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Monday interview with John Hudspith

Monday interview with John Hudspith.

Am I unique? Don’t think so…

Am I unique? Don’t think so…. Outlining, planning, checking, recording, reordering, editing, transcribing, checking, editing, beta reading, editing, checking, editing again . . . each writer has his own ideas on how to get that story into readable and reliable shape. Here, eloquent wordsmith Prue Batten reveals her meticulously reliable process of creation:

The Pleasure of Writing

Six months ago Jessica Smith got in touch. She was looking for an editor, could I take a look at Godcorp her debut novel.

After reading the opening chapters I had one word for Jessica: Wow! cover27

Godcorp was an editor’s dream. This was a natural storyteller, and the story she had to tell was unique, fresh and the writing of the kind that scrabbles at you from the page and devours your time in no time. A page-turner. It is rare that I would recommend any writer to approach a film studio, but I could easily see Godcorp on the big screen, no doubt about that. Send the big players a copy of this, I said, with a note on it saying `Make me an offer`.

Watch this space, because Godcorp is a creation of genius, an imaginative supernatural chiller that bounces along with its tongue in its cheek as it sucks you into its marvellously meaty maw. Working on Godcorp turned out to be a creative blast as we honed the elements, stretched the imaginative, polished the drive along the twists and turns of a plot unpredictable to its end.

A week after completion Jessica sent me the start of Godcorp II and I was wowed once again. Rarely does a sequel better its predecessor, but here the tack was changed and the emotionally-packed result was so good, so real, it literally was storytelling Heaven and editing bliss.

Yesterday we signed off Godcorp II. An hour later, Jessica sent me this:

`– a testimonial.

Johnny and I have just signed off my second novel and I have to say I couldn’t be happier. Johnny is an incredible editor. He polishes, he chisels, he sculpts along with you, until you are left with a stronger, healthier, much more vibrant version of your original vision. I can’t thank him enough.

Working with Johnny on both Godcorp I and II has been a tremendous experience. He gets it. He lives it with you. His suggested additions are always flawless. They integrate with your style with seamless fluidity. Your characters speak through his words in the same way they’d speak in your head. That’s an incredible talent, I feel, and one that’s been so very useful throughout this project.

His eyes are hawk-like, picking up any bits of fluff collecting in the corners, and testing every single word for substance. His ideas are wonderful. I’ve also been lucky enough to receive some gems from his very own muse, and wow, were they sparkly!

I could rave for hours about how wonderful his talents are, as many others have done before me, but there are two other things in particular I’d like to mention:

1. The enjoyment factor. Working with Johnny is great fun. The sight of an email in my inbox with freshly edited chapters provokes a massive rush of excitement. It’s a great experience. It’s enlightening, it’s challenging, it’s all-round goddamn BRILLIANT! You will feel that too, working with him is a real buzz.

2. The learning experience. Johnny is so knowledgeable of the writing craft, and his advice so sound, that you cannot help but learn from him. Two books in and I see things in my writing that I’ve learnt as a direct result of his input. Recently I read through one of my old short stories. I tore the thing apart in seconds. This was solely down to Johnny. I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve learnt from his edits, I’ve raised my game as a result of his meticulous approach. It’s made me a much better author, undeniably. I saw the story with fresh eyes, immediately picking out weak spots, potential improvements, overwriting and general fluff – it was an undeniable moment of realisation that working with Johnny has improved my craft beyond recognition.

