Nail Your Novel with Roz Morris



we are live ladies and gentlemen here we are this is rakestraw book design live events I'm your host Jon rakestraw and we talked to writers about the craft of writing that's right we talked about this magical mystical hair-pulling thing and you know it's a craft and you have to learn it and that's what we're going to help you with we do these little tiny mentoring sessions to help you see the other side to understand what's going on how you can improve your writing how to have a resource to go to and so today's resource is a lady from the Isle of Harry Potter um the beatles Doctor Who and Shakespeare man what a place it's almost like a mystical place it's almost like i'm talking about the the land of narnia which is interesting because that's where that writer came from too so here is Roz Morris and she is amazing first of all this woman has been a ghostwriter for a lot of people and then she went off and decided I was she she said you know what I'm having trouble here with people they're not writing very well I need to help him so she came up with these these books amazing books she has nail your novel and then just recently she came out with nail your novel bring the characters to life really a great book I've enjoyed reading it immensely I also live by this one these two books actually sit on our shelf in our house right by the Chicago Manual of style it's right there along you know this these are like two major books you need to have so if you don't have these books go out and get them right now right now well okay wait till after the show once you watch the show first so there we are she is fantastic and she's gonna talk well writing them so Roz let's yeah let's take this what got you into writing in the first place what made you wake up one day and throw words onto a page I didn't think it was sudden I think it's something I always did I love reading and whenever I read anything that just really got my heart I would stop and think how did that happen what did the right to do and I've always done that right from the earliest age and this means I smells very slow reader it would take me ages because I could just be trapped by a beautiful bit then it might it might not necessarily be lovely words although I'm very sensitive to those it might also be a person I really cared about and that was all just done with what somebody had put on a page so I've always been amazed at what you can do just with text and and I suppose from that and I thought I'd love to be able to do that and I just naturally found I was experimenting with with writing to I'd have ideas of my own and I think I wonder if I could make something that was as good as that so really it just came it was always there always a desired we working on this all my life that's fantastic I n so ghost riding how did you follow in the ghost writing well that was rather lucky because I expense you to all my i miss spent my youth extreme youth fiddling around with stories then as time wore all night I started trying to write novels and do and use my hobby in a more grown-up way and I got to know a few writers I happened to marry one which was rather handy but I had already been been writing quite a bit and he was writing a series for a publisher they changed their minds that brief and he didn't have time to do the rewrite that are necessary because he'd already worked he'd already moved on to a different project so he said to me well I know you would be able to write this so you quickly write that book so in six weeks I delivered a novel a short one but 680 and I wrote this it's a teenage sort of paranormal psychological fantasy and the publisher really liked it and once they'd accepted it then he said well actually Ross did it and yeah I was quite lucky from then they realized that I was another person we could call on to write books when they needed them and so we my name got round the grapevine and then when writers were needed for the ghosting projects I find the names came up and that's how I started I've sort of got into with backdooring well you know a lot of stuff in life is who you know and who happens to you know give you that that moment now um let's mention your husband you just said his name give us his name and what he's done so people will know who she's married to him he'd like the prime minister or something in England at one time or something but he's Prince Charles of course yes yeah before Camilla funny story that woman she she's an interesting Kashi actually she is she is because she's someone who was really an outcast that she's become more and more accepted in the felt and I think this is really interesting but she was the outside it wasn't she yes um she's been through a hell of an arc and yeah I didn't like that yeah and to have to take on after died you know that's exactly that's like you know you're going after Christ let's just face it you know that's not easy so yeah in story terms the affection that she now has she has earned and that's very interesting nice of storytellers yeah that's very good so your husband is so we can give him a little plug his name is Dave Morris he has written um probably nearly a hundred books lots of he started out writing gaming books multiple choice games but since then he's worked on novels novellas computer games he would be used the story brains behind a game that was being developed by Microsoft and his most recent book was actually an interactive reimagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein um yes now that it's a real talent for Less off you did a brilliant job of wriggling inside what the other avenues of the book might be and if you read this you get a series of different ways to explore the story new build relationship with the race and does some graphic novels too hasn't he that's right yes goes right forgot about that yes no that's okay that's okay that's what I'm to remind you what your husband does a study next door pika better go wait a minute do you or did he didn't he do something with like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at one time too yeah yeah yeah it's not everything is he's really telling but you're talented too so will I just wanted to give you know some some credibility to who you are cuz you know people