Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guest Blogger: Charlotte Howard on Breaking the Rules #BlogTour

Thanks for hosting me today Gale. I thought I would use this guest blog to talk about writing rules, or how to break them.

A few years ago, I wrote this crime / romance novella and once I’d typed The End, I thought it was done. I sent it off to agents and publishers, sat back and waited for the royalties to fill my bank. Obviously that didn’t happen. 

Why? Because I broke a cardinal rule of writing – I didn’t edit. So what did I do? Did I rip it to shreds, and try again? No. I self-published it, and that is my biggest regret of my writing career. 

I want that book to be removed from history, but it’s out there now. It’s on Goodreads and Amazon (although out of print), with my name on it for everyone to see. Seriously, I have considered changing my name so it isn’t connected to me any more.

Something I hear a lot of from other writers is how rules are there to be broken. So what if you have excessive adverbs? So what if you loved that chapter so much that it just had to stay? Well, you’ll know what when the negative reviews come rolling in.

Yes, some rules are meant to be broken, or at least twisted slightly, but there are some that should be set in stone. Editing being the first one.

No printed book should ever be a first draft. The Black Door certainly isn’t a first, second, or third draft! It started life with Cal Ryedale being called Luke, and Imogen’s son called David. Connor was Zack, and they only had three children, aged 4, 7, and 10. When I wrote out the plot, it was at least a duet, if not a trilogy. Caroline was two people, Sean was single, and Alex was a woman. Once you’ve read it, you’ll see how much it’s changed.

Constructive criticism is your friend, and so is the delete button. The second draft had The Black Door being written in third person, I read it out loud and realised it didn’t sound right, so swapped it into first and then took the first chapter down to my local writer’s group. 

The first thing that got picked up on was the amount of weak adverbs I’d used – I was telling, not showing. Tut. Tut. Then they asked, “is this the opening scene?” It was. It shouldn’t be. It was good, but not strong enough to engage a reader, so it got shifted down. 

The third draft was complete. I printed it out, took a red pen and annihilated it. Characters got cut, chapters got removed, and minor plot holes were filled. And that was it – I sent it out and it got accepted, but even then it wasn’t perfect. With the help of an editor, the fourth draft was finalised and it was sent to be formatted into the eBook that you can buy today.

We are always learning and improving, but if I’d ignored the basic rules of edit, read, critique and edit again, then The Black Door would not exist, and you wouldn’t be able to read about Imogen and follow her path of self-discovery.

The Black Door 

Men. All the bloody same.

My mind traced back to the day I had given up on one-sided monogamous relationships.

The children were at school or work, and the sun was beating down. It was a glorious day, and I had decided to go home for lunch, rather than spend it in a stuffy office.

I pulled up outside the house and a fleeting thought passed through my mind when I saw Connor’s car sitting in the driveway. My husband of eighteen years had had the same idea.

I crept into the house, hoping to surprise him. But, it turned out that his idea had involved a slutty bottle-blonde.

I wanted to blame the events that followed on a red mist descending over me. The truth is that in the time it took for my mind to register that some tart was riding my husband in what I later found out was known as reverse cowgirl, my mind had calculated the necessary response.

The skank lost a good handful of bleached hair, roots and all. I allowed her to gather her clothes and watched as she tugged her pants on whilst running out of the house. If nothing else, the neighbours got a good show.

Connor yelled at me. But his words were drowned out by the blood pumping in my ears. I marched back up the stairs and into his little study. Opening the window, I saw Miss Slut stood in the middle of the road, screeching obscenities at me. I looked at the Ferrari in our driveway and smiled.

I think his Xbox enjoyed its first and final flying lesson as it sailed out of the window. The fact that it landed in the bonnet of his prized mid-life crisis proved that Karma does exist.

Connor. Holly.

I made a mental note of the two names at the top of my imaginary hit list.
I blinked and I was back in the boardroom.


Imogen Pearce is a single mum of four children and fast approaching 40, she works at Ryedale Incorporated where she has to battle a younger and smarter generation to get to where she wants to go. If that means taking on the account of Cherry and Sean Rubin’s adult shop, then she will. But what happens when Imogen discovers the private club that they run at the back? And what happens when she realizes she knows quite a few members?

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Author bio and links

British author Charlotte Howard, was born in Oman and spent much of the first part of her life flitting between Oman, Scotland, and England. Now settled in Somerset, Charlotte lives with her husband, two children, and growing menagerie of pets.

Her career as a writer began at an early age, with a poem being featured in an anthology for the East Midlands. Since then Charlotte has written many short stories and poems, and finally wrote her first full-length piece of fiction in 2010. 

During what little spare time she has, Charlotte enjoys reading and writing (of course), spending time with her family, and watching action movies whilst eating curry and drinking tea.

Charlotte is an active member of Yeovil Creative Writers.