He will improve yours too. You won’t regret it. Not for one single second.`

Jessica Smith

Author of the Godcorp series.

~~~~~~

The smile was still on my face when the outline for Godcorp III dropped in my inbox.

Three hours and ten emails later and the outline’s basic shape was settled upon; a skeleton waiting for its flesh. And I’ll get to help dress that skeleton, pick the lint from its finery, make it shine.

Thank you, Jessica and Godcorp.

That is the pleasure of writing.

A Writing Masterclass Success

Shani knew there was something not quite right with her opening chapters but didn’t know what.

She asked if I could put my finger on it.

So I did.

After identifying the problem areas, we did a masterclass, shaping and honing those skewed elements and ensuring a good understanding was achieved.

My enormously apt pupil Shani Struthers had this to say: apple

`John was fabulous to deal with, he’s direct but he’s funny with it and very encouraging. I thought I knew loads by the time I came to novel number three, but I made mistakes and John showed me how to fix them… from this point onwards, I hope! John’s also very quick, which, as an impatient soul, I really appreciated. So, if you’re stuck on a WIP, if you need guidance, if you just don’t know who to turn to next – I’ve got one word for you – John! He really does have great analytic instinct for what works and what doesn’t, and certainly knows how to explain his findings in the simplest of ways.`

Read Shani’s full review on her blog: http://shanisite.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/a-master-class-in-writing/

Thank you, Shani. It was a pleasure.

More details on the masterclass process coming soon.

Beware tonight’s SUPERMOON!

A supermoon changed my life.

I have a vivid memory of when I was little, probably around seven years old, watching The Great Escape on TV on a Sunday teatime when my mother vomited in her lap. She retched and retched, wet eyes bulging, the remains of the pork dinner consumed earlier resting in her pinny.

She threw the butty she’d been eating to the floor and hurried away, clutching her dripping pinny and spitting and gagging as she went. My two brothers and I were truly terrified, as Dad ran after her.

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It turned out my older sister was to blame.

The butty was egg and cress, made by Isabel’s loving hands, a butty meant for me but she got the plates mixed up. Isabel enjoyed the fact that nothing made her squeamish, and so did her three not-so-brave brothers when it came to spiders in the bathtub, Isabel always on-hand with a scrunched up wad of loo roll. She liked the big harvesters best because `they make a pop when you squidge them`.

`This cress is a bit crunchy,` Mum had said on the first bite.

`And it tastes a bit off . . . acidy,` she said as she chewed the second.

When something got stuck between her teeth, and she picked out a hairy spider’s leg with the nail of her pinky – that’s about when the puking started.

`It was meant for Johnny,` Isabel wailed half an hour later as Dad stood before her with the remains of the butty opened to reveal at least ten dead harvester spiders squashed among the egg and cress.

That was when I too was sick – on the living room carpet – one big whoosh and splatter. My brothers followed suit and poor Mum was off somewhere scrubbing her mouth out with Fairy Liquid.

Mum later learned that the moon that day had been a supermoon and that’s where the blame was placed for Isabel’s antics. Though she did get three whacks of the belt across her backside and was never allowed to make tea again.

That was fifty years ago.

Since then I have developed a certain routine when it comes to spiders. I check everything. I check under my pillow and inside the sheets before getting into bed. I look down the tubes of loo rolls and kitchen rolls just in case. I lift the toilet seat before sitting. I tap out my shoes before putting them on. And, of course, I always study the contents of a sandwich before eating it.

For fifty years.

The total time I’ve spent checking for arachnids probably adds up to at least a whole week, and it was time well spent. I once found a spider under my pillow. It was only 3mm in diameter, but still, the smaller the easier to fit in my ear.

I also found a termite in a loo roll once, about thirty years ago, so all in all the week of my life dedicated to checking for spiders has been well worth it. At least until this morning.

Why did I never ever, in all this time, think to check my toothbrush? When something stuck in my teeth I knew it would be a bristle. Right? Wrong. I tried to spit it away and it came loose on the third spit. One solitary spider leg lay among my spittle in the sink. I could see the fine hairs. I gagged, looked at the toothbrush and saw another two legs poking from the frothed-up bristles. I carefully rinsed the froth away and saw the rest of the spider tucked in among the bristles. I could even see some of its eyes. Then a leg moved. I dropped the brush into the basin and immediately hurled on top of it.

