Monday, December 14, 2009

Kult optioned

From the Leucrota Press blog: "Gharial Productions has just optioned movie rights to Shaun Jeffrey's The Kult.

The screenplay, adapted from the novel by Danielle Kaheaku and Robert Hunter, went into negotiations in the middle of November with Gharial Productions and has finally come out with a solid contract offer and acceptance by Leucrota Press.

Gharial Productions is an emerging movie and film production company based in San Diego, California, and is currently working on pre-production arrangements for the filming of the movie, tentatively scheduled to begin June 2010."


Anyone who has had a book optioned knows that it's far from actually being filmed, but it's still a nice early Christmas present.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Read the first 3 chapters of The Kult for free

Competition winners

The answer was Henry Tomb and the winners of The Kult competition were:

First: Tara Noble
Second: Jan Darga
Third: Rich Hagan

Congratulations to you all.

Monday, October 05, 2009

26 days left to crack the code

The clock is ticking, and there are now only 26 days left to enter The Kult competition. Are you clever enough to crack the code?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

While I was away recently, I booked a session with photographer Dave Cable of to take some photos that I could use for websites, book covers etc. I'll post a couple of my favourites here:

How important is factual accuracy in fiction?

Someone who’s a police academy graduate, majored in criminology for 2 years, and who is currently a Fire Prevention Officer has slated my novel The Kult on and given it a one star review:

The reviewer stated that the book was slow and the characters uninteresting, and he read it with a critical eye regards the police aspect, and was disappointed that it contained so many flaws.

Okay, I try not to write anything that reads slow, as I personally don’t like slow books, so I kind of disagree with that one, as for the characters being uninteresting, well I guess that’s down to personal opinion. But I’m more interested in the factual accuracy aspect. When I wrote the novel, I wrote it as a piece of fiction. I did some research, but knowing that I would never be able to get all the facts regarding police procedure correct, I tried to gloss over much of that side of it. A police officer friend of mine told me that if I did write it accurately, it would be boring, as most police work is boring.

So what are other people’s opinions on the importance of factual accuracy in fiction?

And for those who don’t know, there has been an issue with the company that lists the books ISBN, and publisher details, and because of a cock-up, the book was locked out of the system. It is listed on Amazon, but as unavailable. But it is available direct from the publisher at the moment for $8.95. It might also be orderable from bookshops, but I’m not 100% sure on that because of the listing problem, but you could always try. Anyway, here are the details for ordering etc:

Title: The Kult
Author: Shaun Jeffrey
Publisher: Leucrota Press
ISBN-10: 0980033985
ISBN-13: 978-0980033984

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Bucket of Blood

With a name like 'The Bucket of Blood', how could I not want to visit? The pub is in Phillack, Hayle in Cornwall.

Legend has it that many years ago, the landlord went to the on-site well to get a bucket of water, but when he pulled the bucket up, it was found to be full of blood. Upon further investigation, a badly mutilated body was found at the bottom of the well, who turned out to be an excise man (taxman) that had been murdered. The pub now has reports of ghostly figures, strange noises and other strange phenomena.

If not for the story, then it's a nice place to visit for the food.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bodmin Jail

We started our recent holiday with a visit to Bodmin Jail on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Now partially ruined, the ominous, crumbling building looms over the town of Bodmin and within the thick, stone walls, over 50 executions have taken place, for crimes such as rape, murder and stealing. 51 of these executions were open to the public.

The last public hanging took place at Bodmin Jail in 1909, and while supposed to be a deterrent, the executions became popular excursions of the time.

Bodmin was the first jail to feature separate "cells", and a couple of the well-known prisoners included: Anne Jefferies, thought to be a witch, who was starved to death and Selina Wadge, who was publicly executed for the murder of her bastard son. Hardly surprising then that Bodmin Jail has become known as a haunted hotspot.

Over the years, the jail went through a number of changes, including a major extension in 1859 to deal with overcrowding. At one point several prisons were located on the site. These included the Civil Prison for males, The Civil Prison for females, The Debtors prison, the Naval Prison and at one point the prison for Juvenile offenders. The roof has now collapsed, and so have many of the floors underneath.

