19 Sep 2011

International again ...

September is an iffy month for me. I have to get used to tell people I'm a year older - that in itself can be traumatic - it's also the month when it's no longer possible to ignore autumn. There's firewood for the winter to order, the winter tyres, woolen  socks to find and the extra windows to bring down from the attic. This September apparently has had more rain than any other September in recorded history. Jeez, you don't say ...
So when I learn that one of our books have been published in Denmark, I'm thrilled. Just the kind of news that's nice to know on a rainy evening.
The book was picked up by a Danish publisher about three years ago, and we've more or less forgotten all about it. If you read Danish there's a review on DR (Denmark Radio): Review of The Attic. And if you want more this is the publisher's page: The Attic on Forum (Rosinante publishers). They have bought the next in the series: The Changeling, so hopefully the'll also buy The Park, and publish both. Fingers crossed!

I have tendency to think that Sweden and Denmark isn't really International, but that's not right of course! Since Denmark is - even if the language is more or less the same - another country, it's International. I doubt if a British writer would consider a publication in the US as domestic ...

4 Sep 2011

A visit at the high sea …

These feet have walked where legends once stood. It’s kind of cool.

Who the legends are? Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp, of course.The Bounty was in Oslo for a few days, and of course we had to check it out. where Captain This is the ship where Marlon Brando was the dashing Christian Fletcher! This is also the ship Jack Sparrow was so keen on getting back.
The ship as commissioned by the movie company in the early sixties, so not so old. And surprisingly small.
A great way to spend a Friday afternoon – and lucky for us, this was the only day this weekend that it didn’t rain.

I'm still getting use to my new computer. Otherwise there would even be som pics of me, but I can't get Anans Sony Ericsson to work with my Toshiba. I have no  idea why. I can't get the printer to connect either, so it's a bit of a mystery, really. But at least I'm using it. I had it in the box for almost a month before even unpacking it ...

30 Aug 2011

Happy Birthday to me!

I was going to say something sensible about writing synopsises (is that even a word?), something I've been working on for a couple of weeks, but I don't make much sense after way too many ice mocchas and pieces of chocolate cake. So to quote the immortal Arnold: I'll be back!

14 Aug 2011

Jane Eyre ...

I've now seen the new Jane Eyre film (twice), and the conclusion is clear: The BBC version from 2006 with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens is the best so far.
It was beautifully filmed, good actors, but I yawned half way through and that's not really a good sign, is it? When I read Jane Eyre I'm always struck by the warmth and humour between Jane and Rochester, and I missed that in this film. There was no connection between them and that's no good for a romance!
So here's a taste from the best Jane Eyre movie so far:

9 Aug 2011

On Scandinavian crime literature

BBC 3 Radio sent this last night: Val McDermid and Louise Welsh discusses the Scandinavian Crime Wave - and no, not of the breaking and entering kind, but in literature. Very interesting!

Scandinavian Crime Writing

23 Jul 2011

Life changed

Oslo, 22nd of July at 15.26 local time.
I heard a faint rumble on my way to buy a newspaper. I didn't think much about it. It was just bad weather. Nothing new about that.
I went back to the coffee house where I was sitting with Anan, discussing a synopsis we were working on. Everything was normal. We read the paper, drank coffee, two toddlers were running around playing hide and seek among the table, the music was a bit too loud and so was the sound from the huge coffee machine. It was hot and humid. I work so much better with rain than heat, so I was hoping it would start to rain soon.
The phone rang. Anans wife was telling us that something happened at one of the newspapers, VG. She said there had been a huge explosion in VG's building.
I couldn't believe it. My romance publishers buildings is just opposite VG. My children's books publisher a block further down. I have friends and colleagues in the area, I shop there, I walk there often. It's smack in the center of town.
Anan talked to his wife, and I logged on the Net with my phone. At first only confusion, then that the explosion happened either inside or just outside the government buildings.
Our first reaction was to go down there, to see for ourselves. But the newspapers all said to keep out away.
So we went home and turned on the TV.
The pictures and stories just got worse over the night. It was impossible to believe it at first. The usual question kept coming up. How is this possible?
Everyone was speculating. Was it some unknown Jihad-fraction? Was it Mullah Krekar? Was it because of Afghanistan or Libya?
Then the reports from Utøya kept coming in and getting worse by the minute. Who were this people? Who could do something like this to a summercamp filled with young people?
And when they said this was done by a man dressed in a police uniform, a Norwegian … suddenly this wasn't done by fanatics from the other side of the world. We couldn't say it was Them anymore, this was one of Us.
The man lived a few blocks away from where I live. I might have seen him in the shops and never given him a thought.
It's not possible to understand why he did what he did. It's defies any kind of explanation. He might try to justify himself by saying it was a political attack, but attacking children the way that he did has nothing to do with politics.
Today we went downtown to see for ourselves. To make it real in a way. The bomb area was sealed off. There was soldiers in the streets. Soldiers with automatic guns. They all looked painfully young to me. All the shops were closed. People were silent, talking in low voices..
Later, when we waited for the tram home, I noticed people talking to each other. Strangers asking: Where were you? Did you hear the explosion? Isn't it horrible? And he's Norwegian! How could he?
There is nothing we can do to make sense of his actions, we can only try to take care of each other. We can look at the darker aspects of our culture and say no to it. We can turn away from this senseless action, and do our best to not let people like that win.
I have faith that we will manage to do this.
I was not directly affected by this. Nobody I know was killed or wounded, and for that I'm grateful.
My heart goes out to all those who have lost someone. For them life has changed forever.