might not know you but what's really amazing is how you put nail your novel together that's the first one I ever met you want and I think that was great because it's basically well you explain it cuz you do it so much better hey your day fine and yep I I wrote this book because one of the things I was doing was mentoring authors who were they were nearly getting agents or publishers but we weren't quite there and so I was freelancing for an agency that would help them get their writing to the level where they would where they stood at best the best chance of being taken on by an agent or publisher and so I was reading a lot of many strips and teaching people were all about characters for instance and structure a plot and pacing and language and style all those elements of the story craft and what I often found was when I would say to a writer what you really need to do is look at the structure or the arcs or you know just step back and see what you've got um in terms of the bones of the story or maybe reorder some passages and take parts on the plot merge characters all those there's sort of real hands-on changes that can make a big difference to a novel I they would look panic-stricken and I could see they were saying to themselves I've got a hundred thousand words here how do I do that and they couldn't see their book in that way but when I go strike them up and i right I quite happily disembowel a book I'll get a draft and I will think okay I need to sort out the structure I need to reorder what happens I need to strengthen what these characters go through I I understand the book was in terms of functions that are happening such as the way characters might be different aspects of another character a plot might have resonances in the subplot these are really important to making a book work and I was used to seeing a book like this and I developed a set of tools actually that helped me with this and sorry thought the most helpful thing I could do for writers was to write a book about my process how I get from an idea to a finished manuscript that has had all these things done to it and I can give them confidence to be able to make those kinds of changes which would make a big difference to how readable that book is and that's near your novel and of course since you do this and you actually are ghost writer which means the most of the time you brought it in to help someone do just exactly what you're talking about they have a story idea but sometimes they're not writers so they need somebody to come in and help or ghost writer basically write it for them but you have to actually you know talk to the person know what's going on so the process is pretty impressive now what's interesting is you just came out with the new version of that I'm talking about making characters since I guess you would say volume 2 or something on this with nail your novel yes and what is really good because I think character is the most is a very important part of any of the writing because we have all these characters rushing around in stories and I what I really loved was the the one area you said was a simple idea plus emotional conflict equals a story now I think everybody should know type that out and put it up right above their computers or where they're writing and remember that i think that should be the biggest thing people should be thinking about now explain what you mean by that well what's interesting about a story is not so much what's happening but it's who it's happening to and why it matters to them because the tiniest thing might matter to me but not matter to you at all but it's the fact that it it hasn't impact on me that makes it a story and often we remember people when we first meet them that they're just a kind of anonymous face in the crowd but we remember them by something if that there's a fast track really to remembering them if there's something that matters to them that they want to do we kind of always think yeah that was the person who who had that problem and thats of remains fixed our minds for quite a long time it makes us curious about them because we think did they solve it then things get worse now in stories you want things to get worse and you also want the problem that you've given your character to be something that is going to take him quite a long time to solve so you take a simple idea such as somebody really likes this bloke but doesn't know if she can never get him to take a interest in them and you you make that the thing that makes us interested in her that's good that's good so on the idea of that because we know that now we want to make our stories interesting we want to make it compelling so people will turn the page it's important because you know if they don't if they throw the book down yeah you don't want that you want them compelled uh what is the idea behind using subtext now subtext is very important to me because as an actor that's what I used to do subtext changed my acting immensely I was a young actor trying to find my way and I found a book that talked about these different points and at one point they talked about subtext and subtext to me became the internal dialogue that goes in our inside our head all the time we have this you know talk that goes on and what you know when I tell people when I'm trying to teach them to do this I had people who go how do i be a good host on you know on these hangouts on air I said well you got to keep your subjects that internal dialogue centered on what you're doing so right now it's not a good idea for me to think about the fact that I'm gonna have to make dinner tonight i'm at the mow the lawn you know because if i let my mind wander I forget where I'm at and I'm not listening to you it's the same idea with when you're acting or when you're writing you have to keep that an internal dialogue on the idea what's going there now in writing we don't have that that yo we can't give people that internal dialogue so how are we using subtext how do you see it being used in writing well it depends if you mean I tend to think of subtext as something that's going on say on under a conversation say a dialogue scene the characters will be saying something on the surface but they're actually reacting a lot of different ways and it's not just the