Inside the building, you enter through the licensed bar and as you descend the steps into the jail, the cold seems to seep through the very brickwork. It’s hard to imagine being cooped up inside one of the gloomy cells for a long duration, where there would have been a lack of light and the smell was probably horrendous at the time when the jail was in use.

Now the visible cells only occupants are the most repellent looking mannequins I have ever seen. They are marginally lit, adding to their creepiness, especially when you turn a corner and run into one, but using the camera brings the flash into play, only highlighting their ugliness.

Accompanying plaques describe the prisoners, and what crime and punishment they suffered, everything from bestiality to murder.

Although we didn’t see anything strange while we roamed through the building, we didn’t linger too long either.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Midnight Echo #2

Coming next month: Midnight Echo #2, edited by Angela Challis & Shane Jiraiya Cummings, and featuring creepy stories by Kurt Newton, Bob Franklin, David Conyers, Andrew McKiernan, Joanne Anderton, Shaun Jeffrey, Felicity Dowker, and many more... plus artwork from David Schembri and many talented dark fantasy artists.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The evolution of a novel - the fear

So what do I mean by 'the fear'? Well, in this case, it's the fear of people thinking the book is crap. Now that advance review copies are about to be sent out, the realisation hits home that people are going to start reading the novel. Up until this point, very few people have read it. My partner, a few trusted readers, the publisher and editor and a couple of authors that offered blurbs.

Writing is a very solitary occupation. Me and my demons. Even though the work is a piece of fiction, there is obviously some of 'me' in the story as it originated from me. I gave birth to it. And like anyone with children knows, you care about them. You want to protect them. You want them to get on in life. You want them to be accepted. Liked. Successful. If you find your child is being bullied, picked on because someone has taken a dislike to them, it hurts. It's the same with anything you write. Of course over the years I've learned to harden myself to the criticism. You have to. But that's not to say that it doesn't hurt when someone calls your work crap.

That's not to say I like false praise, and people saying they like something just because they are worried about hurting my feelings. Sticks and stones and all that. Honest constructive criticism is one of the most valuable things people can offer. If someone thinks it's crap, tell me why you think it's crap. That's all I ask. That way I can learn.

So now my child is about to leave the nest, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that people welcome it's first tentative steps into the world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The evolution of a novel - the blurbs

In the hope of receiving quotes for the book, I contacted a few authors that I respect. Many are obviously very busy, so I'm very pleased that Jonathan Maberry and Jon F. Merz took time out of their busy schedules to read the manuscript and comment:

“With KULT, Shaun Jeffrey hits one out of the park with this creepy, character-driven thriller that starts with a jolt, stays in the fast lane, and plunges into the darkest territory of the human mind. It’s a bumpy ride through nightmare country.” -Jonathan Maberry, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of PATIENT ZERO and PUNISHER: NAKED KILL

"The Kult is a creeping stalk through a shadowy labyrinth of thrills and terror. Shaun Jeffrey delivers a pulse-pounding novel of superb skill and unequivocal horror. Fans of many genres should be ready to embrace one of the brightest new talents on the scene today." - Jon F. Merz author of Parallax and the Lawson Vampire novels

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Win an ARC of The Kult

If anyone is interested in winning an ARC of my upcoming novel, The Kult, please check out the publishers blog:

10 winners will be chosen at random, but the one condition of entry is that if chosen, you promise to read the entire novel, and then write a short and honest review about what you thought of the novel, and then email it to the publisher as well as post on,, or any other review sites you enjoy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The evolution of a novel - the cover

As promised, here is the cover for The Kult. It was exactly what I asked for, but I would welcome people's opinions as to what they think when they look at it.

I have also now contacted a couple of authors that I respect asking whether they will read the manuscript with the possibility of offering a blurb for the back.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The evolution of a novel - final proof

OK, on March 14th I received the final proof of The Kult. I read through it, and despite numerous reads by the editors and myself, I spotted a couple of continuity errors that had slipped through the cracks! I corrected these and returned the manuscript on March 17th. Now it’s going through layout.

A cover artist was also assigned, Mediterranean artist Daniele Serra:

Daniele has designed many book covers, and his work has a distinctive style that suits my story. He submitted a preliminary cover on March 19th, and it’s just being tweaked, but I hope to post a picture soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The evolution of a novel - Chapter 1 (sample)

I received the final proof of the manuscript yesterday and I am reading though it, but as promised, here is the first chapter so you may get a feel for the novel.