Images of my mother scrubbing her mouth out with Fairy Liquid came flooding back as I retched and retched. It has taken me three hours to stop shaking enough to be able to write this down. I know I will not brush my teeth again for at least a fortnight, and my NEW brush will be in a sealed bag and will be examined carefully before each use.

Of course, none of this is true (well, maybe some of it but I’m not saying which bits), it was in fact an exercise in moon control.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the pull of the full moon, about how it effects our ocean’s tides and perhaps, with us being made up of at least 75% water, even our inner tides could be at risk of being pulled out of sync.

But pulled enough to be changed into a wolf? Or to commit some act of lunacy?

Or for the creative muse to gain exciting new spidery legs?

Today, not only is our moon full, but it is a SUPERMOON.

A supermoon occurs when our moon is closest to us as it makes its orbit. It appears bigger in the sky by around 16% and it shines some 30% brighter.

Some procrastinators blame supermoons for natural disasters.

Riotous behaviour, unrest, and psychopathic tendencies also manifest as a result of the supermoon’s glaring effect.

Sheer lunacy?

There is no proof either way, but you can have fun with writerly experiments.

Today, drink three pints of water extra to your usual intake, a tidal gift to the moon, a teasing bait to come and fiddle with your inner tides. Once the day grows dark and the supermoon is all bright and shiny, remove all your clothes in a rough and snarly fashion and walk on all fours around the garden, noting any unusual wolfy feelings, and ask the moon to spark your writerly muse.

Let me know how you get on.

Also let me know if you check for spiders, or if you’ve ever put something in your mouth that should never have been put there.

Happy howling!

 

On connecting with your writing muse.

For six days a week I sit at the computer editing the wonderful stories of otherminds. On the seventh day I write for me. A whole day dedicated to the WIP and my own crazy mind.

To maximise production (and prevent writer’s block) I do as much prepping via thought as I can, either whilst emptying the dog, or when falling into dreamland. Storylines meander, scenes form, theme-related ideas pounce from every corner, and I jot them down and email them to myself so that when my day of writing arrives I’m ready to rock n roll with a week’s worth of ideas.

Yesterday, I took the Olster to a place we hadn’t been to since last August, when temperatures were often hitting 90. But now, mud, thick mud, floods, puddles streaking everywhere that gravity pulled them. And it was cold, foggy and deserted. But the Olster needs his runs so the partially flooded car park with raised islands of green seemed to be the best option. No cars. No other signs of life bar two squirrels, a magpie and rather large rabbit.

So, there was I, wanging the ball for the Olster again and again, in the miserable wet and cold, pondering the string possibilities for a paedophile priest, when it happened: that flare from the muse, sudden and bright and the images appeared in my mind and came to life without any direction from me. And the best of it all, the idea gifted was not for my own writing but for another mind, a novel I’m currently editing, a scene that the author is a little stuck on what to do with.

Warmed generously by this sudden visitation, eager to get home and email said stuck author, on the way back to the car a second flare exploded… a possible addition to another scene for said author.

Sometimes, the muse is obdurate, other times he plays along with a little effort from self, but occasionally he does all the work and shoots up that flare like a rocket and it explodes in your mind, a beautiful gift from within.

muse

I only wish I could have more rockets. Even one a day would be nice.

How often do you get flares from your muse?

Can you make ‘em happen? Cajole them along? Wheedle them out?

Pray tell.

Beware the Moon

Tonight, our moon will be a full one … at least it will be above my bit of planet. Our moon pulls our tides back and forth as Earth rotates. During a full moon, the high tides become higher and the low tides lower. It is argued by some that, because we humans are made up of up to 75% water (or wine in my case), the moon will also tug at our liquidity, bringing us our own highs and lows, often resulting in acts of lunacy when the moon is full and its tug most powerful.

moon3

Some police forces increase staffing levels around full moons to cope with the increase in human altercations.