surface they're reacting to what they think of each other they're reacting to to all the things they know about each other their past so if you said something to me I might think what he really needs is this and so you could have rivalries infancy rivalries coming out between characters and they might be obstinate about something because they really someone like say pass the salt and white thing he's always getting me to do that and and this this will create an interesting tension in the scene beyond the the actual words they're saying and but there's also context which it why call it context why something matters going which visuals almost goes back to what we were saying earlier about the simple idea plus need and emotional need and the context would be you keep Keith you can keep my internal dialogue you can keep the reader understanding how the character is feeling so they walk into a room and and they see an open bag on the floor now you might just say he walks into the room there's an open bag on the floor and the reader might not understand why you said that but if you walk if the character walks into a room and there's an open bag on the floor that meant Jim had come back the last person I wanted to see with Jim sudden you have context the open bag on the floor that enables the reader to react to it too so that that keeps them in the experience and a lot of writing fiction is making the reader understand why something matters so again it's back to you can have a simple thing anything you like a bag on the floor is simple but what it means to the characters is what keeps the reader in there watching that the what might be some quite unspectacular things going on and then when you might have something spectacular like a murder but you can still involve the reader and say but that was my uncle so there's a huge scale of ways to tie events just simple things on their own that don't seem significant to people and by timed people you make them significant one of the reasons why we make such a fuss our characters yeah well that's good because what we do i think as beginning writers what I've seen is they worry too much about what's going to happen next and they forget one aspect would you bring up in your book is the moment before that moment what was going on before we got to that scene and what those are the things that of discovery that we want so if we knew that you know somewhere in the beginning of your book you wrote about their uncle or we knew about that bag you know the print he brings a certain bag and some we walk into room and we see that bag we know that that somebody's there even we ask the reader will go oh my god suctions such as they are what are they gonna do yeah and that's the thing that I oh it's that moment before which is an interesting process and I think it's something that's forgot so talk about that well yes um the moment before could be seen as you need a sense of normality before the disruption um I was think that a good story gives you a sense of disturbance coming but you need to see normality what is about to be disturbed before you can appreciate that so um quite often beginning writers will think um I got start with the bang so there'll be a bomb explosion or something and it that can be a bit too sudden it's actually better sometimes to start with something normal it makes us think well there's a normal character someone I kind of understand don't spend too long on that but if you just establish that here is you know an ordinary guy sitting to his computer and then outside suddenly the sky goes blinding white and there's debris flying everywhere glass shattering alarms you feel more connected to that person so you saw the moment before you saw the thing about them that was normal and more like ours and then you see it destroyed and then you've also got an emotional reaction there too because you've got something completely disrupted that's good that's good I think that pretty I I love all that because that's the process that in writing gives us what we would call the depth give us the the flavor you know we have more of a an aroma to thee to this story Harlan do you have any questions you want to ask about the about what we're talking yes she mentioned pace I wonder if you might go into detail about pace pace is the speed at which the story seems to unfold in the readers mind if you get it right you can just keep them there no matter how long the book is and it will seem like short one because they will always feel like that they're drawn on words and armors and you you do this by being very aware of the things you've made them interested in the dilemmas that you've made them interested in the questions and mysteries that you're setting up and always by what I always advise writers to do is to try and keep something changing all the time there's something that musicians talk about which is that there's a certain number of bars you can have a piece of music before the listener starts to feel I want something to change so a piece of music usually has something changing I think it might be every 15 seconds or that might be for moviemaking a trailer making but anyway most art forms whether visual or written or oral will have this this sense of a certain amount of time that you can keep something the st. before you feed in something new and with writing I find it's best if every scene has got some change happening now it doesn't have to be a great big twist it can actually just be a shift in the way the the reader sees something between the beginning of the scene and the end of the scene if you keep each see if you make sure each scene changes something even if it's only slight because you because you couldn't possibly keep up the pace if you had major things changing in every scene the reader would just get to punch drunk but if you have small changes in each scene it keeps the reader thinking oh well I thought I thought nothing was going to happen but something else has and something you add the next scene and something else has changed by the end of something else by the end of that and that will find a natural pace for the for the novel and now pace tends to be different depending on what genre your writing so thriller will be expected to to be quite snappy and fast whereas at