The past week has been a bit of a strange one. For the last sixteen months I have been working on one book or another, however when I sent the manuscript for my latest novel to my agent last Monday I suddenly found myself in the rather unusual position of not having a book to work on. No edits to work through, no copyedits, no galley proofs to check. It’s all a bit weird to say the least.
So what have I been doing? Sunning myself at my Caribbean beach house or cruising the Med in my yacht? I wish. No, I’ve been spending my time avoiding doing my accounts while I dream up ideas for the next book. I’ve also had time to catch up on some reading (look out for Shame On You, Amy Heydenrych’s stunning debut - it’s out in the summer). And last Tuesday I was at Villandry in London for a rather splendid lunch with some crime journalists and book trade. This week I have a couple of articles to write (which should keep me out of trouble). Needless to say my accounts still aren’t done and I will no doubt expending vast amounts of energy avoiding doing them!
Kiss Me Kill Me only 98p
The big news this week is that KISS ME KILL ME can now be snapped up for the bargain price of 98p from Amazon and 99p from iTunes. Bestselling author Rachel Abbott says you will think you know where it's going - but you'll be wrong. And Lee Child called it magnificent. I’d love to know what you guys think.
In other news, I’m halfway through the second draft of the new standalone. So far it seems to be going well. This is probably my favourite drafts. The words are still fresh and I feel like I’m starting to turn the story into an actual novel. With the first draft I have a tendency to overwrite. I want to know everything that happens in the story; I want to see all the angles. With the second draft I’m trying to see the story from the reader’s perspective. What do you guys actually need to know to lose yourself in the story. I think it’s a bit like being a film director, where I’m honing the scenes to create the maximum impact with as little padding as possible. In other words, I’m looking for all killer and no filler!
One of the (many) weird things about being a writer is how you can be working on one book one minute and talking about another that you wrote a year ago the next. Kiss Me Kill Me came out a couple of weeks ago, so it’s safe to say that that one is very much on my radar. However, while all that hoo-ha has been going on, I’ve been quietly working away on the next standalone. And I’m happy to report that it is now finished.
Actually, when I say finished, it’s not actually finished finished. What I mean is that I’ve come to the end of the first draft. Because the truth of the matter is that it will never be finished. Even when it finally gets published there will inevitably be things that I would like to change … that’s the curse of being a writer I guess.
Anyway, next week I’ll be back working on draft 2. The first job is to read through the whole thing. This is one of my favourite parts of the process because it’s the closest I ever get to experiencing what it’s like to read it like an actual book. There will be parts I like, and parts I don’t like but that doesn’t matter. For me the second draft is all about getting rid of the rubbish parts and enhancing the good bits. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Three, Two, One … We Have Lift Off!
Publication day was a blast. The first reader reviews came in and it was great hearing from people who had read the book. Writing a novel is a long old process. In the case of KISS ME KILL ME the first draft was started back in February 2016, so for most of the past two years this book has belonged solely to me. That all changed on Thursday, because now it’s out there in the big wide world. It’s always really exciting to finally throw the doors open and share what you’ve written.
In other news, the wonderful team at Bonnier has set up a blog tour that will last until March 17. Expect articles, Q&As and reviews galore. Talking of which, I gotta dash. There’s still a couple of articles that I need to finish off.
Four More Sleeps
Kiss Me Kill Me is published on Thursday, so as you can imagine things have been a bit full-on here. The blog tour starts the same day, so I’ve had a load of articles to write. When I’m writing a novel I have no trouble getting down to work. Stick a CD on the stereo, pull out the keyboard, and get going. Writing articles is different. It’s like homework in that I’m going to find a hundred and one things to do to avoid it. So far I’ve got seven written, so I’m almost there. Which is just as well given that the book comes out in four days.
In case you’re wondering, I haven’t quite finished the first draft of the new book. I was hoping to have this finished by now but the characters weren’t quite ready to let me go. Not that I’m complaining. This draft is now over 120,000 words which means that I don’t have to worry about the novel disappear to nothing when I start the second draft.
