I was thinking about the people we create. Who are they, and what gives them relevance? What makes one book better than another?
Book one: Boy meets girl, falls in love and lives happily ever after.
Book Two: Fictional story based on fact about somebody who lived through the atrocity of war.
Only one thing makes book one better than book two, or vice-versa, and that’s the quality of the writing. Whatever we write, we need to attack it with conviction.
First and foremost, you have to have your nuts and bolts lined up on the workbench and in order. The three DIY tools every author needs are a saw, plane and glue gun (spelling, punctuation and grammar). If you haven’t got those three tools to hand and within easy reach, you might as well give up. It doesn’t matter how good your story is or what your people have been through. You need to learn the skill of writing properly.
Like most indie authors, I’m not great, but I try. And I strive to improve and reach that goal of being a great writer. Realistically, it’s never going to happen, but we keep on, and if I live to be three-hundred and eight, I can say with confidence in my ability that, yes. I will be a great writer that day.
Learn Your Craft.
The best way to do this is probably not through grammar textbooks that will confuse the hell out of you. Start by writing short pieces and getting people who have got their saw, plane and glue gun to hand to show you where you’re going wrong. You learn by being shown, not through being told. You want to be an architect. Would your first project be the design for a 100-storey tower block—or would you start with a child’s play house?
You’ve done that bit. Now you can write. You have the ability to put words down properly.
We get to the fun part. Every author gets to play God. We create a world and put beings into it. We can be benevolent and omnipotent and write sweet stories with happy endings or be a vengeful being of wrath who gives our characters hell. That’s up to us, but we have to know the people we write.
Go to the fifth character mentioned in your current book. Do they like porridge? This could be the most important question you will ever be asked. If you don’t know the answer, you’re doomed.
And you can’t cheat. When asked, you can’t pick yes or no at random and use that. It has to be based on every molecule of carbon and thought that makes up the three-dimensional being that is your character. A kilt-wearing Scott who goes to work on a breakfast heavy on protein might hate porridge. That’s fine, but why does he hate it? Is it too soft for his pallet? Too bland? Was he force-fed it when he was young?
‘You’re talking bollocks. Trust me. I am never going to write about my Jane Doe eating porridge. Never in a million years, so it doesn’t matter.’
But it does matter.
Imagine your main character without a nose. If you’re writing about a character without a nose, that’s perfect. You’ve got her bang on. But if you aren’t, there’s a big hole where part of her should be, and that’s the elephant in the room. You might not tell the reader that she is snozzle-less—but that hole is still there every time you look at her.
Same with porridge. Your person could be a refugee from Mozambique who has never heard of porridge, but If you don’t know whether he likes it, you need to offer him some to find out. Even if it’s never written down, it’s important to know.
The fifth character in my current book. Bill Robinson, coroner, age 65. I picked it at random and just looked up who it was. This is an easy one. I can say with confidence that he probably eats porridge but is ambivalent about it. It’s quick and easy, and gone are the days when he ate a big breakfast before dealing with crime scenes. Most of all, it’s simple, and while he’s an intelligent bloke with a complex mind, he likes simplicity. His wife would put jam on the table in a tiny bowl, never from the jar. Bill won’t touch it, and he’d prefer a teaspoon of salt on his porridge to sugar.
The next character mentioned is PC Bowes. Does he like porridge? I haven’t got a clue. He’s much harder to fathom in the porridge stakes. I’d say probably not, but I could be wrong. Now that the question has been asked, I need to know, so I’m going to put him in a porridge situation or conversation and find out.
What all this prattling waffle about oats is leading to is that you should know your characters. To know them is to love them. Blah. What’s the last film your eighth character watched? Even if you never write it.
Bang. You should know.
This segways me very neatly and without knocking anybody over—have you seen those things? they’re lethal—into this week’s showcase. Drum roll, please. Our highlighted author Beverley Latimer knows her people and writes them beautifully and with conviction.
We have three very different stories, all with their own side-serving of grit. I love the diversity of this lady’s books—and yet you can find her unmistakable hallmark writing in them all. We have Esther’s Journey, a story of loss and separation as a family is torn apart by the Second World War. It’s brutal and beautiful in equal measure. In Hannah, we’re brought up to date in an easy switch of time and place for this author as we read about an abusive relationship and Hannah’s bravery to get out of it before it’s too late. In The Winemaker’s son, we flick to a different mood and tempo again. A woman is at a crossroads in her life after a tragedy. She moves to a new place and pace in the wine region of France to pick up the pieces of her life and start again.
Like murderers, most authors have an MO. They write the same type of story because they managed to make a book out of the first one—so it’s a recipe that works for them. Beverly Latimer’s MO only stretches as far as her writing style. The stories are all very different, and we love her work.
Here are the links to take your directly to Amazon to buy Beverley’s books.
The Winemaker’s Son is Beverley Latimer’s most recient book, here you can take a moment to get a taste of what to expect from the book in her stunning book trailer.
And no showcase is complete without a rview, so here is the official BBE review for The Winemaker’s Son.
All posters and videos created by Bestbookeditors.com
In other news I have got a new book out. The first in the Silas Nash mysteries, Hush Hush Honeysuckle by Katherine Black was released on 5th December 2022.
Voting is still open for the BBE Book Awards 2022. Pop along to the Best Book Editors group to cast your votes for all your favourites.The BBE Book Shop and review threads are open in the same group. We are currently looking for a new admin to help with group demand if anybody is interested.
In December BBE has slots for Marketing packages, posters, videos, and all the usual services except editing. We are chocka block on that and prooreading until the new year..
The festivities approach and everybody and their dog has a new book out. Did I mention Hush Hush Honeysuckle by Katherine Black by the way? Monday 5th December, don’t foget. Light on profanity and no sex in this series, so the perfect gift for most readers for Christmas. We aren’t going to make Dad blush, or give Aunty Elsie a coronary. However, it carries the Black trademark skill of ferretting about in the darkest recesses of the psyche and pulling out some dubious substances from the corners of the mind–and all without wearing Marigolds.
If anybody would like to buy one of my other books, the same decency promise may not hold good on some of my novels, but they still make great presents for an open reader.
And I suppose that’s all folks!
Born in South Shields, Tyne & Weir, Katherine Black lives on the tip of the beautiful British Lake District. She lives with her partner, father-in-law and 4 dysfunctional but co-mingling pets. She is mother, grandmother and secret keeper of all. She is Best Book Editors’ principal editor.