The Kult by Shaun Jeffrey


People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.

At least that’s what the Oracle hoped. He had studied and plotted Jane Numan’s routine over the weeks. Watched without her seeing, making note of every nuance, every step of her schedule until he had a complete diary of her movements, probably knowing more about her than she did about herself.

He crouched in the recessed doorway of the kebab shop opposite where she lived and gripped the handle of the knife in the sheath inside his jacket. His weapon of choice, he hoped the mere sight of the blade would instil terror in his prey, making it more personal, and putting him close enough that he could smell his quarry and see the fear in her eyes.

He looked at his watch; 6:29 a.m. and counting.

Any second now…

Like clockwork, the front door of what to anyone else would be a nondescript house opened and Jane walked out. The Oracle sank back into the shadows as he stared at the facial disfigurement that made it appear half her face was melting. Although only 23 years of age, she probably hadn’t had the easiest of lives, which made her all the more desirable as a victim as the more public sympathy his kill received, the more publicity he would generate, and as people were fond of saying, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, especially not for what he had planned.

The Oracle watched her check that the door was locked, pushing once, twice, then a third time, as she always did when she left the house. His pulse increased, a volcano waiting to erupt within his chest. He rubbed the sweat coated fingers of his free hand down his trousers. Everything was going according to schedule.

He knew that if he had broken into her flat to stage the attack, there was the potential to leave too much evidence that might be used to track him down, and he couldn’t have that. His motto was ‘leave no trace,’ which is why he planned to snatch her off the street.

Like many neighbourhoods clinging to the hub of British cities, the area Jane lived in was rundown, with discarded trash bags spewing their contents across the pavement—fodder for the rats and feral cats that prowled the streets once the sun went down. McDonald’s packaging and the remains of half eaten kebabs discarded by late night drunks littered the gutters, and the tang of rotten produce and sour piss permeated the air. Dirt and grime coated the walls of the buildings, many of which were boarded up and covered with graffiti, the culprits marking their territory like dogs.

No one took much notice of him in areas like these, and the distinct lack of community spirit associated with the modern generation meant that people ignored most of what they saw, just trying to make it through each day as best they could.

The Oracle watched the girl walk across Hope Street, dressed for the heat of another day in a yellow t-shirt and a black knee length skirt. She clutched a brown shoulder bag to her side, and kept her head bowed, eyes focused on her white Nike trainers.

It would take Jane ten minutes to reach the main road. There she would wait for the number seven bus, which arrived at 6:45. Today, she was blissfully unaware her journey would terminate early. As usual, she would take the shortcut down an alley between two buildings, which saved her five minutes of extra walking. It was a simple routine to follow. Too simple, and his reconnaissance had revealed that the dingy alleyway between the buildings was the perfect spot to stage the abduction—it wasn’t overlooked by any windows, there was only ambient light so much of it was in darkness, and the towering buildings would muffle her screams.

The Oracle followed Jane at a discreet distance of about forty feet, which he gauged to be far enough back so as not to appear threatening if she should discern his presence. He had parked his car near to the shortcut—not too close that she would notice the vehicle, because anything out of the ordinary might make her change something about her routine, but close enough that he wouldn’t have to carry her too far.

She reached the corner of the road and turned left. When she disappeared out of sight, the Oracle hurried to close the gap. His body throbbed with anticipation, all of his senses highly aware of everything around him. It had been a while since he felt like this, and truth be told, he had missed the feeling.

Pursuing someone always gave him a buzz. The thrill of the chase. But it didn’t come close to the euphoria he felt during the actual act of killing. That was something else. The biggest thrill ride in the world. Thinking about it made him smile; his balls tightened and goose bumps mottled his arms. Although the circumstances surrounding his choice of target were completely different now to those he had killed before, it didn’t lessen the feeling—it actually enhanced it.

Jane walked with her arms folded across her ample chest, a subconscious form of protection and the barrier of the weak. Not that it would help her today.

