Tandem spoiler alert!

Tricycle engraving

If you enjoyed Tandem, read on to find out about the sequel; if you haven’t read it yet, leave the page now as there’s a spoiler coming up!

I’m planning to pick up the story of Paula, Andy, Sanders, Nora and Terry in a few years. At the moment, I’m thinking the book might be called Tricycle, after Terry and Andy’s business – taxis for when you’re in a hurry; vans for when you need to move stuff, and bike hire for when you want to take it slow.

Sanders will be involved in a project of his own, but telling you about that would be a spoiler too far. If you want to know what he’s up to and who with, you’ll have to wait until it’s published!

By the way, if you did like Tandem and haven’t voted for it yet in the Reading Agency’s “Hidden Gem” competition – depending on when you’re reading this – there may still be time. Voting closes on June 18, with the winner announced on June 28, which is National Reading Group Day.

To vote click here. Thank you!

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Every novel needs a spreadsheet

Recommended reading

I’ve just spent a very productive week on the lovely Galloway House Estate in south-west Scotland working on my new novel – and I’ve learned three things I think are worth sharing.

1) Excel is the novelist’s friend. It wasn’t until I was deep in the process of revising my first novel, Tandem, that I realised how useful it would have been to have a plan listing the main events of each chapter, who was involved and where to find it in the manuscript. One of the first things I did this week was to create just such a spreadsheet for Pressmennan – and it’s already proving invaluable.

2) My reading brain is easily fooled. When I’m immersed in writing my own fiction, I don’t like to fill my head with other people’s. Not because I think it’ll somehow “influence” me, but because I’ve only got so much space for stories and I need to focus on creating my own. I want to read something for a change of scene, but I find a lot of non-fiction heavy going. I’ve discovered the answer: autobiography. I get the satisfaction of reading something really interesting, and my brain’s happy because it isn’t fiction. My top choice this week was Liza Campbell’s Title Deeds, the riveting story of her dysfunctional upbringing in a Scottish castle.

3) Every book needs at least one dog. My other reading matter was Terry Darlington’s Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, the wonderful tale of his travels by narrow boat through England, Belgium and France accompanied by his wife Monica and Jim, their pork-scratching-loving whippet. Jim is a star. As Terry says, he is “cowardly, thieving and disrespectful and hates boating” – and the book wouldn’t be half so much fun without him. There are several dogs in Title Deeds, and Tandem features a greyhound called Bovis. Pressmennan, although only five chapters long so far, already has its quota of dogs – dachshunds Oscar and Peterson, aka the Wee Buggers. I think Jim would like them!

Please vote for Tandem!

National Reading Group Day logo

Book lovers, I need your help urgently! My novel Tandem, winner of the Hookline Novel Competition, has been long-listed in National Reading Group Day’s search for a “hidden gem”. Voting has opened and the winner will be announced on June 28.

Please visit the site and vote for it asap – you don’t have to be in a reading group. Also, please spread the word far and wide, and encourage everyone you know to vote.

http://readinggroups.org/news/hidden-gems-longlist.html

Thank you!

Into the dustbin of literature

Tom Gauld cartoon

This cartoon by Tom Gauld made me smile. I’m only on chapter three of my new novel, Pressmennan, and already one of the characters – a Swedish film star called Bibi – has been consigned to the dustbin.

When it comes to editing your own work, it’s not indecisive to make changes – it’s essential. Knowing when to hit delete is a skill every writer must learn if they want to be successful. And the parts to look hardest at are often the ones you’re most proud of.

As Arthur Quiller-Couch advised in On the Art of Writing: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – wholeheartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

Sometimes the bravest and best course of action is to dispose of a character, scene or even a whole plotline. Occasionally, the wastebasket, electronic or actual, is the right place for an entire manuscript.

It’s where my first two went. It took me a while to realise I needed to let go of them, but once I did, I was able to move on and put everything I’d learned into writing Tandem.

Decisive use of the red pen is what made it publishable and turned it into the winner of the Hookline Novel Competition.

Journeys with strangers

Bookshelf


There are only two basic novel plots. This is something I remember reading years ago, and it has floated to the front of my mind over the past few days as I’ve started thinking seriously about my new novel.

It was the American novelist John Gardner who said it all boiled down to this: the central character goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.

It may seem simplistic but I think it’s true. All novels are about change. Something must happen to the main character, otherwise there is no story. And that change must be prompted by something they do themselves – a physical or emotional journey of discovery – or by someone else – the stranger – who does something to affect their life.

Think about the books you love and see which category they fall into. Pride and Prejudice, one of my favourites, revolves around the arrival of several (male) strangers. Wolf Hall is about Thomas Cromwell’s journey from poverty to power.

My first novel, Tandem, is actually about both. The Amazon blurb says: “Paula abandons her London life and travels through the night to a Scottish village where she once spent a childhood holiday. Desperate to avoid a painful loss, she tries to hide away. However, the locals are keen to know more about their unhappy visitor and she is soon tangled in the life of 12-year-old Sanders. Can Paula help her new friend? Can we ever run away from the past?”

So Paula embarks on what turns out to be both a physical and an emotional journey, while for the villagers of Craskferry, particularly Sanders, she is the stranger who comes to town and changes lives.

My new novel, Pressmennan, has just one plot theme: it’s all about strangers. What will your novel be about?

Beginning with the blurb

The cover of Tandem by Alex Morgan
One of the hardest tasks I faced when Tandem was accepted for publication was trying to write an intriguing, spoiler-free summary of the story to use on the back cover, in press releases and so on.

In the end, after many false starts, my editor Yvonne and I agreed it was too difficult to sum up and we’d simply do without, going instead with the plaudits I received from “real” writers Sara Maitland and Cleo Gray.

This time round, as a way of focussing my mind on what I want Pressmennan to be about, I’ve decided to start with the blurb. So, here goes with Version One of what I’m guessing will be many…

Grace Hendry leads an enviable life. She runs one of Edinburgh’s top tourist attractions, is married to a successful journalist and is surrounded by friends and relatives she can rely on. When a series of unexpected events reveal that the people and places she has built her world around are not what they seem, she must choose how to respond.

I can also disclose that there will be dachshunds, provisionally entitled Oscar and Peterson.

What do you think of it so far?

Welcome to my “next novel” blog

Image

My first novel, Tandem, was published last month after I won the Hookline Novel Competition, judged by book groups from around the UK. It’s about love, loss, a celebrity penguin and riding a bicycle built for two – plus a lot more besides – and has had a great reception so far. (You can read all about it on my website.)

So now it’s onto that tricky second novel. I have the story ready in my head so that’s not the problem. The issue is that I’m struggling to find the hours I need to write it. But it is time to make time.

Why not join me on the journey?

Follow The next novel on WordPress.com
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