#WWWBlogs ‘How I found a perfect title for my novel in Four Stages’ #WIP #WritingCommunity #AmWriting #HistoricalFiction

I’d like to share with you the four-stage, frustrating, although ultimately successful, process of searching for and discovering the perfect title for my current WIP.

Stage One: Initial Brainstorming based on the Catalyst

I brainstormed titles based on one of the most important characters, who acts as a catalyst in Jane Eyre’s life, at the start and throughout the Eyre Hall Trilogy, Annette Mason.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is based on the characters and events portrayed directly or insinuated between the lines of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wide Sagasso Sea by Jean Rhys. As a result of my combined reinterpretation of both novels, my main thesis, put forward in The Eyre Hall Trilogy is that the first Mrs Rochester, Bertha Antoinette Mason, had a daughter while she was locked in her attic.

Twenty years later, when her daughter reappears at Eyre Hall, Mr Rochester denies the child, Annette, now a beautiful, young woman, is his offspring, but as he proved to be a notorious and shameless liar throughout Jane Eyre, it is hard for readers and a mature Jane, to believe him.

In The Eyre Hall Trilogy, Richard Mason, Bertha’s step-brother according to Wide Sargasso Sea,  took the child to Jamaica, where he lived, in exchange for monthly payments from Mr Rochester for the child’s upkeep and his silence.

My new prequel (if you want to know why I’m writing a prequel I explain my reasons here) will culminate where All Hallows at Eyre Hall begins, that is, with Annette’s arrival at Eyre Hall with her uncle, Richard Mason, as Mr Rochester lies on his deathbed. Annette’s reappearance leads to a series of dramatic events which will cause havoc in the lives of the Rochester family and all the residents at Eyre Hall.

Bearing this crucial event in mind, I brainstormed the following titles related to Annette Mason’s return to Eyre Hall, where she had been born nineteen years earlier;

My / Her Husband’s Daughter

Mrs Rochester’s Stepdaughter

Mr Rochester’s Secret

Mr Rochester’s Secret Daughter

Jane’s Stepdaughter

Bertha’s Daughter

Bertha’s Daughter Returns to Eyre Hall

The First Mrs Rochester’s Daughter

Miss Annette Mason

Richard Mason’s Niece

The Heiress

The Jamaican Heiress

These titles were fitting, but I didn’t find any of them striking, and although it wasn’t strictly necessary, I wanted ‘at Eyre Hall’ in the title of the prequel like the three subsequent novels, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and Midsummer at Eyre Hall. That meant that Bertha’s Daughter Returns to Eyre Hall was the best fit, but it was too long and disclosed too much of the mystery. I could also add ‘Returns to Eyre Hall’ in any of the previous titles, for example, The Jamaican Heiress Returns to Eyre Hall, but again, that made the titles too long or awkward, so as I wasn’t overly fond of any of the previous titles, I started from scratch, thinking up titles all over again.

Stage Two: Brainstorming Round Two for Emotions

I decided to add a specific moment in time to the title, as I had done with my previous novels, which are marked by significant festivities during which the climax of the novels occurs; All Hallows, Twelfth Night, and Midsummer.

I wanted the events in the prequel to culminate where All Hallows begins, so it had to be a festivity occurring not too long before All Hallows, which led me to a few more titles with September in mind.

Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall

September Moon at Eyre Hall

September Storm at Eyre Hall

Thunderstorm at Eyre Hall

Autumn Equinox at Eyre Hall

September Equinox at Eyre Hall

Michaelmas at Eyre Hall

Season of Mists at Eyre Hall

Again, none of these titles seemed the perfect fit, although I preferred Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall over all the others, in fact in my recent update on the prequel I’m writing to the trilogy, I said this would be the title of my new novel, but I was never entirely happy with that title, because it evoked a calm, happy, pastoral event and that is not what this novel is about.

I thought about the emotions I wanted to evoke in potential readers of my novel when they read the title, and I made a list of negative emotions and nouns such as; surprise, suspense, rage, hurt, blackmail, restitution, revenge, death, injustice, banishment, exile, justice, moment of truth, lies, and secrets. But there are also positive emotions and events, such as love, passion, forgiveness, restitution, gratitude, reconciliation, truth, honesty, rebirth, and new beginnings. Unfortunately, none of the previous titles immediately evoked those feelings, so I was back to square one, without a title.

Stage Three: Visualisation 

So, I started from scratch for a third time. I slept on it and decided to search for visual stimulus by looking at premade book covers on the internet. This may seem strange to you, but I’m what many people describe as a ‘visual person’. On the one hand, my feelings and emotions are highly influenced by what I see with my eyes and my mind. I do not have a photographic mind, but I do try to visualise things in order to find them or remember them. On the other hand, I also spontaneously see what I’m reading or listening to (audiobooks, songs, conversations), in my mind’s eye.