15 Jul 2011

On the art of query letters ...

“Above all, a query letter is a sales pitch and it is the single most important page an unpublished writer will ever write.” Nicolas Sparks.

No pressure, right?
Query letters are letters that introduce you and your writing to a potential publisher or agent. Basically you write a few words about your self and your manuscript, and hope that you sound convincing enough for the publisher or agent to ask for sample chapters and a synopsis, hopefully followed by a request to see the entire manuscript, and then they will sing you praises and commission your book, making you rich and famous … It sounds so easy!
Now for those of us who are not English or American this is an odd exercise. The typical query letter in Norway is written to a potential publisher. Our market is far to small for agents, so you always send your manuscript to a publisher.
Usually it goes something like this:

Hi(insert name of the editor).
We've written a crime novel and we hope you will find it interesting.
Best wishes.
Anan Singh & Natalie Normann.

We never use «Dear sir or maam» simply because these forms fell out of use here some time in the sixties. Oh, and we never used the term Sir anyway.
If the publisher reads the manuscript and likes it, then they call you and you tell them whatever information about yourself they want. Mostly they're not interested. A publisher here will buy one book at the time and reserves the right to reject your next book if they don't like it.
But to write to an British or American agent is an entirely different cup of tea. Jeez. That's hard work!
Anan and I wrote a letter like this a few weeks back and we agonized over the content for ages. How much bio? What would be the one thing that would convince the person at the other end of how much they would regret saying no to us? Should it be formal, or more personal? How personal? How formal?
How the h... do you decide what's the right approach?
This is where we run into cultural differences. Anan is Indian, so formal is expected: formal and wordy. Being Norwegian, I believe that the fewer words, the better. We've got a lot of practice now, so we usually find a middle road. It helps knowing that a queary letter should only be a page long! Here's a hint: if your submission is done by e-mail, the query letter can be slightly longer. It's not like the Agent/Publisher is going to cut out the text from the e-mail and check! At least I hope not …
Any good book on writing will also give advice on how to write a good query letter. Just use your head and don't copy without thinking it through! What works for one person, doesn't necessarily work for someone else ...
This is how not do to it, in case you need to know: Slush Pile Hell

3 Jul 2011

Plums deify - Stephen King's On Writing

I've joined a Stephen King challenge and I'm to write about six of King's novels this year. And since we're already in July, I'm far behind as usual .

Stephen King has written a lot of really good book (and probably some bad ones). I count a few favourites among his books (The Stand and Misery to mention two), but the book that has meant most to me is On Writing. So I'll start with that.
I have several copies of it, Norwegian and English. The English copy is falling apart and I'm going to have to buy a new one soon. (Not something I look forward to, since the battered copy is filled with comments and yellow highlights).
In the first foreword (yes, there is more than one), King says: The easy answer is that someone who has sold as many books of fiction as I have must have something worthwhile to say about writing it ...
And then he does just that.
He starts with a short biography, up to the time he sold Carrie. He writes about the alchohol and cocaine abuse that almost killed him, and about the car accident that almost killed him, and about how he managed to start writing again.
Then he writs about the craft and about the tools a writer need, grammar, the danger of passice description, swifties and so on. There's also a lot of good stuff on how to build a story.
On Writing is very well written, easy to read and perfect for me who sometimes need advice on things when I'm stuck in my own writing. When I'm really stuck, I read the book from cover to cover. It helps me to read about the struggles of other writers – if anything it saves me from wasting time feeling sorry for myself.
Recommended to all writers and King fans!

24 Jun 2011

Jane Eyre - again!

And this one looks very promising indeed. I've seen every movie/TV version of Jane Eyre, and usually it doesn't really fit with the image I have in my head ... how can it? But I love Jane Eyre and will give this one a shot. The reviews are really good, so fingers crossed!

22 Jun 2011

At the movies

I went to the movies this weekend. I love movies, and don't mind seeing two or three in a row, provided I get a chance to pee and fill up on popcorn in intermissions. I will always be grateful that Norwegian TV in the 6o's and 70's only had one channel - there was a movie on Saturday, a theatre show every Tuesday, a detective show on Fridays and the Opera on Sundays afternoon (A young Placido Domingo in Tosca made me fall in love with ... opera. Pavarottis spindly legs just didn't hold the same attraction. And Placidos voice was better too). Why I'm grateful? Well, if there had been such access to movies and TV that we have now, I doubt if I would have read as much as I did, and subsequently become a writer. I'd be a couch potato of huge dimensions ...
But we did have the movie theatre in town, and every Saturday afternoon we'd go. The Tarzan movies - you never quite forget Johnny Weismuller, do you? Or Ben Hur. I cried for days after that one.
Sorry, I was going to tell about this weeks movies.