the other end a character piece might be much more slow and considered the changes will be very much more in terminal to the characters or the narration whereas in a thriller for instance they would be happening much faster there'd be more significant changes and another thing about paces it's good to have a variety so you as I said you wouldn't want to have a lot of fast scenes all the time because the reader will get quite punch drunk a lot of big revelations happening ruled in one go the region will get quite punch drunk and this is the climax so what it it's a good idea to do to have some slower scenes some some scenes where something bigger seems to happen then give the reader times maybe we regroup a bit sort of spend some time with the characters as their decompressing from the major change that's happened and you can also vary the pace by varying the mood and the tone of each scene so you might follow something that's that's been quite a catastrophe with up slow theme of perhaps a bit of humor to re-inject some humanity so all sorts of questions that are embodied in this idea of pace and one of the things that I developed in there your novel was a way of analyzing your book in a sort of small space so you could see how the pacing is going and if you do that you can tell it advance whether you've got enough variety you can also tell if your scenes inadvertently repeat material that the reader doesn't need to see again and if you repeat if you repeat material and readings are very sensitive to repetition if you repeat something for the sake of emphasis that's good or for the sake of revisiting something to show its change that's good but if you repeat something that you've already dealt with quite well and there's no purpose to you repeating it that will make the book seem slow why won't you out yet that was good i think that's a I think pace is uh is a very important part of writing I don't think people completely understand it they can do it when they see it in film they can understand it in real life but in rut and writing it there's you know how do you give it a pace and I think you explained it really well that's good Jim do you have a quick question I we're going to be coming to the end soon I just wanna know if you had a quick question right right real quickly it's kind of like focusing more on the person who would read her book to learn from it or to gain it because they're reading it but they're usually on their own they don't have you as a mentor but let's say they have a very vivid imagination they love the idea of getting these words down on paper they have all these great characters however that same imagination has been at work saying i think i know what a writer really needs to do and they're wrong so how do you break through that concept they have of what is to be a writer saying no in the real world it's a craft it's not just imagining and writing and imagining and rating there's a discipline involved how do you try and get them to understand that it's it's a bit like building a bridge I suppose of um this is something that can be hard for people to appreciate um people often feel that any of the arts are all about expression and creativity but um actually all art forms have their things that work really and they're not rule so much as a sort of laws of physics that's that seem to have been arrived at by trial and error and other people before you finding that for instance an audience likes your book far more if you make them interested in the people and and any I tend to find that anyone who is sensitive to the way stories go does actually quite enjoy being shown these little secrets so they can go away and play with them and especially if you hit on something that makes something yes thought of that but the stories do do that and then eagerness to to express themselves and find better ways to express themselves and to make stories that will that will do what they want if I found it usually winds through in the end that's good that's going to make you Jim good question both of you Arlen engine wonderful so will you come to that magical moment where you know it's gonna be over so I'm gonna give you a chance to give a little commercial and then your final thoughts of what we talked about today so go ahead Roz well commercial well and you've already shown my books in fact you showed the original Nagel novel with a very old Calvert yeah I know I probably i bought this back when it first came out so yeah i have a vintage so i'm still is in for thirty four thirty thousand dollars right i did see one of those for about three hundred dollars on really amazon much now I now I have something worthy but i also have can I hold up my novel oh yes please do please please do I don't if you can see it here I now sort of trying to align it with the camera that is it that's my first novel as me this is this is me not writing that was hurt no ghost writing this is my soul um this is it's a story a slightly unusual literary story but it's it is a story it's about someone who you've heard of hypnotic regression to past lives this is someone who goes to the future she's a concert pianist respect there's a piano on the column and she's got a mysterious injury that stopping her playing and she can't find a cure and he's desperate and she goes to a hypnotist who takes people to other lives and she doesn't believe in reincarnation she doesn't think she's lived before so he takes that to her next life so that she can try and discover really if she was cured in this one because she's desperate he worried about her future and she doesn't know any other way to live if she can't play so it's it's a novel battle sorts of things and it's about the possibility that you might lose something that is desperately important to you how you cope with that and also ideas of resonances with things that affect us people who affect us people who can influence us and it's somebody trying to find where she belongs if she can't play that's my novel and the name of your novel is ah good point it's called my memories of a future life uh I Roz Morris yes mm-hmm and oh and your final thoughts on what we talked about today I know your whole books are a lot more involved in what we just did but we'll have you on again XO that I'd love to