As time goes by (in the life of Riley).

Unhappy Families (Large)

I found a great way to sort out my Acer#4 concern this week. It was simple, quick and painless, and I didn’t feel the need to butcher any of what I’d already written. My yardstick for my writing is whether I’m ‘happy’ with it – generally that’s proved quite a reliable measure regarding how readers will feel about the books – and now I am.

If you don’t want to know what I did don’t read the rest of this paragraph… What I did was move chapter fifteen to the beginning of the story and called it chapter one. It works. I’m ‘happy’ with the result. And I haven’t given anything away there that wouldn’t become obvious immediately on starting the book.

I’ve added to the word count this week but not at the rate that I was with R&M#7. Extenuating circumstances on the child-minding front, for one thing. For another, I always seem to end up having to do some online research for my Acer books and that takes time. But what I’m learning is really interesting. I just feel a little guilty that the time I’m spending on the project isn’t all going into writing the thing. Well it is, obviously, but you know what I mean. Probably.

Another thing that got in the way of progress with Acer this week is that I had a run through Unhappy Families (R&M#6). I read it over two days. I like it. I like to think it will be able to hold its head up in the R&M canon. There’s only one thing that has given me a nagging doubt over the first go at it with the highlighters: I hardly marked the manuscript at all. And most of my marks are to do with punctuation or words repeated too closely together for my liking. I’ve changed nothing of the structure. I haven’t shifted any paragraphs about. (I did delete one redundant paragraph.) Usually the first run through adds a lot of pink or blue or green or yellow or orange to the black and white. At the moment I’m thinking that either A: I’m getting better and more accurate at writing a first draft. (Didn’t Malcolm Gladwell say something about ten thousand hours of practice making one an expert in something?); B: I’m getting less observant (going a bit blind) or C: these days I’m just highly conceited about the quality of my writing. Let’s see what happens after the next go.

(I wonder if I’ve still got the receipt for those high-lighters.)


Did anyone else see that Amazon is opening bookshops now?


I’m currently reading a hugely enjoyable book called March Violets. It’s the first in the highly successful and critically acclaimed Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr. Gunther is a wise-cracking PI in Nazi Germany.

As well as being an enjoyable read it’s reinforcing something for me as both a reader and a writer. I like to be made to laugh with the written word, especially in a crime novel. Kerr has given me a few chuckles. One priceless witticism is where Gunther refers to the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute as fingernail inspection. Lots more in there that are new to me. I like it a lot. I think I’ll be reading more of Bernie Gunther.

(Since starting this post on Friday I’ve read more of the Gunther novel. About fifty percent in a woman comes into his life – to labour a point, someone he’s never met before or heard anything about aka a total stranger! – who he proceeds to start using immediately as a confidant and partner investigator. He sends her out on an intelligence finding mission and then takes her to a breaking and entering he needs to do. WTF? I’m not finished with the book yet. I sincerely hope that she gets shot in the head soon or something. Shame because Bernie Gunther was shaping up as a decent loner gum-shoe type.)

PB: 5km 19.54

12 thoughts on “As time goes by (in the life of Riley).

  1. I am a great fan of the Bernie Gunther books, especially the first three: March Violets, The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem. Philip Kerr then left a big gap before he came back to the BG books, and the later ones don’t have quite as much grip as early ones. Glad you found them – they’re darkly enjoyable and well written.

    • Yes, I saw on his website that he took quite a break from them. Seems strange to me that he would abandon a decent series for so long. His other projects must have had a strong calling. As I said, I like his humour. But I’m not keen on the introduction of the new secretary. Not yet, anyway. Plenty of the book to go.

  2. Morning Oliver,
    Glad Acer’s going well. That thing you did with changing over chapters I have done before on two books and it does work. But I found it was when I’d written quite a few thousand words that it suddenly clicked where the story began.
    Best wishes.

    • Hi Pat
      You’re up early!
      Funny how that worked out with Acer. It feels like a bit of a cheat, although I couldn’t say why. It definitely works and give the book a better opening. I doubted it was anything original. And yes, I agree, sometimes you do need to write a bit before it becomes clear where the story begins.
      Best wishes.

      • I’m always up early, as I’m trying to get a book out for Xmas but have not even finished it yet, and still don’t know whodunit. As for re-arranging chapters, paragraphs, or even sentences, I feel should not be considered cheating as our thought processes, at the time of writing, go off on tangents every so often, therefore refer to the process of re-arranging, as editing.

      • Thank you. Your editing comment makes perfect sense. I feel better about it already. I do swap paragraphs and sentences about. Why not chapters?
        You have a task ahead of you if you haven’t finished the book yet.Good luck!
        As you probably know I’m a make it up as I go along type of guy and I enjoy not knowing who the guilty party is sometimes. It makes for a more interesting write I think.
        Best wishes

      • See, with age comes wisdom, but not a lot of patience. Sounds like an old Chinese proverb, doesn’t it, but I’ve been firing on all four cylinders for the past few days, even made my son laugh yesterday. Take care. 🙂

  3. Firstly Oliver – I LOVE the cover for Unhappy Families and I know that I will be able to judge this book by its cover (and past experience of the series)

    Editing – you do what you need to but know when to stop. You may not have used much highlighter colour on your draft but the acid test will be when you get it back from your proofreader. If his highlighter pen is as redundant as your own, then I think you can say you’ve cracked it – for this book at least. The next one may be the same, or you may find that you have to rewrite great chunks of it – so much depends on the brain flow at the time of writing. Take it as it comes.

    I haven’t heard of the Bernie Gunther series but it sounds as though he has let himself & his readers down by introducing a stranger as a confidante and co-investigator during a period where no-one could really trust anyone – not even people they knew well. Just my opinion of course.

    Looking forward to UF immensely – do you have any ideas of a publicaton date?

    Take care

    • Hi Dawn
      Thanks for your comment.
      Good to know the cover works for you. As I said in a previous post I still like the themes and layouts of the R&M covers. I believe that they are recognisable as a series and this one fits well into that.
      Yesterday’s second reading added a little more colour to the manuscript – I think I was just looking for stuff to change in the end. I’ve sent it off to my gentleman friend today. (If it aint broke, don’t fix it.) As you say, I’ll see what he makes of it.
      I edit a bit as I go – when I open the file in the morning I always read through what I wrote the day before and change anything that needs it – so that has contributed to my lack of scribbling on this one.
      The Gunther novel really did start well. I’ve read a bit more since posting and I can’t help feeling that the second half isn’t as good as the first. Here’s hoping it picks up again soon.
      As for publication date of UF? I definitely want to get it out for Christmas. I will have to wait and see how my gentleman friend’s work commitments impact on time scales. I’d like to get #7 out for Christmas too as it’s a sort of Christmas themed story but that might be pushing it.Whatever happens I’ll be posting updates regularly on the blog.
      Best wishes and thanks again.

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