This time five years ago I was an unpublished author, having just signed with my agent. My first book, The Missing Ones (published March 2017), was out on submission and I’d started book two in the Lottie Parker series. In July 2016 Bookouture contracted me for four books in the series and I later signed for further books. As I write, Broken Souls (7) has been published in trade paperback and Silent Voices (9) is being published on February 5th. (see link below).
What have I learned on this manic writing journey that might help you?
Among the pitfalls and highs of the last four years, I’ve discovered that writing is bloody hard work. I have to focus daily, even when I want to run a mile rather than sit with the laptop. I work to deadlines which can be a blessing or a curse depending on my mindset but deadlines help me get the work finished. By writing daily I keep the story and characters fresh in my mind. I’m not a plotter, so I never know what’s coming next and if I leave the work for a few days I often forget what I’ve already written! What happens when I can’t remember what’s gone before? I can end up writing the same thing twice. To negate untold angst, I write every day. My deadlines are too tight to be writing the same thing twice!
The first draft, no matter how rubbish you think it might be, is the most important part of the process. If you don’t have a completed first draft you have nothing to edit, to polish, to fine tune. The deep pit of despair authors often fall into mid-way through writing (the murky middle) can have you going back to the beginning repeatedly without moving forward. Going backwards means that what could have taken five months to write will take you five years. I know. That’s what happened to me with The Missing Ones. My advice is keep going to the end, taking notes along the way. Once you have a first draft completed, then go back and edit it.
I write with a structured editorial process and my editor, Lydia Vasser Smith, is my right hand. She can see things I can’t because I’m too close to what I’ve written. Jane, my copy editor, is like a detective with a microscope. You get the picture. Even if you haven’t got a publisher yet, before you start submitting, I recommend hiring a professional editor to read your work. It will be worth it.
The final stage that I as an author have input to my book, is proofreading. One of the most tedious of all jobs in the writing process for me. I usually want to rewrite it or delete it, while trying hard to be as enthusiastic as when I started writing the book. I’ve been with these thousands of words for months on end and no matter how careful I am with proofreading, something will get through and being a perfectionist, that terrifies me. On the flip side, I’m seeing the book laid out in typeset for the first and last time, and I know that after my eyes go over it this final time, the next eyes belong to the reader. This is the time when I have to let it go and move on to the next book.
I’m often asked how I get character names. With a lot of characters in my books, I need the reader to be able to identify and remember them. So where do I get their names? This might sound morbid, (I write dark stuff anyway), but the oldest section of the graveyard is a great source for me (I always take a mix of surnames and forenames). Another source is the multitude of names that scroll at the end of a film which can be easily adapted for characters. I try to keep a log of the names I’ve used but sometimes I forget and with my bad memory, I have been known to use the same name twice (not in the same book, thankfully).
I have fallen down the rabbit hole on more than one occasion with the Find and Replace function on Word. Use it with caution! I’m not tech savvy so I learned the hard way. I once called a character Ted Bannon but kept thinking of Ted Bundy! I clicked Find and Replace to change the forename to Giles. Easy? Not for me. He wanted became He wangiles. He panted became he pangiles, and so on. After frantic phone calls, it was sorted. I can do without that anxiety again. Oh, another thing, back up your document. Save to an external hard drive, save to the cloud, or email it to yourself. Daily. Trust me on this one!
Writing a novel is not easy. It takes time and energy and above all commitment. You can dream about the finished product, but there are many steps along the way. The first step is the hardest. Sit down every day and write. The rest will follow.
(c) Patricia Gibney
About Silent Voices:
The words blurred as she read the note from the killer. She could feel her blood turning to ice. Shivers ran up and down her spine. ‘Before you make the biggest mistake of your life, meet me. If you don’t, her blood will be on your hands. She is with me. You know where to find us’.
When twenty-five-year-old Beth Mullen returns home, expecting to find her twin Rachel waiting for her, the silent house sends a shiver down her spine. She races upstairs to find her beautiful beloved sister cold in her childhood bed, her sparkling blue eyes closed forever, the morning after attending a glittering party…
Newly engaged Detective Lottie Parker knows that Rachel has been murdered the minute she enters the bedroom. Rachel’s neck is bruised and a shard of glass placed in her throat. Confronted with such a horrifying killing, Lottie wastes no time in pursuing every clue.
While interviewing the partygoers, Lottie discovers that Rachel’s handbag and keys are nowhere to be found. But as she is searching for them, a brilliant young doctor is found murdered with glass in her throat. The doctor was nowhere near the party and Lottie is forced to question everything. Two beautiful young women with the world at their feet have been brutally silenced. Why did the killer need them to die?
Desperate to find proof of what really happened to Rachel that night, Lottie gets close to the hostess of the party, whose two daughters were friends with Rachel. But Lottie’s hunt for the truth is getting under the killer’s skin, and when Lottie’s fiancé Boyd goes missing, will she be able to find him before it’s too late? Or will he too be silenced forever?
An unputdownable crime thriller from bestselling author Patricia Gibney, with an ending that will blow your mind. If you like Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Caine you’ll be totally hooked by Silent Voices.
Order your copy online here.