Source Code. Poor Jake Gyllenhaal is stuck in quantum physics. He's re-living the last eight minutes of a dead man's life, to stop a terrorist attack. Not so bad, actually. Jake is cute and you do feel sorry for the poor man. It's sad, so if you're going to the movies to see happy endings and song birds, not so much.
 X- men First Class. Not a fan. The movie was okay, and I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been a prequel because then I could have looked forward to the sequel. So I don'l like prequels. Why would you make three good movies about X-men, then go back and make a film about something we already know? I don't see the point, really. It feels like the producers and the director sat down, couldn't come up with a good story for number 4, and then made a prequel, because there is loads of fans and money to be made.
I haven't seen the latest Star Wars movies for the same reason. I don't want to know what made Magnetor og Darth Vader bad - I already know most of it through the first movies. So no, thanks

I also see DVD's ... I run old movies on the computer when I write, but sometimes I see new releases.

 The Tourist. I looked forward to this for a long time. Johnny Depp and Angelina - smoking hot! But then it wasn't. It was about as interesting as a fizzed out soda.  Where was the chemistry? It was just sad, and I think the story is to blame. It seemed like a good idea, but when you figure out the plot after ten minutes of movie, there's something not right. Perhaps the chemistry got lost because of that. There was a debate among critics whether this was a comedy or a drama - or perhaps a thriller?

But I have to say I find the name of the director inspiring: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ...

Morning Glory. Funny and enjoyable. Rachel McAdams is like the Energizer bunny on esspresso, but she is enthusiastic and sweet,  Harrison Ford charmingly grumpy and Diane Keaton in good form. I read critics saying the movie didn't show news as serious enough. Of course it didn't - it's a comedy!
That's all folks!

17 Jun 2011

Old computers never dies ...

I've spent half the day in the attic. Not something I do if I can avoid it - it's huge, dark, dusty and I've co-written a horror story about it. It didn't help to write about it, I still get spooked.
But the other day I pulled an old book out of my shelves. It was the first book we got published - way back in 1995. And I'm no different from other writers, I like to have my books in the book shelves where I can see them. I never read them, only I did now.
And it wasn't half bad. There's a few beginner's follies and some weak language, but on the whole the story works. And I wanted to take a look at the original manuscript, perhaps tweak a few things, and perhaps even put it out there as an e-book. Just to see how it would be received.
Except I can't find the bloody manuscript.
Back when we wrote it, we did a first draft with pen and paper, then I put it in the computer - it was back in my secretarial days. (One that looked like this one). Unfortunately, I didn't take any backup. Or if I did, I can't remember where the disks are. But the computer is somewhere in the attic, and so the manuscript should be retrieveable. If I can find the thing.
I'm pretty sure it is because since I don't throw away computers, there's at least four of them lurking up there. There's the small Toshiba we wrote two crime novels on, there's the 17'' Acer that I spilled diet coke on, and there's a humongous stationary computer - the screen alone takes half a room. I know I should get rid of all of them, and I don't keep them for sentimental reasons. I'm just not comfortable with throwing away something with so much personal information on it.
If I had only remembered to copy everything on the old harddrive to the new, I'd be okay and I'd never had to rummage through the attic anymore. Also, I'd never have to panick when I spill something on my computer. Or something like this happens:

And no, I don't have cats. This also happens with children and dogs, or even with just me in the room ...
Nowadays, I copy my most important manuscripts on my smart phone - how cool is that? I've got six manuscripst on my phone, and it's nice knowing they are there. I also have program that copies everthing to a server outside my computer. Absolutely recommended - use DropBox or something similiar. Mine is curtesy of the internet provider - it costs very little and I've already extracted a few documents from it... 

13 Jun 2011

From a serial writers diary ...

I'm almost up to speed on my new plan. I was heading for 1500 words a day, and I have managed on average about 1340. That's a lot better than I was afraid of before I did the math.
There's no use getting stressed about not hitting the expected goal here because Life happens, and some days there will be fewer hours for writing. That's just the way it is.
Besides I can't write all the time.
My brain needs some R & R - or at least time to think about the story, to let it unfold, to mature. Otherwise I just keep going and then I write all sorts of stuff that has nothing to do with the mainstory, and I have to rewrite more than I like.
So what happened to ruin my average?

