Going back to my (R&M) roots.


Three Short Blasts  (Medium)

Just sharing the cover for the forthcoming short story collection. Another cover I really like. I’m excited about this project.

I dithered about writing a blog-post this week. Because time is really stacked against me for reaching my targets before my Turkey time is up. And I didn’t help myself this week by adding significantly to my workload. But the blog is important and it’s my writer’s diary. So here goes with a brief entry.

In no particular order:

This week I read a non-fiction book that I would recommend to anyone who is writing or thinking of writing. It’s called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Great read. Entertaining, too. We think so much alike on so many aspects of writing, Steve and I. I now want to meet this guy and shake his hand. Awesome. (One thing we don’t agree on is listening to music while writing. SK says he listens to it; I can’t listen to music when I’m thinking and trying to write, not even classical. I can’t work with the distraction.)

Unhappy Families is still doing well. And it’s had over fifty reviews/comments on Amazon UK already. It’s not been out a month yet. Thanks to all involved anywhere with making this book a success.

Last Monday I started a writing job I’ve been putting off and putting off for over a year. And now I’m on it. Feelings-wise it’s been a mixed bag for me. Some good, some bad. I’m performing edits and overhauls of the first three R&M Files. It’s needed doing. And I’m doing it. But it’s going to take going on a month out of the time I’ve got left here.

I’ve been through Rope Enough twice, already. I’ve changed some stuff in line with general reader feeling for aspects of that read. There were two things in particular that I’ve had more negative feedback concerning than anything else: Romney’s apparent misogyny and the sex. I’ve addressed both. Toned one down and been less explicit on the other. Why? Because I’ve come to realise that these aspects of the book did not appeal to a certain reader demographic and the last thing I should be doing is putting people off my writing when what’s putting them off isn’t essential to the book or my writing or how I feel about my writing. I’ve written before that Rope Enough has always felt like a bit of a cuckoo in the Romney and Marsh Files’ nest. I feel less so about it now. That makes me happy. (Don’t worry: Romney is still Romney.) (On Romney – this week a reader got in touch and mentioned that Martin Shaw the actor would have made a good Romney. In his day I think he could have been perfect. Too old now. He’s seventy!!!!!!)

Romney remains stiff towards Marsh in book one but from book two he is now calling her Joy and not Sergeant Marsh all the time, which has been embarrassing to read. In fact first names are being used a lot more now (but not Romney’s. He remains ‘sir’ to his subordinates or ‘guv’. That’s the way that it is.) And in books one and two I kept referring to Romney as ‘the DI’ (it seems so… TV show cop-drama). Dumb and cringeworthy. He’s now just Romney. Romney, Romney, Romney. And why, oh, why, in Rope Enough did I keep referring to CID as ‘the squad room’? (Hot flush creeps up neck.)

I’ve been embarrassed by other things in these read-throughs. (A reason I’ve been putting it off. I knew I would.) To cut a long, self-critical story short, let’s just say that I feel I’ve improved quite a bit as a writer over the few years I’ve been at it. I needed to. Looking back at these early texts I’ve been spotting all sorts of mistakes: grammar, language, sense, punctuation, structure, tense… get the picture? (Not spelling because readers helped me a lot with those errors and I fixed those a while back.)

I gave myself a crash course in the use of commas before I got going. (Better late than never.) I’ve got the six main rules on Post-its above my desk. Applying those rules as best as I can over these three books is proving quite an intense, concentrated and educational exercise. But I’ll tell you what: knowing something about commas makes you look at your writing differently. Understanding a comma rule can unlock vision in sentence structure, for example. I’ve changed a number of sentences about to make them better in several regards, simply because I understood them better because of my new knowledge and insight. (I know what I’m talking about and that’s what matters.)

I’ve also increased the number of chapters in each of the books and cut down on the word count. Example: Rope Enough was 80,000 words. It’s now just under 77,000 words. (That wasn’t all Romney being horrible about women and having sex.) It was 16 chapters. It’s now 46! (Shorter chapter length, like shorter senence length, gives an idea of increased pace. It works.)

I’m still working on the other two books Making a Killing and Joint Enterprise but they are following similar patterns.