Visualisation is also a very powerful tool for me as a writer because I ‘see’ my novel’s scenes before I write them. I act out whole scenes, conversations and places, in my mind well before I write them. I need to write a whole post about this, because sometimes I take this need to see to extremes.

Literally, I can’t write a scene if there’s a specific element I want to see and can’t figure out, so I search for it like a crazy person. This could be any prop I consider valuable to me or symbolic in the scene, such as the dress Jane is wearing, a clock on the wall, the exact colour of a character’s eyes, or a even the shape and colour of a chair!

I create and/or recreate visual representations of abstract information and ideas all the time. So, I thought looking at book covers might help. And miraculously it did, almost. I found this image by chance on The Book Cover Designer  by BetiBup33 and I fell in love at once.

Even the title, Red Moon, fit perfectly. I’m a moon lover. I follow full moon rituals which I wrote about in a previous post, and I make sure to look for the moon in the sky and I follow its phases because it fascinates me. I’m delighted that my posts on The Moon in Jane Eyre are my most viewed and it’s something I share with Charlotte Bronte, the moon is not there by chance at key moments in Jane Eyre.

I showed my daughters the cover and my title, Red Moon at Eyre Hall. They are two wonderful women with a sharp eye for beautiful things (I also have a son, but he has other skills!), and they loved it, and yet, I wasn’t fully convinced. It was definitely the best title, so far, but Red Moon, sounded a bit too juvenile, or bland. Red is my favourite colour because I love the fire and strength it conveys, but it still didn’t seem powerful enough for my title.

Stage Four: Finding Perfection with some help from Google!

My next search was on the internet, I started looking for ‘Red Moon’ titles in other novels or general information on the phenomenon on specific webpages and I found many references to Blood Moon and I thought, of course, why on earth didn’t that occur to me before! I found the perfect title, Blood Moon at Eyre Hall. The title and the image with a huge, red moon in a stormy sky with a large country house below in dark shadows, transmits passion, love, mystery, nightmare, troubles, secrets unveiled, death and renewal at Eyre Hall.

So that’s how I found the perfect title for the prequel to The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. The scenes are spinning in my mind’s eye, my handwritten notes, which I always start with before typing anything,  are all over the place in several notebooks, and my chapter outlines, plot and character arcs, are still in the process of reordering and completing, but I feel strong enough to pull it all together, now that I have an image and a title. I’ve printed out the title on my Dream Board (there will be more about dream boards in another post!). So I’m good to go, and I’ll be posting regular updates on my writing process on Wednesdays.

Next week I’ll tell you all about the biblical and astrological meaning and symbolism of Blood Moon and it’s relevance to the themes and events portrayed in Blood Moon at Eyre Hall.

Well, do you think my title is a good fit for my novel?

How do you decide on the names of your novels? Do you find it tough too, or do you come up with a name instantly?

Let me know in the comments.

Important news! Freebie over the Halloween weekend!

Book One of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, (International link follows) All Hallows at Eyre Hall will be free for the first time on kindle deals to coincide with Halloween, from 29th October to the 2nd November. Make sure you download your copy!

 

 

Why Writers should read ‘The Evening and the Morning’ by Ken Follett #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Ken Follett has just released his latest novel, ‘The Evening and the Morning’, which is already in bestseller lists all over the world.

The Evening and the Morning is an epic journey which ends some time before The Pillars of the Earth begins. It is set in 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is experiencing politically turbulent times without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns. The lives of three characters; Edgar, a young boatbuilder, Ragna a Norman noblewoman and Aldred, an English monk become entwined in a fascinating tale of love and passion, as well as cruelty and ambition.

My Review

Ken Follett is one of my favourite living authors, so I downloaded his book on my kindle and my as an audio book on Audible on the 15th September, the very day it was released.

I read and listened alternately, and I can say it is as brilliantly written and carefully plotted as his previous novels in the Knightsbridge series. It also includes the compelling characters and fabulous stories which his delighted readers enjoy so much.

Ken Follett makes his stories come to life in such a way that millions of readers all over the world are suddenly finding events set in the middle ages, in pre-Norman England and Normandy, fascinating.

It’s exciting, romantic, dramatic, tragic, hopeful, and ultimately a joy to read. So, if you read or listen to one book this autumn, make sure it’s The Evening and the Morning’.

****

 Why Writers should read Ken Follett’s Novels  

It is a well known fact that anyone who wants to be a writer should read a lot, but it’s not enough to be a normal or passive reader. William Falukner summarised it in this quote:

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad; see how they do it. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does so by observing. Read!”