Anyway, I need to get back to those articles - they ain’t going to write themselves. Roll on Thursday. Fingers crossed you guys like Kiss Me Kill Me.
Are We There Yet?
You know that point near the end of a long haul flight where you’re thinking “enough already just land the damn plane”? Well that’s where I’m at with the new book. I tend to use the slow and steady approach. Fifteen hundred words a day, every day. The big plus with this approach is that when I start a first draft I have a relatively good idea of when I’m going to finish it. That works for me. I’d hate to be in a situation where I have to write 5,000 words a day because I’ve put things off until the last minute and I’ve got a deadline to chase. When you’ve got an anxiety disorder, there’s enough stress in your life without adding more!
I’m currently at 94,584 words (and no I’m not going to round down to 94,000 because at this stage every word counts … and I’m not going to round up either cos that would be cheating!). When I start a new novel I’m aiming for the 100,000 mark. If I manage to get over that then that’s a bonus since it means that I can be brutal with the editing in the next draft. Basically I’ll hit the magical 100,000 some time this week. As for when I’m going to get to the end, it’s looking like I’m going to finally land at some point the following week.
Spielberg Watch Out!
The one thing they don’t tell you when you get into this game is that the writing is only a part of it. As well as churning those words out you need to be a public speaker, an accountant, a businessman, a social media guru, and now I can add film-maker and scorer onto that list. Okay, so the trailer I’ve done for KISS ME KILL ME might have been overlooked by the Oscars and the Baftas but I had a lot of fun doing this!
That said composing the music was a lot easier than doing the visuals. Grab a spooky ascending chromatic line, get the strings chugging, borrow shamefully from Bernard Hermann, job done. The visuals weren’t so easy. My brain just isn’t wired that way. I can paint with words, I can paint with music, but the visual arts have always been a challenge. Anyway here it is. See what you think.
BTW the new book is still going okay. I’ve now passed the 87,000 word mark … kind of got an idea how it might end!
Back To The Grindstone
So Christmas is a distant memory and it’s time to get back to work. I’m probably not alone in saying that my motivation levels haven’t quite been as high as I would like. That said, I seem to have had a productive week. My accounts are now up to date, so I’m feeling pretty righteous about that one - before I start polishing my halo, however, it’s worth noting that the last time I did them was about five months ago!
And before you ask, yes I did get some writing done. You know, it’s the weirdest thing. Any time I have a break I manage to convince myself that I can no longer write (hence the reason that my accounts are now up to date). Thankfully when I did eventually get down to it, I found that if I wrote one word, then another, I would eventually have a sentence; if I put enough sentences together I ended up with a paragraph; collect together enough of those and I’ve got a chapter. Business as usual, in other words. By the end of the week I’d passed 80,000 words and was managing to hit my target of 1500 words a day, which means that I should (fingers crossed) have this draft finished by the end of the month. I guess all I’ve got to do now is work out where this one is going to end…
Okay I admit it, I haven’t done much in the way of writing this week. The thing is last Friday I realised that I’d reached the end of the second section of the new novel. Now I guess I could have made a start on the third section, but I would just have been getting into it and then have to stop for Christmas. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
So what did I do this week? Good question. I made a start on getting my accounts up to date, which is as much fun as it sounds. I also visited the dentist and had a tooth pulled out, which was almost as much fun as doing my accounts.
Thursday morning was fun though. I’ve always had a thing for the old Christmas songs. White Christmas, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Winter Wonderland. The melodies on those songs are just about as perfect as you’re ever going to get. One of my favourites has always been Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song. That’s the one that starts with Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… Anyway, I spent the morning recording it and this is what I came up with. https://soundcloud.com/james-carol/the-christmas-song-chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire-james-carol
All that’s left is for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Let’s hope 2018 is a good one!