come back and really writings a lifelong process of learning bittle so it's expiration it's it's fun I I find particularly the characters book in writing that I sort of reminded myself of why why I why I adore writing I I get very involved in the characters that I'm writing and it's a pleasure to create characters who are who are going to absorb me and amuse me and surprise me and and so what I tried to do that book was to dissect how I did that what I look for in characters went when I read and to help people understand how they can make characters who will who will really pull the reader in and keep them up past their bedtime make them care because if the reader cares about what happens it's a real experience for them they feel like they're sharing the journey with a real person and that's what makes stories so so much fun because we just go on a journey and imaginative journey thank you very good thank you we've had a great my wish we had more time uh oh great still to you oh ho Harlan your final thoughts for today quick final thoughts Roz I've been ruined by Salinger in terms of descriptions and I'm real precious about my work hahaha i have trouble killing my darlings you know what I mean I wonder if you might not say something now but write something that we could see on google about that topic about killing our dogs i can tell you about killing darlings this was twice as thick when i started editing the number of darlings that are screaming in my outtakes file is enormous and i developed such ruthlessness in order to edit this and make it what it should have been and i had to do some stages i found i would do a pass and I think ok I've got rid of some things that are grating on my inner ear and then I go through it again and I think you know I was clinging to that bit but it doesn't serve the story and eventually I just became like like a ruthless Olympic trailer i think i was i was getting rid of things that i could not have bad i could not bear to get rid of to start with but i realized when i took them out it was serving the story better and the characters and i think i did do a post about this at some point but it's a good one to revisit and I should do it on my blog yeah I definitely miss Charlotte yeah sure that nothing that clan will do that's my comment is I'm looking forward to our next visit yeah yeah nothing else Jim you sure no no time is of the essence today let's go with that it's a good thing good oh no that was good that the pace of your life is dictating our story here today thank you sorry about yeah i just say how long was it go ahead Oh yes of it um yep killing darlings you can only do them by spy very slow phases you have to understand what the story needs and then you can understand what you can bear to let go but it takes time you don't serve the writer serve the reader yes yes because it will be better for the story but keep the things you take out try try without the darling that you are doubtful about if the book seems to run better without it they were right to take it out and you can also put it back in in fact I have a scene that I took out that had enormous sentimental value but I realized that it was repeating something you know how I said that sometimes we find if we've repeated some an element that's already been covered a bit better than that drags the pace down um but I had a scene like this and I took it out and it read better without it so what I did was I made it into a post of my own in fact I'll come and share it on google plus because I wrote wrote a story about how I wrote this scene how it mattered so much now didn't want to jettison it but I did in the end because they did it for the good of the book now when a book is paced properly it's like hypnosis it just carries on and on and on at you and this constant state of change is what keeps the reader there and that's why in the end you can develop the ruthlessness to serve the story when you are editing ok you can go John no no you you guys are fantastic as a matter of fact ladies and gentlemen do not forget these books are great also her own book if they're all available on Amazon it's you know amazon all across the world so you can get you know your amazon in your local area so just go out to the internet and do that also remember people writing is a craft as we've talked and it is not something to take in lightly there is structure there is a process there is as we would say a wonder and magic about it and the only way to understand all that is to study and work and read and talk with people like Roz like armin and in me yeah so have a great time thank you for joining us rods and everybody here my band of wonderful people I really have a great time with all of you we've had a great show a tiny little mini mentoring session we will have many more with Roz I know she'll be back and this is going to be fun I want to make her one of the regulars that comes in every you know so many I hope it's every month but if we even if we can get you every other month it would be a pleasure beyond serious yes yes so thank you so much and I remember people this is a Rakestraw book design live events where we talk about the craft of writing i also do another show on tuesdays at seven pm eastern that's us eastern and that's called slushy great bunch of people slushy calm and that's at seven pm eastern great stuff we talked about like last night she thought about research for writers it's a great little show hey you know what even Harlan was there of all things Martin showed up to that show so great show remember that we will also be back again on saturday i'll be talking to David emmalin about how semantic sir and appellant writers don't know what can do monday i throw on the table again with my next show is cognitive biases it does it hurt our creativity and we're going to talk about how we tend to get stuck in little holes little traps of our creativity and sometimes we gotta break through those to find that new nugget in our life of creativity so we're going to talk about that so i have a great rest of the week i have to go back and drive a bus around in circles and drop kids off so i will see you guys on the next show take care you guys are fabulous have a great day what

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