Writers are a special type of reader. We dissect other writers’ work and in order to learn their craft. Every book I read is a Masterclass on writing. Many hours and months of hard work have gone into producing a novel, three years, in fact, if you’re Ken Follett, so it’s worth analysing their craft with a view to improving my own writing.

I strongly urge anyone who wants to write a good novel to read Ken Follett’s novels, all of them, if you haven’t started yet, his latest novel, The Evening and the Morning, is one of my favourites, so far.

I also suggest you watch or read his interviews and advice for writers to learn from one of the contemporary masters of literature. Here’s some advice based on his own writing process 

Ken Follett official.jpg

Seven things I’ve learnt from reading about Ken Follett’s writing process.

  1. Write your outline: Plan, plot and research carefully before you start your first draft, including plot and character arcs.
  2. Style: Write clear, transparent prose.
  3. Push your characters: Continuously raise the stakes.
  4. Think about your readers, you’re writing for them. Make every scene as compelling as possible.
  5. Check pacing: Make sure there’s one turn or twist every 4-6 pages, but not more than one.  
  6. Write your first draft and get feedback from readers, such as friends, experts, an editor, agent, etc.
  7. Rewrite your novel, yes, the whole thing all over again! Incorporating any changes or suggestions you decide would improve your novel.

Seven things I’ve learnt from reading Ken Follett’s novels.

  1. Hook your readers with a jaw-dropping beginning.
  2. Set the pace, the setting, themes and introduce at least one of the main characters on page one.
  3. Write every chapter, page, paragraph, sentence and word, thinking of improving your readers’ enjoyment and understanding of the novel they’re reading.
  4. Keep the action coming. Add a twist or turn every few pages to keep readers invested in your story.
  5. Create engaging characters who are honest, passionate, and proactive.
  6. Make sure there are plenty of adversities and villains to make life hell for your main characters.
  7. Make sure your characters are resilient and resourceful enough to finally overcome all the adversities life throws at them.

Finally, here’s an extra one for encouragement, never give up, keep writing and improving your craft. Ken Follett wrote ten novels before his eleventh, The Eye of the Needle, became a bestseller.

Who is your favourite author and what has he/she taught you about writing?

#MondayBlogs ‘Write from the heart’ #WritingTips @BathFlashAward #FlashFiction

I was recently browsing the Bath Flash Awards website when I came across an interview with this edition’s (March-June 2019) Flash Fiction Award Judge, Christopher Allen. You can read the whole interview here.

It was the final question and answer that has mesmerised me all weekend. I quote the question and answer here:

  • Any final suggestions for writers entering our award?

Yes. Write from the heart. Edit it and edit it and edit it. Have other people read it. Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something? Write something you think the world needs.

****

So much advice in so few words, a true ‘flash answer’ to a complex question.

My thoughts on this priceless and concise advice:

‘Write from the heart’

Inspiration is entwined with emotion. Whatever we write should spring from passionate feelings about an issue. That’s an easy one to fulfill. Most of us write stories about people, places and events that are meaningful to us.

‘Edit it and edit it and edit it’

First drafts are necessary, but also messy and too long. Most of us need to ramble to ourselves to get to know our characters and understand their thoughts and actions, and yet those ramblings need to be carefully edited, more than once, thus the repetition, before they can be shared with readers.

‘Have other people read it’

We all know and appreciate the invaluable task of alpha and beta readers, friends, agents, editors, proof readers, and an array of generous and professional people who are usually acknowledged by authors in their books.

Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something?

Words need to go beyond an aesthetic use of language in order to make an impact on the reader. It’s not only about organisation, expression, wording, pace, and grammar, but about the inspiration and feelings conveyed in the writing.

Write something you think the world needs.

Finally, the most important attribute which distinguishes good writing from outstanding writing, the content or message of the text.

Is there an intention beyond entertaining readers? And secondly, is the idea worth writing about? Do readers need to know or think about the characters or issues in your flash/novel?

Christopher’s answer is great advice for writing, a haiku, a birthday card, a flash, a letter, a short story, a novella, a novel and everything else.

If it’s worth writing, it’s worth doing it from the heart.

My twenty-word flash conclusion:

Write with passion about a meaningful issue, edit, aim for emotional impact, edit, share and test, edit, publish. Start again.

And now, let’s finish that flash/novel and start the next one…

 

 

 

Falling in love and staying in love with my #novel #amwriting

My Writing Process: Falling in love and staying in love with my novel

From Freewriting to Editing

It’s easy for me to fall in love with my latest novel.