There was the toilet that needed replacing, the painter who came to look at the windows (they are in desperate need of paint. The windows, not the guy), and the tileguy, the one who will repair the wonky bathroom floor (the tiles keep falling off - or would that be up, since it's the tiles on the floor?) Anyway, it's all those little practical things that seems to take so much time and effort, and they just have to be done.
The trick is to write as much as possible despite all the disturbances.
I put earplugs in my ear, I write until 5 o'clock in the morning, and I sit outside in the sunshine with my notebook and pencil, and loads of coffee. 
But not always.
Today I haven't actually opened any manuscript. The entire day. That's very, very unusual.  I did some research, went to see a big house and got a lovely tour of the building. I bought some books.
So yes, I did do some work. I just didn't write.
And tomorrow I'm going to the annual summer party at my publishers. To meet other writers, eat good food, get a sunburn (actually it's going to rain, but there will be plenty of sunshine nonetheless).
So not much writing tomorrow either.

2 Jun 2011

On writing ...

Advice on writing can be iffy. I this article in The Guardian a bunch of writers have been asked to give their best advice to other writers or writers in the make. Take a look: Ten rules for writing fiction. Some of these advices are obvious - write and read - others are of the more humorous type: Never go to London. Never go anywhere. I'm always curious about how other writers work. It's a question I've asked lots of fellow writers. Some know excactly how they work, others just start on page one and keep going. The only thing writers have in common, is that none of them work in the same way. After all, it's not about the pen, or the chair and desk, what computer you  use, the lucky troll on the bookshelf, or how many words per day. (There's alway someone who writes faster than you, anyway)  It's not about how you organize the plot, or fine tune your characters or even tell your story. 
It's about writing until your fingers ache. And then you write some more. And sooner or later it will all fall into place.
That's the only way to get your own voice, and all the writing classes, books on writing or good advice in the world can't replace actually writing.
But advices are nice to read. I'm always inspired by other writers advice because it tells me that other writers struggle with the same things and that we would all like to find an easier way to do the job. 
Except it's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be demanding, challenging, inspiring and making fingers ache. If not, none of us would have bothered working with this.
So good luck and keep writing!

26 May 2011

From a serial writer's diary

Don't believe anyone who tells you writing is easy. Not true. It's bloody hard work, you need the stamina of a triple marathon runner, a gigathon runner. I never run. If it wasn't for the fact that I cramp up if I sit in my office chair too long, I would just sit there until I became part of the chair. I do have to go for walks in the park to stretch my legs and clear my head. I write so much, my fingers swell up - I could go on until boredom killed me. Mostly I don't pay much attention to these things. I have a chiropractor to take care of that. But I do believe it's important to stay in shape - although not marathon shape - otherwise the body gets exhausted before the mind. And the mind could use some fresh air too. So long walks it is ...
Why am I complaining about this?
I've just started Book Four of my new series. This is hard work! There's the research to keep track of, there's the different story lines to keep apart and alive, and I also have to keep developing my characters.
This is very much like writing a soap opera for TV, one of those long winded ones, where it takes eight episodes for a woman to change her clothes. Book Three in my series covers three days in mid-July – in 40.000 words.
In book four I hope to take the story to August. It's just that things happens, and I have to run with it. And some times that means using half the book on one day.
Normally one of these books takes me about two months to write. This time I'm going to see if I can manage in a month and a half. I want to finish as many books as possible before the series gets published. Usually there should be at least 7 books before the first is published. I'd like to have 8. I had this lovely plan in December. It was so neat and clear, full of deadlines and dates, and if I had followed it, I would have been finished with Book Five now, instead of starting Book Four. But life happens, and sometimes other projects interfere, and there I am. But I'm determined to make up for lost time. So this book should be finished by the end of June. That's my intention and I'm sticking with it. I even made a brand new plan!

13 May 2011

The Writer in Conversation with the Writer - part two ...

Creative Me is hurting. She's throwing her arms up in the air, moaning her suffering, and pacing back and forth. The computer is forgotten, except for some scowls to it ever so often, the inspiring tea cup is gathering dust and no matter what Sensible Me, says, it's just not working.