The positives? Despite doing a lot of cringing and tutting and punching myself in the face from time to time, I get one thing about these books that has pleased me. They are each good stories. I’m basically enjoying reading them again – getting back to my Romney and Marsh roots. I think that a yardstick of my reflected feelings is that even with all the English errors, and misogyny and objectionable explicit sex and overlong chapters and wooly sentences in Rope Enough it’s still had a lot of good reviews and ratings.

I strongly believe I’m making these books better reads.

One of the two reasons that I’ve never commissioned print on demand books for the R&M Files is because I’ve always known that the early ones needed work. Probably still do. I’m so glad I hung on. I’d feel particularly bad if I thought that there were physical copies of these books out there with all these errors in that could never be changed. I’d be hunting them down and burning them. The beauty of epublishing is that you can change your work every day if you want to and then readers can simply upload the updated version if they choose to. (I think.)

I haven’t uploaded any revised versions yet. I’m going to finish doing all three books and then read them all again back-to-back. Then I’ll upload. I’ve also got to update front and back matter and blurbs for all of my books with links and stuff. I want them all to be as good (make that correct) as I can make them before I push off ‘cos when I get back to the UK I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to write and do all of this shizzle.

Oh yeah, something that is really cheesing me off at the moment is my aging laptop. I think it’s ill. When I’m halfway through typing a sentence it keeps changing lines so that half the sentence is on the right line and half of it is in the middle of a line up the page. Lots of messing around and frustration with that. I’m saving for a new one.

Finally, apologies for all the spelling, punctuation and other errors in this post. I’m in a rush.

Eleven weeks and counting! Holy crap.!

8 thoughts on “Going back to my (R&M) roots.

  1. I’m glad you are able to re-evaluate your work and find ways to improve it, although these books have always been great reads. The most important thing about these edits/re-evaluations is that they will influence your future work, making that better from the outset and hopefully, ensuring that it isn’t a process you will need to repeat.

    As foe the laptop, mine does that all the time and it isn’t a year old. Perhaps a good clear out might help. Try downloading a C cleaner.

    Keep up the good work


    • Thanks, Dawn. I am enjoying reading them again. It’s been good to get in touch with the earlier Files again.
      I’m definitely learning from doing this job too. It’s only these three books that I feel the need to do it with. Hopefully, I’ll never feel the need to do it again!
      Yes, I think I need some sort of cleaning programme for my laptop or a new one. This one has really done me pround. I’ve written all my books on it. Maybe it could go in a museum! Or my coffin when the time comes.
      Best wishes.

  2. You are leaving Turkey? For good? Are you going to have to get a job in the UK?
    As for the lap top, I found that when mine did what yours is doing it was due to brushing over the mouse pad (can’t explain it any better than that).

    • Hi Emmy,
      Just leaving for a few months to attend to things back home. But I’ll be back after the summer for a while. You can’t get rid of me that easily.
      I think this laptop is on its last legs. It’s an excuse to buy a new one 🙂
      Best wishes.

  3. Hi Oliver,

    This was an interesting posting in many aspects! First, King’s book, On Writing, is required reading for advanced high school students in my city and is considered to be as important as the Strunk style book, first published in the 70’s, I think. And since I use a lot of commas and notice their lack in much prose, I commend your interest in the lowly punctuation mark! Its use can certainly aid in understanding the writer’s intent. Many a time I’ve had to reread a sentence that was unclear because there was, either incorrect or, no punctuation. Finally, please don’t succumb to the James Patterson style of writing (although you might like his bank account). Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs, and short chapters make sound bites of books. Some words that need looking up for some and long, complicated sentences, are sometimes welcome if appropriate to the tale.

    Much luck in completing your self-imposed tasks before leaving for the UK. I hope you’ll enjoy, at least, some parts of being “home” for awhile.

    Best to you, Dianne

    • Hi Dianne
      Thanks for your comment.
      I thoroughly enjoyed King’s book. I didn’t realise it had been written so long ago and I’m very interested/surprised to learn of its prescribed reading status in the US.
      I have quite enjoyed aspects of learning about punctuation the more I write. It certainly helps!
      As for going shor-order on everything, have no fear. I’m sure the gent who does my proofreading will bear testimony to my unrelenting habit of writing over-long fflowery sentences.
      I think that i won’t be getting much sleep between now and mid-April. I’m desperate to ffinish B&C#3 on top of everything else.
      Best wishes.

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