I have now agreed a proof copy of my novel Crucial Evidence to go to the printers and for the ebook formats. It took four copies to hopefully eliminate all the irritating typo’s, minor grammatical mistakes etc, before I was satisfied. My husband read the proof as well just to make sure – I was sure I was missing mistakes because I had read it so often.
He raised with me the question of hyphens as there were times when he thought I should have a hyphen between words for example cross examination. I checked the original copy edit and found that Lucy, the copy editor had taken them out.
I am currently reading ‘For Who the Bell Tolls’ by David Marsh, who edits The Guardian’s style guide. I consulted the book and discovered that the hyphen is going out of fashion. One reason is that the computer breaks up hyphenated words at the end of sentences. So, he says, if they are not needed to ensure the clarity of a sentence don’t use them. Incidentally the book is a good read as well as really helpful about rules of grammar they’re not as many you think – is the message.
The next stage with the book is completing the cover design and the blurb for the back. The front cover looks like this
I really like it – I hope everyone else does as well.
Publication should happen at the beginning of February 2012.
Best Wishes to all for the Festive Season and a Happy New Year.
I have been so busy with moving home and then sorting out the new house that I have failed to write anything at all. Virginia Wolf said that a writer needs a little money and a room of ones own. I have finally achieved the later, fortunately a career at the Bar provided me with some money. My computer is now in a small upstairs room with a great view. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not – I fear I may spend too much time gazing out of the window rather than writing.
Progress on the publication of my novel Crucial Evidence is very slow. I received the printer’s proof at the end of July just as the process of moving really got underway, so checking it for errors is having to take second place to all the other things one needs to do after moving house, like finding a new doctor and a new vet for our Springer Spaniel. Incidentally he doesn’t like my new office as he isn’t allowed upstairs and he hates being left alone, so he sits on the second step of the stairs, his head resting on the third watching and waiting for me to reappear.
The other difficulty with checking the proof is that I am not entirely sure what I am looking for. What are the mistakes that creep in when the Word document is formatted for printing. Apart from finding some blank pages and some misalignment of the lines of dialogue I can find very little wrong with the proof. I have found some editing mistakes and I have noted those as now they will be corrected by the publisher. I am working through it again and preparing the proof changes for the printer. My hoped for publication date in October has I think vanished and it looks like it will be some time in the New Year, but it’s better to get it right than hurry this process.
I recently heard from the major publisher who have been considering my novel Crucial Evidence that they are not going to publish it because they don’t think it will be a bestseller! Just a reasonable seller would be good enough for me. So it looks like its self publishing.
In furtherance of that route I had already send the book for a full edit and I have also received the editor’s comments on it. Her view is that in places the book lacks pace, and she suggests that I remove quite large sections which give my main character, a barrister called Cassie Hardman, a context. One aspect is her background, which I feel is quite important as she comes from a ‘working class’ family (hate these
descriptions but in the UK they still apply), state schools, red-brick university, whilst the Bar tends to be ‘upper middle class,’ private school and Oxbridge. She feels an outsider in her chosen profession and that is reflected in some of her decisions and attitudes. The other is a sub-plot about her Chambers’ politics, which again shows her reactions away from the courtroom, but still with her colleagues. Without those changes she thinks it is unlikely I will find an agent.
The publishing business uses agents as gatekeepers to monitor the manuscripts they receive and ensure only the best get through to the publishers for their consideration. When it comes to genre fiction, the formats are so fixed that anyone writing something that doesn’t fit precisely within the stereotype is not considered.
Another way of putting it is that for commercial fiction the author must write what the publisher wants, or rather what an agent thinks the publisher wants, and not what the writer wants to write.
So to amend that well known saying Self-publish and be damned.
I had no difficulty naming my main protagonist. She has always been Cassandra Hardman. I like the abbreviated form, Cassie, which I know she, and her family and friends would use. The name comes from a princess in Greek mythology, who had the power of prophecy but was never believed. I believe that fits with the role of the advocate, predicting the future for a defendant, and the disbelief that could engender. For her surname I wanted something which would identify her as a Lancastrian and ‘Hardman’ is common in parts of the County.
My novel also has a second protagonist and I have found naming her more difficult. She is a female Detective Constable about six years younger than Cassie. She is very loosely based on someone I met, who was the daughter of a successful business man. She had decided to join the police force against her fathers wishes. She was a tall glamorous blonde, who loved motorbikes. I originally called my character, Carol Beaumont-Smith, but I didn’t feel happy with that. The hyphenated surname seemed to be a cliché for wealthy, rather upper-crust characters, and using a name beginning with the same initial as my main protagonist, I thought, might be confusing for a reader. I changed the name to Vivienne James, Viv for short, but didn’t like that either. I know two Viv’s, one a small dumpy girl and the other tall and elegant but not reallyas glamorous as my policewoman is. I have now decided on Alexis Seymour which feels right. Of course there is a bit of a twist is that as another name for Cassandra in Greek mythology is Alexandra of which Alexis is a variation. Anyway Alexis Seymour feels right and I think I will stick with that.
I did wonder if anyone had any interesting ways of christening their characters. Let me know if you have.
Cathi Unsworth writes about her novels which are described as noir. Unlike many crime novels she does not write series. In this article in The Guardian she writes about the difficulty of getting published and says her first manuscript was rejected by many editors who wanted her to turn it into a series. In the end she did get a publisher who told her she might have done better if she had used a man’s name as a pseudonym. Really that’s too much. She also says that to get published you must write what the agents say, ‘fit into the Christie corset’ are her words, and accept the compromise or do your own thing and take a chance with e-books. It seems to me she is saying what I said in my last post about making your novel fit an agent’s view of what you should write or you write what you want and self-publish. To use an overworked phrase, publish and be damned.