Back at the end of the summer my daughter was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. When she went back to school after the holidays it quickly became apparent that she was struggling. By half term her anxiety had become so bad that she had what can only be described as a breakdown. What has become clear is that mainstream education won’t work for her, so we are now looking for an alternative. As you can imagine, this is not a straightforward process! On a brighter note, my daughter seems to be recovering. It’s a long, slow process but things seem to be finally moving in the right direction.
Writing-wise I’ve been busy. KISS ME KILL ME is now finished and I can’t wait for you guys to get hold of this one. Now that I’ve got to this point I can actually take a step back and say that I’m really pleased with how it has come out … it’s been a hell of a journey though! The latest round of edits for Jefferson Winter #5 have been done as well, and the manuscript is now back with my agent. For the last week or so I’ve been able to get back to working on the next standalone. This one’s currently called Black Roses. I’m almost 60,000 words into this, and so far so good. It’s still early days but I’m having a blast. Watch this space…
Okay I admit it, I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times. Now, the problem with writing novels is that while you might aim for perfection, the chances of attaining it are zilch. Put it this way, I’ve got more chance of waking up tomorrow and discovering that Bill Gates has transferred all of his money into my bank account. Sure it’s possible, but it’s not very likely, is it? At some point I finally have to let go, and that’s hard. Each and every book is a labour of love. I spend months and months writing them. What if everyone hates it? Believe me, I can understand why some writers hide their manuscripts away and refuse to show them to the world!
The copyedit of KISS ME KILL ME is almost done. At some point during the next month the review copies will be going out. For me the letting-go process is a slow one that needs to be taken one step at a time, and that’s a huge step into the unknown. Before that happens, I need a smaller step … I need to dip my toe in the ocean. The prologue and first two chapters have just gone up on my website. This is the first step. I hope you like it… http://www.james-carol.com/kiss-me-kill-me-excerpt
Roll On February
Every now and again I get the opportunity to leave my writing cave and meet and talk to real people. This makes a change from spending my days communing with the imaginary people inside my head. So on Tuesday I headed down to London. My first stop was the café at John Lewis on Oxford Street for a meeting with my agent, Camilla. A good agent is hard to find, but I’ve been blessed because Camilla is in a league of her own. Not only is she a shit-hot negotiator, she is also a shit hot editor. This means that by the time my books actually get out into the industry I know they’re in pretty good shape.
After lunch we headed to Marylebone to meet the fine folk at Bonnier. KISS ME KILL ME isn’t being published until February but the ball starts rolling now. It was great to sit down and hear their ideas; it was also great to get swept up in their enthusiasm. Bonnier is such a dynamic company to be working with and it’s reassuring to know that KMKM is in such good hands.
It’s easy to think of writing as a solitary pursuit and in some ways it is. After all, it’s up to me to get the words down onto that page. However, getting a book published is anything but a solitary pursuit. That one is a team effort, and I’m fortunate to have a great team supporting me.
Hit That Target!
‘How do you write a book?’ According to Stephen King it’s one word at a time. The answer no doubt gets a couple of laughs when he delivers it, but there’s a whole lot of truth in there too. Because that’s exactly how you write a book. You type one word, then another, and lo and behold if you type enough of them you end up with a novel. The thing is you’re going to end up typing a hell of a lot of words to get there. I’d estimate that for a hundred thousand word novel, I must type at least a half a million words.
So how do you keep going? A hundred thousand words is a big ask, but half a million… doing that is as dumbass as climbing Everest in Speedos. That’s where targets come in. One of the first things I do on a Monday morning is set a target for the week. That gives me somewhere to aim all those words. This week, for example, I wanted to get the latest draft of KISS ME KILL ME finished. Most times I hit my targets; this week I didn’t. That doesn’t matter though because sitting here now I’m a lot further on than I was last week at this time. Basically there’s only one part left to do, which I should manage to get done tomorrow. If you want to know how I’m going to do that, well, it’s going to be done one word at a time, of course!