I love words. I’m  an artist, so I let it flow. I love feeling the rush of inspiration, getting  it all out if my system. Splashing the words on the page as my characters take over my mind and create their story.

This is when I fall in love with my novel. I’m crazy about it and I can’t get enough of it. I even think I’ll never be able to live without this burst of creative energy in my life.

Love

It’s such a powerful high that I forget it won’t last (thank goodness it doesn’t, otherwise I’d be a bundle of unconstrained, nervous energy, which would burn myself out!)

While I’m in love with my novel I have no friends, or family, I drift through daily chores, even work, only living for the moment I can sit down and write my new story.

I usually do this by hand, once I’ve thought about and envisioned the scenes, but I soon move to the typewriter where I can easily bash out between three and four thousand words a day, sometimes even more, sometimes less; I can’t avoid all my other obligations.

20160708_142421-1.jpg

This is the easy stage, often called freewriting.

The problem is it ends, and once I’ve fallen in love with my novel, I need to stay in love. Something has to remain after the mad rush has subsided (and I know deep down that it will eventually subside).

Can I do that? Can I sit down, read the thousands of words I wrote and love them after the frenzy? Can I be ‘reasonable and realistic’ and edit and shape it into a novel?

Can my passionate lover become my best friend? Can my idealized novel make it in the real world? Does it have a ‘real life’ outside of my obsession?

If it’s no, then it goes into the drawer for a time, or forever, who knows?

If the answer is yes, then I need to edit and shape the mass of unbridled madness.

This is painful. I have to cut out words and even whole lines, paragraphs and pages…

EDiting

I’ve learnt my lesson after writing three novels.  ‘Less is more’ and ‘simple conveys the most complex message effectively’.

As Kurt Vonnegut wisely told us: Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

He went on to expand that even every letter should fit the bill, and I agree. Every single word and letter should be there for a purpose. I’m still learning to do that, because I’m biased. All the words are mine and I love them all, cutting them out is painful, but I’m convinced it needs to be done either by yourself or with the help of another expert pair of eyes, such as an editor.

I have to plan it and often rewrite parts of it until it’s shaped into something I can fit into scenes, chapters and parts. I need to identify stages, plot lines, time sequence, turning points, climax, and so much more.

It’s like a first big argument between lovers. The novel drives me crazy with frustration and I know I either sort it out and we make it up, or we have to go our separate ways, because we can’t even be friends.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m falling in love with a new novel, and I’m in agony. I don’t know what’s going to happen… yet.

I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, does this happen to you?

 

5 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Two: From Pen to Keyboard

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are five days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day five is all about the transition from the scene I’ve seen in my mind to the written version.

Amazon Banner

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, once I’ve visualised the scene and run through it in my mind’s eye, I start my writing process.

The first thing I do is pick up a pen and a writing pad (I prefer large ones, but sometimes I use smaller ones I can carry in my handbag) and jot down my thoughts.

This first draft looks nothing like the final version and works like this:

First I write some loose ideas or instructions, like detailed playwright’s stage directions. I might add some snippets of dialogue, and some instructions or notes to myself, like ‘remember to make sure the reader knows it’s late afternoon and the journey will take four hours.’ I’m sure nobody would make any sense of it, except myself!

A few days ago, I learnt that this technique is called ‘Freewriting’ and is very useful for writers thanks to a post by Icy Sedwick How can freewriting help writers with plotting or blocks? Read this fascinating article if you want to know more about how this process can help writers.

Lucy EScribiendo

This is a small notebook because I’m writing on a plane, but I prefer big bulky ones!

Next, I usually do some more visualisation, because writing it all down has sparked my imagination and raised more questions or included more people or actions in the scene. I might have to do some research or rethink the whole scene.

The second time I take up the scene, I start writing all over again, using my first notes and any new ideas I’ve come up with. At this stage it is usually a much more coherent text, but it’s still nowhere near finished.

At this point, I usually stop using my pen and take up my keyboard. This is the most productive part, five or six handwritten pages, about 1,000 words, easily become 5,000. And the best thing is that once I get to this stage, the words flow like a waterfall.

 

Lucy writing

I usually write in my garden or patio or near a window overlooking my garden and the countryside. I was at my daughter’s house here, by the beach.

 

When I finish my first typewritten draft of a scene, I know there’s more work to be done on it in the future, but I move on to another scene, for the time being.

Although I move on, I reread and edit what I’ve already written regularly, expanding, cutting out, and modifying as I go along.

I follow this process this with every scene, and each scene usually becomes a chapter, although some chapters have more than one scene, but more about my scenes tomorrow.

Do you your pen before your keyboard too?

Do you ‘freewrite’?