Archive | August, 2013

My Worst Critic

4 Aug

Where the hell did the last week go? I swear I blinked on Monday morning and when I opened my eyes, it turned out to be Sunday.

In my humble opinion, I now liken the process of editing to alien abduction. One minute you’re happily living life and then—WHOOSH! Editing comes from nowhere and takes you away. There really is a bright light…albeit it’s a PC screen. You end up with a pain in your ass…from sitting for hours. Your head is implanted…with lots of new rules and words, that at first also seem very alien. And you lose time…whole days, and afterwards when you think about it, you’re not entirely sure what happened. And nobody understands or sympathizes with what you’ve been through, except for other abductees–in this case fellow writers.

At this point I’m emotionally bound to give a special mention to my beautiful wife Lou. She was incredible during the last week. She looked after both me and our puppy (who had an operation on Monday). She was basically a domestic goddess—and she’s not going to let me forget it anytime soon. 

Now, back to discussing writing. Writing is a very personal thing. Your book quickly becomes your baby: you’ve created it, are proud of it and only want what’s best for it. Nobody knows your baby better than you. And it really smarts when you’re told that your baby needs to improve. In order for this to happen, you have to try and trust the person guiding you through the improvements. And deep down although you know it’s all for the best, that doesn’t stop it feeling strange. This is what editing feels like.

I’ve spent the last week doing line edits on Secret Lies. It’s been intense for my wife, for me and for my (seriously awesome) editor, Lynda. Thanks to Lynda, my knowledge has blossomed and so has the pride I feel for the book.

I had heard many horror stories about the editing process and so I spent quite a few sleepless nights dreading it. When the day finally arrived, I braced myself for the worst and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Although receiving constructive criticism is never entirely pleasant, when it succeeds in improving something that you’re passionate about, you end up being grateful for it. Well, that’s what I found anyway.

Secret Lies (my very first book) is being published in December 2013 by BSB. Up to now, only a few people have read it but I’ve already identified who my worst critic is. They’ve already been shamelessly brutal in their critique, focused solely on the negative aspects and in doing so have torn my confidence to shreds.

Who is this monster? Well, honestly, my worst critic is…myself.

After finished the editing, instead of feeling relief, I felt worried and scared. An evil little voice in my head had started asking questions and demanded answers… 

Don’t you think there’s too much swearing? And the sex scenes— do you really want people reading those? Surely there’s a reason why other YA books don’t have them in? Why does it have to be so dark and gritty? And what about your family, your grandparents—don’t you reckon they’re going to be ashamed of you when they read it? Some people are really going to hate it— you know that right? Why couldn’t you just right a nice romance?

Not wishing to sound very mentally unstable, I’ll admit that I found myself answering the voice. Secret Lies is like Marmite—some folks will like it (hopefully) and others won’t. I accept that. And writing a nice romance just isn’t my kind of thing…at the moment anyway. 

I wanted to write a YA story that felt real. To achieve that I wanted to address themes that were sometimes gritty, dark, and maybe even a little uncomfortable. It was a conscious decision I made when I started writing it. Please, don’t get me wrong—the story isn’t all doom and gloom. I promise. There’s humour thrown in and even more importantly, there’s the experience and exploration of first love, and all the amazing positives that come with it.

I won’t lie, there is some bad language. There’s also sex. Both are included because they’re important to the story and characters. Those of you who know me well, can testify that I wouldn’t have written a sex scene—let alone put it in the book, if it wasn’t necessary. (In real life I’m a total prude and I’m always getting teased for it.)

The two main dark / gritty themes that run throughout the story are: abuse and self harm. Having worked with vulnerable young people, I’ve seen first hand the damage these can cause. Statistics have revealed that self harm is on the increase in the UK and yet because of the stigma associated with it, it’s treated like a taboo.

What I want more than anything, is for readers (regardless of age) to know that if they are being affected by either abuse or self harm, they’re not alone. There’s a wealth of support and guidance out there and it can really change lives. Trust me.

So, regardless of the evil little voice and all of the worrying I’ve yet to do, Secret Lies will be out in December. In the time leading up to its release, I have to come up with an ingenious plan to somehow prevent my grandparents from reading it. Wish me luck because I need it.

And I hope if you do read Secret Lies and happen to like it, that you’ll please let me know. That would be awesome. 🙂

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