Her footsteps echoed along the road, the Oracle’s almost silent as he followed in her wake, well versed in covert manoeuvres as he matched her step for step, becoming as one with his victim. The anticipation was almost too much to bear and he took deep breaths to control the beat of his heart. His fingers tingled and he licked his dry lips.

As soon as she turned into the alley between houses, he would strike.

With mere seconds to go, he withdrew a pair of disposable latex gloves and tugged them onto his hands, then pulled the chloroform soaked cloth from a bag in his pocket, the sodden material feeling cold and spongy through the gloves.

Jane turned the corner to take the short cut.

The Oracle followed, cloth held tightly in his fist, senses attuned to the task at hand. Jane was about eight feet ahead, her footfalls echoing between the walls. The aroma of Chinese food filled the air, a pile of discarded boxes piled up outside the back door to the restaurant. Stalactites of grease hung from an extractor fan on the wall.

It was time to make his move.

The Oracle readied himself to strike, one hand on the cloth, the other about to withdraw the knife when a young lad with a pockmarked face walked into the alley from the opposite end, a Staffordshire bull terrier tugging at the leash in his hand. The Oracle clenched his teeth, released the knife, rammed the cloth back into his pocket and watched as Jane exited the short cut.

The dog strained at the leash as it approached the Oracle, its small, muscular body set to pounce, teeth bared as it looked up at him. The owner struggled to pull it away, using both hands to yank at the lead.

“He’s not usually like this,” the lad said.

The Oracle guessed that the dog could sense the bloodlust on his mind. He could easily take them both out, but they weren’t his target. If he killed randomly, then he’d be just a savage, and they weren’t part of his plan so he kept his gloved hands out of sight in his pockets so as not to arouse suspicion.

He wasn’t happy about it, but he had considered this scenario, like he considered everything.

There would be another opportunity to grab Jane Numan.

People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The evolution of a novel - editor jumps aboard

Now after taking on board the editors requests for The Kult, I read through the manuscript, and keeping everything in mind that the editor required, I did the revisions and submitted the rewritten manuscript on January 11th. I added 15,500 words to it, taking it to 85,500. To be honest, all of the requested changes were excellent, and I felt that they all helped improve the manuscript no end, especially some of the characterisation and the killer’s motivation.

As a different example, my novel Fangtooth that is being published by Ghostwriter Publications later in the year worked in the opposite way. The publisher wanted a shorter novel, so it was edited down to around 61,000 words from over 80k. An editor was assigned to make the cuts, and although they were substantial, I was surprised by how tight it made the prose. I had initially feared that losing a quarter of the story would rip the heart out of it, but in fact, it had the opposite effect, and made it much tighter.

I received the next reply regarding The Kult on January 22nd that basically said, ‘So far from what I've seen I'm very happy with the plot, so there won't be much to do aside from a line edit and some additional descriptions, character movement, etc.’ At this point, I was also asked to submit cover ideas.

I received the manuscript back on February 11th. At this point, another editor (Christina Celentano) had gone over the manuscript, making corrections and comments on the plot and deleting those portions that she felt didn’t work. There probably wasn’t a page where something wasn’t highlighted, so then it was a case of going through it all again and doing some more writing, accepting deletions or commenting why I thought something should stay. I went through it quickly, and returned the manuscript on February 13th.

I was sent it back on February 27th. The editor had gone through it with a fine toothcomb, and there were yet more changes and comments, but they were all helping shape the novel. At this point, they were only minor things, so I went through it quite quickly, and then emailed the manuscript back on February 28th. After the latest edits, the novel now stood at 82,500 words and that’s brought its evolution bang up to date. I am now waiting for the final edit, and then it will be a matter of focusing on the cover and marketing, which I will post updates on as and when they happen.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The evolution of a novel - acceptance

Okay, back to the submissions process of The Kult. I sent the complete manuscript out as requested on December 2nd, 2008. Then on December 22nd, I received an email from the acquisitions editor, David, saying that he read the whole manuscript in a single sitting and had passed it on to the editor in chief.

On December 27th, I received an email from the editor in chief, Danielle Kaheaku. Attached to the email was the letter concerning my submission. The letter started off with her telling me she thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel, but then she went on to tell me everything she didn’t like about the novel! Most of this was centred around the places where I was ‘telling instead of showing’ and my character development.