The Whoosh Of The Deadline
Weekly Update (17/9/17)
The late great Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” All joking aside, balancing deadlines is one of those things they don’t tell you about when you get into writing. There is something appealing about the idea of disappearing into your writing cave and doing battle with that empty white page, taking your time to hone every word and sentence to perfection. But the reality is that you don't work alone, nor do you have unlimited time to achieve a state of transcendental perfection.
This week I’ve been going through my agent’s comments on the fifth Winter book; next week I’ll be back to working on the Kiss Me Kill Me line edits from my editor. The thing is I haven’t finished with the Winter book yet which is a bit of a pain in the ass since I’m having a lot of fun with that one at the moment. The problem is that KMKM is out in Feb, and the copywriter is booked, so I need to prioritise that one. It’s all a bit of a tightrope act but somehow I manage to stay up there in the clouds.
Searching Through The Dark
Weekly Update (10/9/17)
People find it strange that I can jump from book to book, but for me it’s normal. This week I got to dust off the fifth Winter book and make a start on draft 3. It’s been a while since I did anything on this one, which is both a good and a bad thing. On the plus side I’m able to approach it with a fresh set of eyes. This means that I can be more objective – at least I can be as objective as I’m able to be given that I wrote it.
The downside was that for the first few days I was reacquainting myself with the book and wondering what the hell I was going to do with it. During that time I kept busy dealing with the easy stuff (spelling, typos, queries from my agent that didn’t require too much thought). Halfway through the week I started to see where I could actually make significant changes that would improve the novel. This is always an exciting time. I guess it’s a little like slipping from one parallel universe to another. Everything looks kind of the same, but it’s different. There’s a long way to go, but I’m really excited to see where this one goes.
All Work And No Play…
Weekly Update (6/9/17)
Last week I wrote a grand total of zero words. This isn’t as big a disaster as it sounds. Instead of being sat at my desk I was in a tent in Dorset. The campsite we were on was right next to the Swanage railway line – sitting outside our tent watching the steam trains go past was pretty special, like travelling back in time.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is that it’s impossible to leave the office, particularly when you love what you do. There’s always an email to respond to, or a tweet to be tweeted, and, of course, there’s that book to be written. For the sake of what little sanity I have left, I need to step off the merry-go-round every once in a while. It’s nice just hanging out with my family without a million and one distractions getting in the way. Of course, the fact that my phone comes on holiday too isn’t ideal, but the beauty of camping is that it’s a challenge to get it charged – that means it’s switched off more than it’s on! That's got to be a step in the right direction, right?
Welcome To Reality...
Weekly Update (27/8/17)
Every now and then I have to make a trip to the real world. I try to keep these visits to a minimum as I believe that reality is highly overrated. I'd much rather be hanging out in my writing cave, playing with my imaginary friends!
Seriously though, being a writer isn't all about writing books. I wish it was, but it's not. So this week I have been doing all those jobs that I've been putting off. My website has been tweaked, my accounts are up to date (and this time they were only three months out of date, which is pretty good for me). The thing is that being a writer is a job, and like all jobs there are bits I like (the writing), and the bits that are more like, well for want of a better word, like work (everything else).
Thankfully these trips to reality tend to be short lived. I'm sure that my own peculiar brand of normality will be restored soon enough!
The End Is Near!
Weekly Update (22/8/17)
Just hit send on the latest draft of Kiss Me Kill Me and sent it tumbling off into cyberspace. Always a bit of a weird one. On the one hand I feel as though I've finished something, but the thing with writing a novel is that it's never quite finished. In a few weeks time I'll get the line edits back from my editor ... then there's the copyediting ... and the proofreading. And with each stage of the process something will need changed. Even when it's finally published, it's still not finished. I can't look at the book without seeing something I would have done differently .. although by this point there's nothing I can do about it. Which is probably a good thing, You need to let go some time!
That said, there's a definite sense that the end is in sight. Before sending the manuscript back to my editor, I did a read through, and it's really starting to read like a book. The writing's getting tighter and leaner, and that's the way I like it. All killer and no filler. Hell by the time it gets through the next couple of rounds of editing I might even achieve that. And if I don't, well there's always the next book.