- I hate him! She exclaims, once again throwing her arms in the air. - How can he do this to me? To ME!
The He in question is not a romantic him. It's an Editor.
- I'm sure he does this to loads of writers. Sensible Me tries to put oil on boiling water, or was it water on boiling oil? It has no effect either way.
- I am not like loads of writers! Creative Me shrieks. - I am Me! I deserve better than this ... than this hack, butchering my work. He doesn't understand me! Ha! Don't think that I will ever forget this!
Creative Me has now hurled herself on the sofa, one arm thrown over her face. A few sobs once in a while completes the effect. Sensible Me sighs patiently. - Look, it's not like he told you the manuscript was crap. Because he didn't, you know.
- He might as well. He said no, didn't he? Editors! Ha! What do they know?
Sensible Me knows better than to laugh at the Drama. She doesn't want to put fire to the ... eh ... oil. - He said there was things about it he liked. Like the conflict and the time period, and some of the characters.
- He said ... he said ... Creative Me can barely speak from the horror. - He said I have to rewrite the entire book!
Sensible Me can't hide a smile. - I told you so, she says, all smugness and triumph in her voice. - I told you it needed far more work.
- But it's 410 pages long! I've worked on it for ages. Are they never satisfied?
- Why don't you just go on with it? Read the manuscript, take out the bad parts, and put in the good parts? You're so good at that.
Creative Me peeks through her fingers. - I am?
- Oh, yes. Sensible Me wants to hit her over the head with a poker, but smiles instead. She knows only too well that she can't do it by herself. - Listen, I'll do the cutting and pasting, and you write the new stuff. It'll be fun.
- No! It's boring! Why can't he just love it? Hm? Is that too much to ask? Hm? Why doesn't he write a book and I can trash that?
The though pleaser her so much she sits up in the sofa. - I could twitter about it, and put it out on Facebook, and I could blog about it, and it will all be about how horrible, horrible he is. Ha!
- Or maybe we should just rewrite the book, make it so good he'll beg us to publish it? Isn't that better?
Creative Me gets the «Mad Writer" look in her eyes, and rubs her hands together. - Oh, yes! That'll show him! And I will give it to another Editor, someone who appreciates my genious. That'll make him suffer like I do now!
- We'll see about that when the times come. Sensible Me is far to sensible to carry grudges. She points a stack of papers next to the computer - Now go. Make him suffer!
Creative Me goes over to the paper stack and starts reading. Sensible Me hands her a pencil, a pink one with a feather. - I'll get you some of that chocolate you like so much.
Behind her, Creative Me is humming quietly to herself. Sensible Me lets out a sigh of relief. Boy, am I glad I'm not the creative one, she thinks as she picks up a book on grammar and settles down with it. Thank God someone has a clear head.
Creative Me laughs like the Mad Writer she is.

11 May 2011

From a serial writer's diary ...

I'm working on two very different projects right now, both historical, but from totally different periods and genres. One is a thriller, the other a romance with a story that will cover at least 15-20 books when it's finished. Hopefully even more.
So I thought I'd keep sort of a diary. Not every day, I don't have the time (Unfortunately I have this addiction: I like to eat and sleep once in awhile ...).
I'm into my third book in the series (I can't reveal title or period since it's not published yet), and it's going very well indeed. This is my second series, so I now have the advantage of "having done it before" - that means I don't have to worry about being able to actually finish 15-30 books about the same characters (Oh, yes). I can always tell myself I have done it before!
Experience is good. Research is fun. Writing can be extremely slow, or I can get in the flow and just keep going until the bakery vans outside my window starts their morning deliveries. There's a tempo thing with the series, I have to write a book fast, and of course, the faster I write, the faster I get paid (which is a very good thing!). So far I have managed to keep the tempo on an average of 1000 words a day. That means I use about two months to finish a book (this includes rewriting and research). I want to finish faster, so I'm going to aim for 1500 words a day. If I do that, I can produce faster and perhaps take a week off now and then to recharge my batteries.
That's important. I need time to just read and think, and sometimes to get out of the house to buy a new washing maschine or a pint of milk - both takes time. If it wasn't for the fact that I actually need to see the people in my life once in awhile, to do some socializing or catch a movie, I'd probably just sit infront of my computer and hammer away. I have an obsessive streak in my personality (I don't play computer games for this reason. I'd never manage to produce anything if I did that. I'm saving that for the old people's home).
I do get caught up in  word counts this way. It's as if I don't get my daily quota, I can't relax. I take a sheet of paper, divide it in two, then divide that in two. I write the dates on both side of the halves (he, he), and everyday I write up the daily amount of words.
To days count? So far a big 0. (I was looking for that washing machine, actually, so I do have a valid excuse).
I have two hours of work left, so as soon as I have finished this, I'm into the book.
The thriller? It's back from the editor with a healthy dose of encouragement and feedback - that all amounts to rewriting the entire book. Again. But that's another blogpost ...

22 Apr 2011

Happy Easter and a case of brilliant marketing ...

In Norway Easter is about oranges, marzipan, snow - and crime novels. The oranges, snow and sweets are easy to understand - but what's with the crim novels, you may ask.
This article was published in Mystery Readers Journal - Scandinavian issue, in 2007.
The piece is about crime novels and Easter, but it's also about what brilliant marketing can do for a book - or in this case, for a genre.
Happy Easter everyone!

Crime at Easter
Singh & Normann
Norwegian crime writers have something no other writers in any other country have. Something other crime writers envy us, and love when it happens to their (translated) work.

About two-three weeks before the Easter holidays, there’s a crime wave in Norway. And by that we don’t mean criminals run free. No, it’s the crime writer’s that run free – or at least their books. Every publisher will have at least one or two crime novels in the bookstores for this season; it’s tradition. In Norway, a crime novel is as much a part of the Easter Holidays as snow, Easter eggs and fluffy bunnies.