As I read through, I was expecting to reach the part that said, ‘Thanks for taking the time to submit your novel, but we will have to pass.’ But it didn’t say that. Instead, it said: Now, if you were able to stomach your way through the entire list of possibly disappointing yet obviously meant-to-be-constructive criticism, I would like to congratulate you on your talent and obvious accomplishment, and on the acceptance of your manuscript for publication.

As I wasn’t expecting it, this came as more than a bit of a surprise. The acceptance was conditional though, as the editor wanted to see substantial changes, including certain character development, plot line changes, more showing instead of telling, and she wanted the manuscript extending by around 20,000 words to accommodate these changes.

I was sent a contract on December 30th, which I requested a few changes to, and then at the start of the New Year, I started on another round of rewrites.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The evolution of a novel - submission package

As someone pointed out, I didn’t mention the ‘submission package’ in my last post. This includes the cover letter and the synopsis. Like most people, I find it hard to write a synopsis. When you’ve written something over 80,000 words, it’s difficult to then break it down into a page or two that tells the complete story.

Here’s a few tips that might help:

Firstly, what is your book about?

It may seem a silly question, because you know what it’s about, don’t you? But if someone asked, and you had 20 seconds, could you explain the heart of the story and grab their interest? This is important, because you need to be able to explain the story in its simplest form, in one powerful sentence. If you can do this, then you know what the heart of the story is in its simplest form.

This is called the logline or hook line, and it usually includes ‘who’ the story is about (protagonist), ‘what’ he strives for (goal) and ‘what’ stands in his way (antagonistic force).

Here are some examples from the world of film:

In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a despondent cop struggles on the lam to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed. – Minority Report.

A psychologist struggles to cure a troubled boy who is haunted by a bizarre affliction – he sees dead people. – The Sixth Sense.

When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an insane and corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. – Gladiator.

As another example, here’s the hook line for The Kult:

Acting out of misguided loyalty, police officer Prosper Snow helps his friends perform a copycat killing in the style of a serial killer, only for the real killer to hunt them down.

In this example, the ‘who’ the story is about (protagonist), is Prosper Snow. The ‘what’ he strives for (goal), is to help his friends. And the ‘what’ stands in his way (antagonistic force), is the real killer hunting them down.

Also in the submission package is the synopsis. This is a condensed version of the novel, concentrating on the major plot points. I always put the hook line at the start of the synopsis, as like the name implies, this is the hook to draw the reader in. The synopsis itself has to tell the entire story, without leaving out the ending. It’s often easier to look at examples and take from them what you can, so here are a couple of links that lead to other authors’ synopses samples, but at its heart, a synopsis tells the most relevant parts of the story, written in a vivid, exciting way:

There’s also the cover letter. I like to keep it pretty simple. My first paragraph is my hook, then I say who I am, what I’ve sent, my track record, and how to get hold of me. And that’s it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The evolution of a novel - submitting

As I mentioned before, I had submitted The Kult in its initial incarnation to an agent (I have a few agent stories, none of them good – but that’s another story), who took me on and sent the manuscript out, but she failed to secure a publisher for it. I still feel the fact that it didn’t sell wasn’t down to the writing, but more because the story wasn’t that good, which is why I rewrote it, basically from scratch. So now I was ready to start submitting it again, but who to submit it too?

In the Stone Age before the internet, I used to buy a copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook, and then trawl through the pages for possible markets. Nowadays, I use internet sites that list markets I would never otherwise have discovered. The search sites I commonly use are:

I also regularly check out forums and message boards that talk about horror, where there are sometimes posts about new markets.

Now the submission procedure itself is the most nerve-wracking and tedious part of the process. For a start, you are sending your baby out into the world on its own for the first time, hoping and praying that it can stand on its own two feet and that people welcome it with open arms. The reality is that many of the people you submit to will look upon it as the ugly duckling. But then sometimes, someone will see something in what you’ve written and might request to read more. That’s when all fingers and toes get crossed. Of course, to reach this point might take many years and many submissions. Or of course, it could happen the first time you submit it.

I made a list of the markets I was interested in submitting to, read each of their specific guidelines and then sent to them what was requested for an initial submission (usually a covering letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters).

