author needs to find a good representative name as soon as they invent a character, because that name will seem to form and shape the personality, and have a lot to do with the activity, dilemmas and resolutions that need to be planned for the book's plot. Would a person called Sheree, for example, be likely to lead a band of underground subversive radicals plotting against a tyrannical government? In real life she might, but fiction would demand a stronger name than that. Perhaps Tess or Ruby would suggest her strength and sense of purpose better.

Finding good names that are not too common is impossible to do without a good dictionary. Even making a list of unusual names could prompt a writer with much inspiration, and perhaps lead to the creation of a totally new novel. What personalities do the following names suggest?

Eleazar, Bronwyn, Mardi, Ceridwen, Sorcha, Warwick, Ysanne, Anders, Chrisanda, Sergio and Vanslow. Each one seems to suggest some image of a person whose actions, deeds and exploits could easily form, or change, the very form of a novel.

It is really not possible to write a novel using any old name such as Bob or Ann and then hope to find better names later - the book will take on a totally different feel! Not that Bob or Ann are bad names. Far from it - in real life there are many Bobs and Anns who are wonderful people. But fiction is not exactly like real life, and needs to create in the mind of the reader the exact atmosphere and character the author intends. Attempting to change a character name at any later stage in the development of a novel will do amazing things to the action and tone. It seems unbelievable, but it does!

So what's in a name? In a novel, it suggests meaning, form, character, and all the aspects we have culturally learned to attach to names, such as strength, background, tendencies and habits, wealth, origin and culture. Something as simple as a name is what could make a book very popular, and could very well make a character eternal.


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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Historical Fiction and Religious Culture

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo (mosaic of J...                                              Image via WikipediaI have been asked a number of times what my new book is about, and I say it's a puzzle thriller because I like the term. It does deal with religion, however, and does touch upon history. How Justinian had two dreams that bade him build two places of worship in distinctly different places. How he owned a great number of religious scrolls: a library that was added to with increasing passion and scholarship.
I also wrote about the Fourth Crusade, and the great translocation of knights, soldiers, weapons and supplies that took place between Venice and Constantinople. It was a time when history and religion were very tightly woven, when events resounded on civilisations in more than just a social way. It was often hard to distinguish the effect on society of certain events whose resonances were religious, politcal, or very often both.
I discuss the way various writings were made, and how scribes were employed at various stages to copy, collate and disseminate the scriptures. 
I have touched upon all these things, in a necessarily light way, without too much unnecessary detail - in order to give depth and colour to a thriller that takes place in contemporary time. My protagonists use mobile phones, computers, and modern means of conveyance: down to a fast waterbus in Venice, very fast trains, and planes between the various destinations to which I sent them hurrying, in mad pursuit of each other.
Religious fiction is popular: it can also be controversial. But if an author is sensitive and respectful, a number of very interesting things happen when books of this nature are published. People tend to look things up, to 'check' if they are real, to 'check' the authenticity of the various details that are mentioned and used in the story. A visit to my website will provide more: I list a number of similar books within the genre, and give a lot of background information about the facts I used while creating this story.
What also happens with books like this is that people do tend to debate and discuss the subject, and do return to the scriptures to refresh their memories. No matter what one thinks about religion, this kind of research can never be bad. Going back to address in a fresh way the tenets and perceptions that we gathered in the past helps us to see them through new eyes. When put inside an entertaining and exciting story, they become an ingredient that goes beyond the ordinary.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Once upon a time...

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most ven...Image via Wikipedia
Once upon a time, there was an art conservator who was given a new job. At first, it did not strike her as different from all the other jobs she had done. She restored large numbers of paintings, and holy icons that bore the likeness of saints were nothing new. What was so special about this one? The curator in charge of the picture needed everything explained to him. Why did they send a novice with this important-looking artefact? Everything about this job was strange, including the x-rays they took and the technical images that popped up on her computer.

The conservator  soon found out what it was: another picture, hidden for many long centuries, was stuck underneath the one she could see. Why was it hidden, and by whom? She needed some explanation for this mystery, and the curator could only come up with answers she could find for herself. Or so she thought. Finding symbols that needed deciphering was not rare, but these were very unusual. And it seemed that there was someone else who thought so too. Someone, perhaps, whose footsteps could be heard following hers as she walked home through the silent winding streets of Venice, at the dead of night.

Telling a story to describe a story is the perfect way to describe how my forthcoming book starts. Even though you can access Chapter One and read it free on my website, telling it in this way brings a new kind of excitement to me too. Is it possible to be excited about a book that has shared my days for the last two years or so? It dogged my waking moments, baffled my efforts to plot it neatly, defeated my struggle to tell the story smoothly... but I got there in the end.

I re-wrote it several times, and even had to add a whole character one time, with the almost impossible task of weaving him seamlessly through the whole book so no one would notice he was an afterthought!

The book is now out of my hands, and instead of feeling baffled and defeated - which was something that went away when I found that the several re-writes had worked - I feel deflated and bereft. I can't play with it any more. I can't fiddle and re-work and re-write and edit. It's gone off and is in the hands of others as they design, collate and format it for the first print. The characters are what the characters are. The locations are there. It's going to be set in the concrete of publication.

So the story will be told, and readers will, I hope, benefit from the telling. I have striven for a satisfying ending, one that - with some effort - ties up all the ends. And there were many! Entertainment was my aim: and the creation of atmospheres, for readers to enjoy a vicarious trip through some romantic locations and startling situations.

Now one problem remains: how do I conjure the same feeling in my next book? Where shall I find my characters? And where shall I put them? What story shall I tell?
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