It’s been going on for 84 years!
What happened was that two university students, low on cash, got a bright idea. They wrote a crime novel about six students robbing a train on Holy Saturday.
Not really a very original or sensational plot, you ask? You’re right.
The brilliance was in the advertising:
On 24 March, 1923, the headline in Norway’s largest paper read: “The train to Bergen robbed tonight!” in large captions. The headline scared people all over the country, and family and friends called the police to enquire about their loved ones on the night train. The police directed their attention to the small print in the corner of the ad: written by Jonathan Jerv. The brother of one of the students was the head of the largest publishing house at the time, and he agreed to print a small numbers of books. The advertising was his idea. The book became a huge success.
From there it grew, and now it’s A Tradition.
Something crime writers, their publisher and crime lovers are very grateful for. For the crime writer it means better chances for your book to be noticed. You rarely have to fight the celebrity bio, the latest “Great Novel of the Year” and so on at Christmas. (Of course, you do have to compete with all the other crime novels). People want crime fiction.
So, if you’re to be published in Norwegian, ask your Norwegian publisher for the Easter season. Chances are, you’ll be well received.

16 Apr 2011

The Plan ...

A writer's life is mostly behind a desk, staring at a computer,hammering away at moments of inspiration and lots of coffee. And even if my computer screen now turns pink whenever it feels like it, just to wake me up, the work can get tedious - okay, boring, if I don't do something to keep it fresh. So I like to give myself new challenges. It's good practice and it makes the writing more interesting. It's also great for ignoring witer's block, btw.
I'm starting a new book- the third in a series - and I want to do it in as short time as possible. I know I can write one of these books in five weeks, I've done it before.
Therefore April's challenge is this:  can I do a first draft in even shorter time than five weeks?
God knows.
I'm not obsessive about deadlines, but I find that my work takes on a better flow with a deadline looming in the horizon. There's nothing like panic to get the creative juices flowing ...
When I make one of these writing challenges for myself, it always means I have to plan. I never totally follow the Plan, but it keeps my head tidy to a certain point. I have the Plan under a clear plastic thingy my computer stands on, so that I can see where I am and what I have to do.
That's the idea, anyway.
To make this master plan I pull out my trusted copy of Elizabeth Georges Write Away. I first read it years ago when I was preparing for my ever first interview with a famous writer, and I was so nervous my hands were shaking all the way through the lunch and the interview. Elizabeth George couldn't have been nicer or easier to interview, but I was still nervous. Mostly because I was deeply impressed after reading the book several times. She plans her books in detail, and then she writes - following the plan. Wow.
I can't do that. I can plan and I can use the plan, but I need to throw it out the window if I want to.
To prepare myself this time, I've read through about half of Write Away again, making notes, thinking about what I need, and so on.
And this is what I'm using: Since I've finished the first two books of the series, I'm now comfortable with the characters, the setting, the historic research and I know how to bring the story forward. I also know that if I just start on page one and write whatever falls into my head, I'm more than likely to bring the story forward to fast, ending up with a lot of rewriting and loose lots of time.

So yesterday I sat down - with Write Away on my desk, a notepad, and the 3000 words I already have on the book. I started by making vertical lines on the notepad and then I wrote down what I know will have to happen in this book. I didn't worry about order or sense, I just wrote it down as I see it in my head. I asked questions while I did this - any questions that fall into my head. (I will organize them later). When I finished, I
had lots of scenes, lots of questions.
Today I opened a new document on the computer, split it in half, and started to organize the notes in two very neat rows. Tomorrow I will do it again, fine tune it, if you will. Then I will start to write.
As I said earlier, under my computer I have a clear plastic thingy that covers half the desk. Under there I stick small notes with inspired thoughts, scratch cards I've won on, things from magazines that inspire me, shopping lists, phone numbers -  and the Plan.
I also have a second part of the Plan there, this one hand-written. The paper is divided in two, there's dates on both sides. I like to write down how many words I write in a day, so that I can follow the progress. (the target is about 40.000 words). There's two lines for every date. The daily target is somewhere between 1000 and 2000 words. And I started this on April 15. Since I haven't really started the writing yet, I'm already two days behind schedule.
Which means that tomorrow's work also include making a new daily plan, starting from the April 18.
The most important thing is to always know that the Plan is not set in stone.
Otherwise you can't make a new one when it's necessary.
No worries, then!

21 Mar 2011

To do, or not to do, or did anway.

I love deadlines. I really, really do. I get things done when I have deadlines looming over my head. That is, I get manuscripts done. Everything else falls by the side, like discarded toys.