Now among those I had selected to submit to was Leucrota Press. Although they aren’t a major publisher, and are pretty new on the block, I submitted to them because I liked what I read on their website. They seemed to have their heads screwed on straight, I got the impression that they cared about the books they published, and I just had a good feeling about them. Of course, it didn’t hurt that they paid an advance, which shows that they were prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

So I sent off my submission to them on November 22nd 2008.

On December 1st, I received a reply from David Peak, the acquisitions editor, which said he was in a bit of a pickle. He felt that from what he had read, the book seemed more along the lines of a crime or a mystery novel than horror, and Leucrota Press only publishes science fiction, fantasy and horror, so he wanted me to clue him in with a better overall picture of what the novel was about.

So the next day I sat down and composed a reply, and here is what I wrote (I have deleted a small portion of the reply as it gives away a bit of the story, but you’ll get the gist):

‘To answer that question I guess you would have to ask what horror fiction is. Some people believe that it has to have a supernatural element, revolving around witches, zombies, vampires and their ilk. While that is certainly true, I believe it’s also anything that elicits fear, and nothing elicits that feeling more than real life horrors: hate, murder, cruelty.

There have been many, many stories about serial killers that are classed as horror. Some linger in the grey area between thriller and horror, and others are just pigeonholed into what might be perceived a more acceptable genre. I believe that at its heart, The Kult is a horror story as it deals with ordinary people being forced into real life horrors over which they have no control. Ordinary people. People like you and I. It’s a story about the decisions people make in life, and the terrifying repercussions that happen as a result. THE FOLLOWING SECTION WAS DELETED AS IT CONTAINS SPOILERS.

The real monsters are all around us. Being able to spot them is the problem.’

So then I sat back and waited. I expected a long wait, but I received a reply the same day asking to read the complete manuscript, so I emailed it off post haste.

Next time, I will talk about the next stage in the process.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The evolution of a novel - editing

OK, so to backtrack a little, I will talk about the initial editing of The Kult.

I believe that since the publication of my first novel, Evilution, I have learned a lot, especially about the process of writing, and I’m still learning. It’s easy to string a couple of words together – the art is making those words the best ones possible for what you are trying to say. Now I won’t claim to be an expert on the matter, but when I write my first draft, I pretty much just let the writing flow without bothering too much how good it is. That’s where the editing comes in after.

Now some people might be able to get away with a couple of edits. Me, I have to keep going through whatever I’ve written a number of times before I’m anywhere near happy with it. My edits are an ongoing process and go something like this:

After I’ve finished the manuscript, I leave it alone for a few weeks to let the dust settle. It’s much easier to look at it then with a more critical eye. On the read through, I look for many things, such as the following:

Are my characters engaging? After all, they have got to drive the story forwards. The reader has to care about them and engage with them, especially on an emotional level. For that reason they need a journey. They need a goal, and they need obstacles in their way, with dilemmas and decisions to make.

I believe anything you write in a novel has to either inform about a character or drive the story forwards. If it doesn’t, then I cut it out. I can probably expect to delete about 10 to 20% of what I’ve written just because it doesn’t really add anything to the story, and makes for boring reading. Then I look for redundant words and anything that stands out as flowery prose. There are many redundant words that can be deleted quite easily, many of which are those words that make a sentence passive instead of active, and by the deletion of which, the sentence becomes much snappier and easier to read. Prime suspects are the words ‘had’ ‘that’ and ‘was’. Here’s an example:

‘The scowl that his face had been wearing was replaced by a mischievous grin.’ This is a passive and wordy sentence. I would make it active by rewriting something like this: ‘The man’s scowl melted into a mischievous grin.’ That cuts 14 words down to 8. A near 50% reduction that makes the sentence flow much better. Also, where else would the scowl be but on his face? So the use of the word ‘face’ is unnecessary. It’s a redundant word.

As I use Microsoft Word, it’s easy to use the ‘find’ function to highlight the passive offenders mentioned above (had, that, was) and then to see if I can delete them or rewrite the section wherever they appear.