Some hospitals recognise the same increased staffing needs in A&E, and some club owners will chuck an extra heavy on the door when the howlers are out in force.

Some corporations will not schedule important meetings or make important decisions when the moon is in its harshest influential state.

Some. Not all.

Not all believe the full moon has an effect on animal behaviour, and there is as yet no conclusive proof either way.

As my kids grew up, I noticed a change in their behaviour when the moon was full. They’d be more boisterous, more argumentative, easier to provoke, easier to explode into tears at the smallest of things. Even today, if one of the brats is going out for a moonlit night on the tiles, or is travelling, or attending an important meeting, they’ll be advised to `beware the moon` and they will nod knowingly as they walk out the door.

moon4

Within myself, when the moon shines brightest, I sometimes feel a kind of inner pressure on the mind which makes me want to tear my skull open and turn into a wolf and ravage people (not really but you get the point). If I’m writing on a full moon, it feels as if the muse has dropped acid and is doing the fandango and I can barely keep up as my imagination orchestrates multidinous riots.

So, what about you? Do you beware the moon? Do you feel it, use it? Or is it just a load of baloney?

 

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Dreams – Writer’s Nightmares

I dream some weird stuff, some of which has been used in my writing over the years. A couple of months ago, for example, I dreamed of a trapdoor where beneath lay waiting evil. In the dream the image looked the trapdoor in Evil Dead with the scary demon cackling from it. But here was no demon, only a curse in the guise of a promise. I could not see it but I could hear it – the charlatan voice. The dream gave me ideas, now incorporated in my WIP.evil

Great!

Last week, this dream was short, a few seconds, a snapshot, of my hands holding open a client’s book (currently WIP). On the page a secret message was revealed, its potential for viral enormous. I told my client next morning. Watch this space.

Great!

But last night the dream was particularly scary; I was writing a new book with an infamous co-author: Peter Sutcliffe AKA the Yorkshire Ripper. He was fat, wrinkled, his eyes black and empty. Recalling the dream ran me cold.

Great?

Perhaps I should attempt channelling, I thought later, but then wasn’t Sutcliffe mates with Jimmy Saville? Last thing I want is a Saville-based nightmare. Do you have writerly dreams?

Merry Christmas & Happy New Writing

 

Three months ago, my horror-story-of-mass-proportions work in progress, 25000 words in, came to an abrupt stop. The yuletide rush had begun, my busiest editing time of the year, and from then until now, my entire writing time would be devoted to editing novels ready for Christmas release. My WIP was still there though, in my head, simmering and

cheers!

cheers!

bubbling and spewing the occasional golden geyser as I edited from genre to genre, ticking the boxes of commercial convention. My WIP was cooking, I realised, slow-cooking, and perhaps trying to change into something different. Sometimes, instead of golden geysers the sly old muse would throw up doubt, questions, opinions from another level. This is the story you always wanted to write, right? Then change the voice, alter the style, don’t do commercial, do YOU! Don’t hold back, tell it like it is. And so on. And on, and on. And now I’m feeling different about my WIP. Not that the 25000 words down are crap, no, not that at all… just that there’s a different way… a way that might just actually make the story I always wanted to write, my mark, into an unforgettable story of literary greatness.

But then again I’m not at all convinced I can pull that off. Can I compare someone’s sparking nerves as being like `forks in a microwave`, Mr Mitchell? Can I? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because my day job sees me reading commercial fiction in every genre and the conventions are sticking within me like neural guideposts, or maybe it’s because I haven’t got the balls/skill to really nail that elusive jump in voice from commercial storytelling to minimalistic yet mind-blowing wordsmithery. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the enforced three-month hiatus has done wonders for the WIP, has brought a few real gems from the simmering pot, and in the new year when I can once again devote one day per week to it, my story will be better than before. Whether I’ll have the balls to shove cutlery in the pinger, I don’t know, but I’ll have fun trying.

So, this year’s writing tip is take a step back, a break, allow your words to cook while you do/write something different and the resulting gems and metamorphosis might surprise you.

May your Christmas be fun and your new writing prosperous.

Up yer bum!

Johnny.