What I haven't done the last three weeks: 
Read my letters - Oh, yes, I get lovely letters in the mail sometimes.
Answered messages on my phone. So if there's anyone out there who wants to get a hold of me, like an agent or a publisher, use my e-mail. It works. And I do read that.
Read a good book.
Read any book, good or bad.
Gone for walks and discovered Spring - outside my window there's still snow. So why bother, right?
Updated my blogs.
Been to the library.
Seen a movie - again, bad or good. No, that's wrong I did go to see The Fighter. Good movie, actually.
Done any useful research.
Called people - any people.
Gone to the hair-dresser. I'll qualify for the best scarecrow outfit if this goes on.
Left dry-cleaning with the dry-cleaner.
Forgotten about the loose buttons on my coat - right now four of them is sown with purple thread, one with white and the last with black.
Cleaned my windows - the birds are leaving "marks" all over the glass.
Slept more than five or six hours at night - I forget to keep track of time when I'm in a good writing space.

And why, you might ask, do I committ myself to this hermit-like state?

Rewriting two manuscripts at once. It's a foolish attempt, but then again, I can be pretty foolish. And right now, that works for me. This manuscript involves the two of us, and that makes it easier to not be stuck on a particular plot detail. This manuscript is finished, and was today copied on to the editors reading gadget to be read at leisure. Or at the lates after Easter. Which ever comes first.
I'm  well into the next manuscript, but alas, there I'm on my own. On the other hand, it's way shorter, and a lot more finished, so there's not that much new writing, more like tweaking and pruning.
I seriously love my job ...

23 Feb 2011

Finishing a new/old manuscript ...

We're having busy days now. I've just delievered a manuscript in my romance series, and the next three weeks is dedicated to finishing a new thriller. (It's not new, it's old, but it's new because it's not finished).
Sounds great, yes?
We've been working on this particular manuscript so long we just refer to it as The Manuscript.
Anan has been working on the characters and the text for a couple of months, and at one point he realized the whole thing has to be re-plotted. If that's a word.
What it means is that the story has flaws. Well, that's not much of a schocker. Every story has flaws - there's no such thing as a perfect story. Not if you start breaking it down.
So we have gone through the story scene by scene, and have now agreed on a storyline we are sure will work. Well ...
The first 80 or so pages are in good shape, I can see the story starting to connect. The manuscript is about 350 pages (we've cut out 50 already), and if the rest are in the same shape, we'll be finished in a week, or three ...
We even have an ending!
I can't wait to finish it - I've loved this story for so long, and I can now see the end nearing. It's really a matter of getting everything together, making if work - and hopefully it will fly!
Besides three weeks is all I have. I have to start on a new series-manuscript asap if I'm to finish before Easter. And I'm alone on those, so it's all on me!

13 Feb 2011

The hardship of rewriting ...

I'm sitting here with a manuscript I've gotten back from my editor. And although I very much appreciate her feedback and enduring encouragement, as well as her sense of language and drama - I'm not happy right now. It'll pass as soon as I've done the necessary rewriting - I'm sure - but I do not like it.
Some writers love rewriting, going over their words over and over again, cutting here, tweaking there - and I do. Sometimes. But mostly when it's done.
The rewriting is something that only you can do on your own manuscript. There's no substitute because the vision is yours and yours alone. So you have to accept all of it, all of the work going into a mansucript, everythying - warts and all.
These are warts from the manuscript: What time of year is this, and please write something about the nature. What are they wearing? Too much repetition. More drama and feeling (that's a popular one), more horror and fear. Another popular one is: no, no, no! Or you can't have person A doing ... when person B is ....
The list goes on.
Every time I figured that now I've got it, now I've cracked the formula or the secret, there's more. I'm learning to accept the process, I guess. I'm very oriented towards the end result, wanting to finish as soon as possible, so I can write something else. But that's not always the wise thing to do. Sometimes words has to be tweaked and cut, sometimes more than words, sometimes even whole pages, has to go.
The story is everything, and anything standing in the way of a smooth reading, just has to go out. It doesn't matter that I worked like a mad on those two pages - if they're wrong for the story.
So I am grateful for my editor who never lets on that she can sense my resentment or hurt feelings (they never last), and never gives up. There's an awful lot of inspiration in that feedback, and my novel is all the better for it.
If I can just get started on that blasted rewriting!

2 Feb 2011

Choices ...

I distrust choices. I don't like to make them, I get a headache from thinking about it, and I'm more than happy to let things work themselves out - go with the flow, so to speak.
Now I know this about myself. Making choices is hard, and mostly I'll do what's easiest at the moment. Then it doesn't interfere with what I really want to do: to write.
The irony of course, is that writing is all about choices.
You start with the idea; that one or that one? Then the characters: who are they, what do they do, how do they look, what to they want; then the story: what happens next?
There's an infinite number of "what happens next" - there's no clear path - just decisions.
Every choice will lead to another choice, there will be consequences in the text, leading to other choices.
If you're anything like me, you start with an idea, write until your fingers ache, and postpone the decisions until the editing process - and then you really have to start making choices.
And right now, it's making my head hurt.
I can't even decide whether or not to go to bed. Perhaps I'll just fall asleep on my keyboard, and that'll be that.
Or I could close my computer, go to bed, sleep, and go back to writing again sometime tomorrow afternoon. Or not. 
The birds are singing. It's five in the morning, and I ... oh ... I wonder if there's anything on the telly?

