Falling Girl: A Ghost Story – part 4 of 7

Over the next few weeks I’m serialising my novel Falling Girl: A Ghost Story on this website. Each part is free to download. Here’s the next two chapters: Falling Girl – part 4

Previous instalments can be found on the Falling Girl page.

FG front5

“This castle is haunted. It really is. There are ghosts in the walls and towers, the passages and the dark rooms, the secret places away from the warmth and sunshine, where it’s cold and clammy and … lonely.”

When eleven-year-old Ellie Black runs into Pentrillis Castle, she’s desperate to escape her depressing family life. Her parents have split up, Dad is Mr Angry, and her new step-brother is obnoxious beyond belief.

At first, it’s much better inside the castle. The sun shines (even when it’s still raining outside), there’s fabulous chocolate cake, and she meets a friendly story-teller and two cool new friends. (There’s also a scary bit in the chapel, but she was probably just imagining things, right?)

But the story-teller has a dark and unsettling tale to tell, of tragedy … and something menacing in the shadows.

And there’s some very odd things about those new friends.

And where did that awful scream come from?

But the worst part is when Ellie realises that there’s nowhere to hide from the ghost of Pentrillis Castle …

Making short shorter: A Dramatic Way to Clear the Air

storm-cloud

A Dramatic Way to Clear the Air is a 1,000 word story – kind of boy-meets-girl in a thunderstorm. It started life as a longer, 1,500 piece that I wrote about a year ago. Given my recent enthusiasm for shorter / flash fiction, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try to cut it down – losing one out of every three words – while maintaining the essence of the story.

So I did, and it wasn’t as hard as I’d first imagined. I had to go through it a few times to hack away all those 500 words, but it was surprisingly satisfying – and I really think the shorter version is better. It’s tighter, more direct, has fewer adjectives, adverbs and description, and yet I don’t think it really loses anything in terms of story or the characters.

Sometimes losing word count is a case of cutting unnecessary repetition or elaboration. Often things can be implied rather than explicitly states. One example – the sentence:

She peered ostentatiously at the clock, spidery black eyebrows raised almost out of sight.

… was originally followed by:

The words “you’re late” could not have been more clearly spoken if they had been flashed in blue neon across the walls.

I kind of liked that second sentence, but I concluded that it was basically superfluous. The fact that the woman in question thinks that Pete (the central character) is late for work is clearly implied in the first sentence – it doesn’t really need to be spelt out. So that second sentence was cut completely from the final version.

If you’re interested to compare, the original, 1,500-word version is here: A Dramatic Way to Clear the Air – long version

Falling Girl: A Ghost Story – Part 3 of 7

Over the next few weeks I’m serialising my novel Falling Girl: A Ghost Story on this website. It will be downloadable for free. Here’s the next two chapters: Falling Girl – part 3

Previous instalments can be found on the Falling Girl page.

FG front5

“This castle is haunted. It really is. There are ghosts in the walls and towers, the passages and the dark rooms, the secret places away from the warmth and sunshine, where it’s cold and clammy and … lonely.”

When eleven-year-old Ellie Black runs into Pentrillis Castle, she’s desperate to escape her depressing family life. Her parents have split up, Dad is Mr Angry, and her new step-brother is obnoxious beyond belief.

At first, it’s much better inside the castle. The sun shines (even when it’s still raining outside), there’s fabulous chocolate cake, and she meets a friendly story-teller and two cool new friends. (There’s also a scary bit in the chapel, but she was probably just imagining things, right?)

But the story-teller has a dark and unsettling tale to tell, of tragedy … and something menacing in the shadows.

And there’s some very odd things about those new friends.

And where did that awful scream come from?

But the worst part is when Ellie realises that there’s nowhere to hide from the ghost of Pentrillis Castle …

Finding the time to write

Businessman-juggling-alarm-clocks_300

I admire my fellow bloggers. Many of them seem to write regularly, read diligently, and still find time to post several times a week. I don’t know how they do it. Managing my time is a constant struggle for me. As well as my writing I think it’s important to keep reading Then there’s the full-time day job of course. I don’t want to short-change my wife or kids – they need and deserve my time. And I do like to eat. And if I don’t get enough sleep my brain starts to shut down pretty quickly.

(I shouldn’t complain too much of course. I’m well aware that I have many things to be grateful for.)

I’m always trying to think of more or better ways to squeeze more mileage from my days and weeks. I suppose motivation is a key factor – you do tend to find time for those things you’re really committed to. But the fact remains there are only so many minutes in a day.

And the conundrum doesn’t look like going away. Possibly just the opposite. Recently I read an article pushing the idea that self-published writers (and perhaps the ‘conventionally’ published too) needed to increase their output. That in order to raise their profile and win new readers, they would have to publish new work much more frequently, with perhaps two or three novels a year instead of just one.

And I thought – oh, terrific. It took me over two years to write two novels. If I’m to churn them out more often in future, what gives? My family? No. If quantity has to increase, I can see exactly what has to give: quality. I don’t want to go there. I want my writing to get better, not worse. And is that what we really need in the world of self-publishing – more quantity, less quality? Surely the opposite would be infinitely preferable?

I posted a comment on the article posing that very question. Sadly, there was no response.

Anyway, I’d be really interested to hear anyone else’s ideas about time management. I don’t have too many myself. A couple do spring to mind though.

The first isn’t terribly profound: less TV. I’ve never watched very much anyway, but as writing has become more important to me TV has seemed more and more a waste of precious time. I do like a few programmes though, and sometimes it’s just the ideal way to switch off and chill out.

The second is the only half-way sensible answer I can think of to the problem of maintaining (or increasing) output without sacrificing quality or sanity: short fiction. I’ve started to get into flash fiction more, particularly the 1,000 word variety (I find it hard to write a story much shorter than that). Writing these pieces keeps me in practice, and it’s nice to be able to produce and finish something that doesn’t take too long. Reducing the length enables me to concentrate on the quality, polishing until I’m happy with the result. Plus the word limit really focusses the mind and forces me to write economically and cut the flowery verbage. It’s a good discipline.

I’m also trying my hand at a novella at the moment. Instead of 50–60,000 words – the length of my novels – I’m aiming for something more in the 15–20,000 range. Again, the idea being that I can produce something more quickly without compromising on quality. There’s also an argument that in these fast-moving, information-saturated times, there should be a growing market for short fiction. Longer novels will always have their place, but more and more people may struggle to find the time to read them.

Well that’s the sum total of my current wisdom on the subject. What about you? How do you manage your time, and is your writing changing as a result?