Another thing I look for is cases of ‘telling instead of showing’. The difference between the two is that ‘telling’ is the reliance of simple exposition. ‘Showing’ is the use of evocative description. For example, I might first write:

‘Prosper felt sick.’ That’s telling you how he feels. In the rewrite I might write: ‘Prosper’s mouth watered and he clutched his stomach, doubling over as he tried not to vomit.’ One sentence states a fact, the other paints a picture.

I also like to delete adverbs, those pesky words often ending in -ly. Here’s an example:

‘He ran quickly into the room’. One solution is simply to delete ‘quickly’. But to make a more powerful sentence, you could write, ‘He charged into the room’, or ‘He sprinted into the room’.

After I’ve been through the manuscript a few times, I like to pass it on to a beta reader, someone I trust to be honest. They will undoubtedly spot things I missed, leading to yet another rewrite or two.

So that’s my initial editing process. As you can see, there’s a lot to consider and look for, which is why it takes me lots of rewrites. It’s all about the words. Finding the right word(s) can make your prose shine.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The evolution of a novel.

I thought I would talk a little about how a novel comes about, the changes it goes through, and the long hard road to publication. For this example, I’m going to use The Kult, which is being published by Leucrota Press. Of course, there are many roads and many ways to write and get published. This is but one.

At my age, specific dates become fuzzy, but I originally wrote The Kult about 4 years ago at a guess. The book I wrote then was a completely different beast to what it is now. Firstly, it started off as a supernatural thriller that I wrote off the cuff, without any planning, and it came in at about 85,000 words and took about 6 months to write.

There are many things that can spur a story, and the genesis for this one was actually a building that I sometimes drive past during my day job. Because it’s such a fantastic building, I wanted to use it for something, so it provided part of the seed, from which the rest of the story grew. And here's a picture of the building so you can see what it looks like:

I must then have rewritten the novel about 5 times within a 2 year period, but deep down, I was never really happy with it. It’s hard to explain really, but it didn’t ‘feel’ right. It was as though there was another story clawing to escape, but I wouldn’t let it. Although I didn’t have a set plan laid out, I did have a rough idea in my head about what I wanted the story to be, and so I kept restraining it, moulding it to my predetermined plan. But it didn’t work, which is why it felt ‘off’.

I did send it out in this state, and I snared an agent (with whom I have since amicably parted company), and I know she submitted it to a couple of places, but it was rejected, which didn’t really surprise me. Again though, I couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that the story wasn’t right. Something about it was wrong.

After parting ways with the agent, I put the novel aside and continued writing other stuff, but The Kult kept niggling at my subconscious. I knew there was a story there, but I didn’t know what to do with it. Then I guess there was the sort of epiphany moment, when I decided to rewrite the novel again, removing the supernatural aspects, and making it a purely horror/thriller story. In essence, I let the real story come out, and stopped trying to dictate the direction that the story took, instead literally allowing it to write itself.

At this point, I probably did a couple more rewrites, so it now stood at about 7 or 8 revisions. After the rewrites, the novel came in at 70,000 words, and although shorter, I now liked what I had written and felt it was something that had a chance at publication. So now that I was happy with the story, it was time to start submitting it.

Next time, I’ll continue talking about The Kult’s road to publication.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'm back!!!

Okay, it’s been a while. Quite a long while, and I feel as though I’ve just returned from the desert after a severe drought.

So what’s been happening? Well, firstly I’ve got news. Good news in that I have sold a couple of novels and a novella.

The first novel I sold was Fangtooth to Ghostwriter Publications

A short summary:

The fishing trawler, was the first. All hands lost and its nets shredded. The fishing village of Mulberry has been suffering with declining fish stocks but two people discover one reason for the decline... Anoplogaster cornuta...better known as Fangtooth.

Ghostwriter Publications have also accepted a novella with the working title, Dead Man’s Eyes.

I’ve also sold a novel called The Kult to Leucrota Press (

A short summary:

People are predictable. That's what makes them easy to kill.

Acting out of misguided loyalty to his friends, police officer Prosper Snow is goaded into helping them perform a copycat killing, but when the real killer comes after him, it’s not only his life on the line, but his family's too. Now if he goes to his colleagues for help, he risks being arrested for murder. If he doesn't, he risks being killed.

Both novels are due later this year, so I will post updates as and when.