Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Being that the Demi-Monde is my first print book I came to the editing process not quite appreciating what I was letting myself in for. I had originally written a 220,000 word book which after careful - and I thought hard-nose consideration - I chopped down to a little over 190,000. This was the book I submitted to my agent, John Jarrold, and after he'd done a relatively painless edit of his own was sold to Quercus.

The editing process began on 14th December and ended two and a half exhausting months later. The first hint of what was to come was the phrase 'we don't see the need for any major re-structuring'. Now to my mind 'restructuring' is something you do with a house not a book. What next a damp-proof course, a new patio...

All this to me sounded just a trifle ominous especially when it was followed in short order by the opinion 'that we need to get to the action quicker'. What this boiled down to was that the first part of the book - the set-up - had to be truncated. Now this to a non-writer might seem no big deal but when it necessitates the axing of three or four chapters you've spent weeks sweating over, polishing and repolishing it is a pretty serious matter.

The alternative though was far, far worse. There was an idea floated quite early on that we should get to the action not quickly but immediately and the set-up and exposition be dealt with in flashback! AAArghhhh! I hate flashbacks and moreover with a set-up as complicated as the Demi-Monde's I was doubtful quite how I was to do it...if I would be able to do it. This awful alternative did at least galvanise me into taking a cleaver to some of my beloved chapters.

Four of them in fact, including two I really, really liked. Adios 20,000 words.

So now we're at 170,000 words and the worst I thought must be over. But no, now we moved into post set-up territory and gradually the book was pared back with me dumping any extraneous descriptions and superfluous asides like a Captain bailing water from a floundering ship. Characters were merged...characters were expunged...action condensed...action speeded up. And all the time I had to try to make sure the plot remained coherent and plausible.

I learnt that I used ellipses with far too much abandon, so like a recovering addict I swore I'd never go near one again and spent two days eliminating them. Maybe somewhere out there there's an Ellipse Rehabilitation Clinic full of poor sods like me who can't go through life with adding...to everything?

The upshot was when I staggered to the final tape - the phrase 'I'm quite happy with it now' was music to my ears - I didn't know if my book was good, bad or indifferent. I did know it was shorter - 40,000 words or 21% shorter to be exact - and that it read faster. It was a tough experience.

So my words of advice.

1. Set down the publisher's aims early especially regarding target length. It's no use you thinking you've written 'War and Peace' and your publisher thinking you've written 'War'.
2. Stay loose. You've got to believe that your editor knows what he or she is doing and has the best interests of the book at heart. If you fight every trivial change it'll be a nightmare. I decided early on that unless a change a) screwed up the plot, b) screwed up Book 2 or c) screwed up my head, I could live with it. Life is too short.
3. Look for compromises. The Demi-Monde is complicated and there was a reluctance to have too much techno-babble (which I love) in the text so the alternative I proposed (and which was accepted) was to have Dune-esque intros to each chapter. These I think work really well.
4. Be prepared for a long slog. DM1's edit was a ball busting two and a half months (almost half as long as it took to write the book!) and it was hard work. The level of concentration necessary is immense.
5. Ask your editor not to submit his changes in the form of a letter. It's OK at the beginning but as you put the changes through on your computer the line and page number references alter and before you know it you're totally lost.
6. Remember there's always your web site. Now my axed Chapters will be reincarnated as 'Deleted Scenes' so all is not lost on the cutting room floor.

That's it folks. The worrying thing was that when I saw my editor at WHC and asked about DM2 - which I've now submitted - all he'd say was that it needed a lot of work.

Oh Joy!

Sunday, 28 March 2010


I've been a little remiss regarding my blog. I got sidetracked by the edit of the Demi-Monde 1: Winter and then wanted to finish Demi-Monde 2: Spring in order to make sure that all the hooks and eyes I need to inform 2 were all present and correct in 1.

So I've been a little busy and some thing have had to slide. But I'm back in the saddle now.

Over the next few blogs I want to touch base on:

The WHC;

Editing; and

Viral Marketing.

So to begin. Quercus were very generous in inviting Nelli and myself to the World Horror Convention 2010 which was being held in Brighton this year. Although I've been to literary festivals before I'd never been to a fan-led convention so it was great to be able to stick my toe in the water and see what lies in wait for me post-launch of DM 1 in January next year.

I suppose coming from a pretty formal business background I'd gone expecting the publishers and authors puffing their books to be doing it in a slick way but it wasn't like that at all. It was a convention run by Fans who simply wanted to get up close and personal with their favourite authors and hence it had a very laid back feel to it. It sorta drifted.

The nearest parallel (one suggested by Nelli) was events organised by the jazz community which we went to a lot when Nelli was in chirp mode. It did remind us of jazz festivals nearly all of which had a similarly loose feel. I had always put that down to jazzers being a little intense (in a non-very-intense way) about their passion and, of course, with jazz being very much a minority sub-set of music there's never any money available for swank and swagger.

But it's different for SciFi/Fantasy/Horror. From what John Jarrold (more anon) told me this genre represents 10% of the book market so it's quite serious business-wise. I guess its just the way the fans like it, but from my part it will take a little getting used to.

The BIG thing about going to WHC was that I finally got to meet my agent, John Jarrold. Now John has been my agent for high on thirty months, he's pitched two of my books and has landed me the contract with Quercus so it's been a busy and fruitful relationship and in all that time we've never met. I guess 95% of our interaction has been on e-mail with just a few frantic moments concluded by 'phone. Now the one thing I've found is that e-mails stimulate mild paranoia - the 'what is he REALLY saying' syndrome - so it was good to meet face-to-face. Fortunately he turned out to be a good guy: if Nelli and Kit and Ellie like someone (which they did) then that's the Rees Sign of Approval. I still can't see him fronting a shootin', hollerin' blues band though...

Anyway it was a very useful meeting and we got quite a few things ironed out - not least of which is what I'm going to be doing with myself post-DM (I'm aiming to finish them this year) and we chewed over a few ideas re pre-launch marketing,

Nell and I (plus Kit and Ellie) went to the Quercus party on the Saturday evening which was excellent (well done Lucy!) and I got to meet Tom Fletcher (and his lovely partner Beth) whose first book for Quercus is out at the end of April. He was a really nice bloke who I think will do well: he actually LOOKS like I always imagined a writer of Werewolf novels should look, all dark and brooding. Very Edgar Allan Poe-ish (though a damned sight better looking). His book is called 'The Leaping' and I have it on good authority that it's excellent.

The other surreal moment was when one of the guests there actually knew who I was! Lucy from Quercus had put a flier about the DM into the WHC goody bag and this lovely lady had acually read it. It gave me quite a start.

Well, that's it for tonight. More tomorrow.