Saturday 24 September 2011

Unfinished Business

I had a lovely day yesterday. I was delighted to see a wonderful for Beat On The Brat over at Psycho Noir to follow on from a lovely piece by Elisabeth White earlier in the week.  It's great to see such feedback and it really boost my energy levels hugely. 

I was also honoured to have a piece at one of my favourite fiction sites, Shotgun Honey.  

The story is about riots, the seed of which was planted in me over 25 years ago when watching police on wasteland throwing rocks at each other to prepare for what was to come.  If I write this properly, you'll see the significance of that later.

On Thursday night I was thoroughly entertained by Allan Guthrie and Len Wanner at an even they held in Edinburgh.

Len has recently put out a collection of interviews with Scottish crime-writers which would seem to have a depth and curiosity in them that digs deeply into the authors and their craft.  It looks rather good.

Among the things discussed on Thursday was revisiting e-books to have improved copies available.

It's not something I've given much thought to.

Len, possibly as devil's advocate, was suggesting that a piece of art such as a novel might be best left in a 'final' perfect state.

Allan, on the other hand, holds a strong position on this.  If it can be improved, it should be and that every book can be improved in some way.

He talked about alterations made to Slammer (one of my favourites) as he moved it from a tree-novel to an e-book (UK only, I think).  I makes sense that there was a little ironing and snipping here and there.  Why not?

As he said, if the work is improved, the people who benefit are the readers.

Which took us to the subject of editing.

I think of Allan as the man who opened the curtains for British Crime fiction as it currently stands.  A genius, without doubt, talented in spades and generous to a fault.

With no false humility, he explained how his books might well have other names on his covers as shared credits.  His point, I think, was that no matter how good a book might be when a writer finishes, it will normally take a fresh look from experienced eyes to point out what works and what doesn't and how things might be changed.

Criticism, then, is a vital part of the process.  Few of us, the Great Guthrie included, can get away from that.

Allan suggested that Slammer could have the names Ray Banks, Stacia Decker and Stuart MacBride as assists or even as co-authors.  Imagine having those guys in your corner.  Bam.

Which brings me back to those police throwing stones.

My story started with this, a long intro where I re-lived this powerful moment of my youth.  I loved it.  It felt like the most important section for me.  I sent it in to the excellent Crimeficwriters and got the usual excellent pointers.

And then in stepped AJ Hayes.  The guys a master.  Honestly.

I trust his opinion absolutely.

I wanted to hear the 'it's pure genius and don't you dare touch a hair on its head' stuff, but I got a thought about rearranging the whole thing.   It would involve amputation.  Removal of the heart and lungs.  Getting rid of the cornerstone.

That was the next part. 

There's not point in asking for advice and then dismissing it out of hand.

I thought about it.  Thought about it some more.  Waited until the penny dropped and out came the saw.

You can't judge, but I can guarantee you that the story is twice as good now as it was.  AJ deserves a co-editor assist on Stones In Me Pockets.  Big thanks. 

Big thanks to R Thomas Brown for offering his thoughts.

This is especially relevant to me on the day I finish my first re-read of my novel.  It's now as I'd like it.  Feels good.  Ticks all of my boxes.  I think it's great. 

Now I'm off to send it to my trusted readers so they can tell me the truth of it all.  'See those woods there?  That's an oak, fool.  And next to it is an horse-chestnut.  Where the hell are your glasses, man?'



  1. Nigel I agree so much that having trusted people read your work is so valuable. They often don't need to give in depth criticism but just a few little words from them can make a huge difference too. This is why we benefit so much from being part of a large circle of writers on the internet. Without the support and encouragement I receive from some very generous individuals, I would soon lose heart and give up.

    It's so interesting to discover that someone as experiences as Mr. Guthrie also feels the same.

  2. You've always been a tremendous help on my work. And AJ knows what he's doing too.

  3. Thanks for the hat tip, mate. But you did all the work. Stones is a good'un. Always was.