Blog Tour: The Truth About Lies by Tracy Darnton – Author Post

 

The Joy of Book Journals

“It’s got an orange cover and it’s by Richard Someone or maybe Roberta.” In the ten minutes it takes me to wander down to Mr’s B’s Emporium for a book I’ve just seen reviewed somewhere, I’ve often forgotten the title and author. And, like most people, I’d struggle to recall more than the general gist of a book a month after finishing it, or to quote an actual sentence. Our memories just don’t work in that way.

So I have a little book. A book journal. Not that exciting on the outside, but the inside is stuffed full of notes and cuttings and the occasional cartoon. I write brief notes on most of the books I read. I started when I was doing an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University as I had to cite them in essays. If an author used a technique I might want to explore like multiple narratives or a diary format, this was all duly noted ready to use for reference.

I’ve carried on with the journal because it helps with my own writing. What makes me love this character or find the dialogue convincing? Am I ever bored and skipping sections or is the author making me stay up late to keep on to the end? I’m reading as a writer looking at the craft of the author. And I don’t want to waste that process – so I need an aide-memoire.

I’ve never shown anyone before but here’s a sneaky peak inside my book journals and a flavour of the random notes I’ve made:

I loved Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon and copied out the dedication: “For you the dreamers. Overlooked at school. Never won prizes. You who will own tomorrow.” I was genuinely creeped out by Alex Bell’s Frozen Charlotte and for Lisa Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal I’ve underlined a cryptic “good on desire”. In Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart I admired the way the book resolved to give satisfaction but left threads for the next book.

The line which really tickled me in David Solomon’s My Brother is a Superhero was: “I don’t know what it was but something about the situation made people want to cook meat slowly in large pots.” That still makes me laugh. From Rachel Ward’s Numbers I’d picked out a well-done sex scene on page 135, which I seem to remember involved hay and a barn, and in David Almond’s A Song for Ella Grey I wished I’d written the prose on pages 51 and 275.

These notes are all very personal to me and my experience of the books. As I flick through, I’m transported back into those stories and how I felt about them. And reviewing the notes gives a better chance of the information making it into long-term memory.

So I’d strongly recommend keeping a book journal if you want to be a writer. Make your own peculiar comments and build up a bespoke “How to write” handbook full of the bits which interest you. Plus, it’s a good reason if you needed one to buy more stationery.

Oh, and those clever bookseller types at Mr B’s who like a challenge found the book I was after. The orange book written by Richard/Roberta turned out to be Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. And the cover is blue.

Written by Tracy Darnton


Tracy author pic.jpgTracy Darnton’s The Truth About Lies will be published by Stripes on July 12th 2018. Now she’s written a thriller on memory, she hopes to be much better at remembering.

Follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyDarnton

#thetruthaboutlies

Blog Tour: The Dark Divide by D.K Stone – Author Post

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The Tools of Writing Suspense

There are many ways to plot a book. For some authors, the process is like gardening: Plant the seeds of an idea, tend them, and see what grows. For others, it’s architecture: Create a structure and assemble the plot by following that plan. I’m probably a little of both, but when it came to writing my mystery / thriller The Dark Divide (Stonehouse, 2018), I found I needed far more of a plan than I’d expected.

Looking back, these are some key elements which kept my plot rolling.

  1. Start with the End in Mind: The Dark Divide is a small town mystery about an outsider, Rich Evans, who finds himself trapped there by circumstances. Accused of burning down the hotel he once managed, Rich’s very freedom is at stake. Add to that a deranged character who seems bent on destroying my main character, Louise, throw in a mystery that goes back three decades, and you have the plot of a whodunit! I knew where I wanted to end, so at the beginning of the writing process, I let my inner ‘gardener’ write what she wanted while I kept the ending in mind. That final scene of The Dark Divide, in fact, was one of the first scenes I wrote! A few unexpected events appeared as I wrote, but having this general idea kept them on topic.
  2. Lay Out a Plot Plan: In my den, I have a wall dedicated to whatever novel I’m currently working on. I write a one-sentence summary of each scene on a sticky note, color-coding by which character it focuses on. I then lay these scenes out in columns by chapter. These scenes can (and do!) move around while I’m writing, but being able to see them in motion – color by color – lets me get the bigger picture of whose story is being told.

With mysteries, it’s important to keep your readers guessing. Moving character-scenes lets you do that.

  1. Get an Outside Point-Of-View (or MANY): When the first draft of The Dark Divide was finished, I sent it off to beta-readers. Their insights allowed me to do my first round of edits (and they were massive!) With this done, my agent took a look, offering his ideas for polishing. (Round 2 was slightly easier.) Then the book headed off to a professional editor.

In my case, this was Dinah Forbes, one-time executive editor from McClelland & Stewart, who I had worked with on book 1: Edge of Wild. She took The Dark Divide plot to the next level. Her complex, scene-by-scene analysis broke the manuscript down like a mathematical formula, pointing out issues with pace and plotting, and suggesting ways of tightening the mystery. Her notes were both terrifying and satisfying to read. If someone with a background as strong as Ms. Forbes says your book is ready to sell, it is!

  1. Rewrite, Rewrite, and Rewrite Again: Every book benefits from revisions, but if you’re writing a mystery / thriller, edits are the difference between success and failure. (ie: See everything I said in the last paragraph.)
  2. Let Your Characters Have One Out-Of-Character Moment: The last hint came to me as I was deep in the throes of revisions, and that is the question of how you throw enough shade on everyone in your story to leave them open to being the potential villain. It’s incredibly easy, and works beautifully in the realm of building believable, flawed personas for all the characters in your book.

You let them have flaws.

And every once in a while, you (sparingly) allow them to do something ever-so-slightly ‘off’. Why? Because your readers are smart, and they’ll be watching for it. You want them to wonder, and there’s no better way to do that then leave everyone as a possible suspect.

In the end, the only way to know if your mystery actually worked is to let your readers have a go at it. When I sent it off to Dinah, my editor, for the last time, I wondered if she’d ‘catch’ the ending. She didn’t! And that, more than anything else, told me it really was done.

Written by D.K. Stone


WatertonPic-DanikaStoneDanika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both teens (All the Feels and Internet Famous) adults (Edge of Wild and The Dark Divide).

When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online.

She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.