28 Jan 2011

Two manuscripts and so little time ...

I may just have written myself into a corner, so to speak.
I have comitted myself to finish a manuscript by mid February, and another by March 15.  And that's not very much time ...
For some reason dates that are more than a week away, always seems so far, far away. Like it's never going to happen, and there's an infinite number of days ahead of me.
It was the same way in school. Exams? I didn't have to study for this exam or finish that paper now! I had so many other interesting things to do, so usually I'd forget about it. Until about a week before, or in most cases, the night before - I'd suddenly remember, work like possessed and sort of slide through it. (I wasn't much of a scholar, I'm afraid).
Of course, I can't do that anymore. For one thing I'd starve to death... and the publisher wouldn't be very pleased. And also I love finishing a book. There's just no better feeling.
I actually have to work pretty hard every day to finish, and since two manuscripts is a bit much, I'm worried.
The only way to manage the deadlines, is to work everyday. Which I do. But there is only so much you can do in one day.
The first manuscript is the second book in a new series. I have a contract for that, the first book has been approved, and I should have finished this manuscript by now. At least a first draft. And I'm halfway. I'll get it ready, I'm sure of it. This is the 13th book I'm writing in this genre, so it's not like I don't know what I'm doing. (or at least pretend I know).
The second is a new thriller, and I want to finish it so badly, I can't sleep. Anan has been rewriting and doing extra research on it for a couple of months, and now it's my turn to work on it. A first draft has been completed, it's just not good enough yet. There are so many holes in the story, it's not fit for editorial eyes.
We have been working on it for years, and we are way past the point of no return.
Deadline is looming ...

21 Jan 2011

The 2011 Stephen King Challenge ...

Oh, I just found a great challenge  - to read between 6 or 12 Stephen King novels in 2011. How could I resist? I love Kings books, and although I've read quite a few of his books, there are still more. Since I'm an avid reader, there's nothing better than a productive writer!
This will be fun!
And I get a great looking button!
Here's the link to the site: Book Chick City

15 Jan 2011

The Writer in conversation with the Writer ...

I wrote this on my Norwegian blog, but since the manuscript in question is a Singh & Normann book, it should be here too.

In my head there's room for two strong personalities: The Sensible side and The Creative side. Sensible represents everything practical in my life. All the things I have to do to keep the taxman away and get my bills paid. Creativity just wants to have fun.

Sometimes discussions like this flare up:

Sensible pricks Creativity on the shoulder: Hey! You have got to pull your self together!
Creativity is absorbed in the computer: Shush! Can't you see I'm working?
- Don't shush me! You're just playing Solitaire, for Gods sake!
- I'm thinking while I'm doing this. It's part of my job!
- We are up to our necks in dustbunnies and dirty coffee mugs! Sensible is not about to give up. - Can't we at least vacuum? How can you think in this mess?
- Stop nagging me! Can't you take the dustbunnies out for a walkie? Creativity flashes a charming smile.
Sensible rolls her eyes and looks for something else she to pick at. - And when do you intend to finish that manuscript in your drawer?
Creativity gets a confused look on her face. - What are you talking about?
- Well, there's a big pile of papers you have to complete before sending it out.
- Oh, that. Creativity waves her hand. - That's finished.
- No, it's not! Sensible scents blood. - It has to be rewritten, reorganized, recut, and edited properly.
- How boring! It's fine the way it is.
Sensible is in shock. - What? Are you insane? You can't send that to a publisher the way it is now? You do understand that, right?
- I don't see why not. Creativity is so immersed in herself she misses the danger signals.
- Because there's no proper ending, the story sags in the middle, and you need a hell of a better opening than that lazy trash you've stitched together! Sensible drops the manuscript on the table, causing the dustbunnies to fly.
Creativity ignores the manuscript. - I'm telling you it's finished.
- It will just get rejected! And what's the poing of sending it out then? Hm?
- But it's already 400 pages long! Creativity whines. - That has to be good enough for them. What else do they want?
- It doesn't matter how long it is! You HAVE to finish it!
- Blah. It's boring. Creativity lights up and points at the computer. - What I'm writing now is sooo much more fun to write. Have I told you the story line?
- I'm not listening! Sensible covers her ears. - You have to learn to finish things. Finish one thing first, before starting something else. Why is that concept so impossible to get in your head
- Oh, shut your trap. Creativity turns her back. - I have to write what inspires me. Don't you get that? Stick some stamps on that thing and send it out.
- I'm telling you, there's no editor in this world who is going to understand what that book is about. The story is absurd! Sensible is loosing her voice as well as her patience.
- Can't we just say  tell them it's a surrealistic crime novel? Creativity is deeply impressed by her own ... eh ... creativity. - We can start a new trend or something. Wouldn't that be the great?

At this point Sensible either gets a headache or screams at the top of her lungs. Creativity turns the volume up on her music, and fills the computer with words, happy in her world. For as long as it lasts ...