Tag Archives: novel writing

What’s in a Cover

How your book is dressed entices the reader to look inside. Never judge a book by it’s cover? Rubbish! We all know that’s simply not true. It’s the greatest marketing tool to have. So how do you decide what the cover should look like? It’s a big question and a hard one to answer.

My book is historical fiction so I knew that I wanted a vintage feel. My book is titled “Climbing the Coconut Tree” so a coconut tree might be a good idea somewhere on the front. I had a working cover photo of an original ink picture that someone had drawn by hand of a coconut tree and native huts. It was on a Christmas card sent by my father in 1948. I was never able to find out who the original artist was. It is beautifully drawn in black and white and I although loved it, I knew it wasn’t strong enough.

Original front cover

Strolling across the internet there are lots of economical do-it-yourself covers. Createspace and Smashwords provide templates. But the problem for me was there was nothing that really grabbed me. Finally, I decided to seek help and found a graphic designer Anthony Guardabascio from http://www.continue.com.au. He designed my perfect cover which is below. I really love it and I hope you do to.

Print

 

Yes, I lost the plot.

It was as if I’d taken a lover.I’d spent day and night with it. I thought of little else.
Pride, love and energy caressed each page. That was how I felt when I finished and printed my first draft.

Yet doubts haunted me. Was it good enough to show off yet? Filled with trepidation, I approached five people to read the first draft. I chose people who I knew would give me honest and direct feedback. I wasn’t interested in feeding my ego. I wanted to develop my writing.

Like waiting for exam results I was restless to have their feedback. Days and weeks rolled by as busy lives got in the way. Then one by one they came back. There were pencil notes on grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. Some pointed out flaws that I’d not seen before; changes in point of view; over explaining a point in two or three ways, repeating some of the same words over and over again. These were just a few areas to work on.

Then my good friend Don sat me down and asked, “What do you want your book to be about?” We talked about the plot. What was I writing? Was the plot a series of events pulled together without any cohesion? Yes, I had lost the plot.

I suddenly saw my book in a different light – it was clear what I needed to do. My book and I needed time apart. Fortunately, it was Christmas and the holiday season  made it easier to deal with any seperation anxiety.

Eight weeks later, I opened the file on the computer – there was my book. I’d missed it. I re-read the first chapter, said goodbye and then deleted it. Then, I painstakenly altered, deleted, expanded, tweaked and corrected. Each chapter and every sentence had to earn it’s  place. I had to be ruthless. With that, I changed the whole direction of the book.

You can’t do that to a lover.

Five things I’ve learnt about writing so far.

keyboard

I had my story, but was trapped by the truth. How do I tell it, yet be faithful and true to the people who lived during 1948? I needed help but I didn’t know how to go about getting it.

Quite by chance I read an article about an upcoming Emerging Writers Festival in my city. I trawled through the site and worked out what sessions I wanted to attend.

The day arrived; it was cold and lonely walking into the large auditorium. I found a seat and the first session opened with a panel of five writers. The comments of  Emily Bitto and Hannah Kent resounded. They had both written and published historical fiction novels; The Strays and Burial Rites. I read them later and urge anyone to read them – they are fantastic!

These are the points that created an impact for me -:

1. Just write!

I went home and gave it a go and discovered that when I wrote I got into a zone. It was almost meditative.  I didn’t worry about where it was going or how it sounded. Naivety meant that I had no expectations and no rules to get in my way. It freed me!

Many people tell me that they have an idea but don’t know where to start. Go with the first thing that comes into your head and let it go. I might be wrong, but if you torture yourself about how to go about it, I can’t see how you’ll ever get it done.

2. Read, Read and read!
I have always been a prolific reader for pleasure but now I began dissecting the books I was reading for structure, language, character development – borrowing concepts and ideas to see how they fitted for my writing. One idea quickly led to another. I didn’t have anything to lose but try.

3. Be empathetic
I had to walk in the shoes of my characters and transport myself to 1948. What did my characters know, understand and feel about what was happening around them? How did they speak? I read newspapers of the time. The fear across the globe was of Communism and financial problems. When you read the newspapers today that fear is Islam and financial problems. Some things don’t change much.

4. Draw on your own experience
I pulled out character traits from people I knew, without even realising it. Now I can recognise elements of the people I have known throughout my life, in the characters I’ve built.

5. Don’t get bogged down in research.
I had spent months researching the era, Ocean Island, mining, the murders etc. How was all of this research going to find a place in my story? I suddenly realised that I could use fiction. I drew on my research when I needed it. It released my imagination and freed me up to write. It was exciting and exhilarating.

 

No wonder it became my obsession.

Feel free to let me know what you’ve learnt.