Category Archives: Complexity

What to do next?

Prioritising work is fiendishly difficult. How to decide what’s important and needs to be tackled first?

There’s no way of telling what will work in publishing until is does. My original intention as 2020 started was to promote myself as a writer and my Cornish Detective series as crime stories worth reading. I already had a blog about writing, a website devoted to my protagonist and various social media profiles. Adding posts to them might support my publishing career. Last Christmas, I uploaded the first four titles to KDP Select, a commitment I’d previously avoided. Book 5 would appear to coincide with holidaymakers appearing in Cornwall at Easter. I was 50,000 words into completing the sixth story. I had a plan! :rolleyes:

Then, everything went bonkers. While updating my Linux Mint operating system, it somehow gobbled up every document on the desktop. My fault, I think, as I inadvertently had another update running at the same time. Somehow, I’d saved everything to the Cloud except my work in progress! I wasted two months attempting to recover it, without result. As I struggled, the coronavirus took hold of the world. Slowly, I realised that the manuscript would have been unusable, as the story was set in 2020.

Slightly deterred, but not crestfallen, I refocused my energies to add another string to my bow by learning how to narrate and record my novels as audiobooks. The lockdown had further stimulated this sector of publishing which was already growing exponentially.

I chose Audacity as a digital audio workstation (DAW), which is free to use. I spent several hundred quid acquiring equipment. The Olympus LS-P4 Hi-Res Audio Recorder I bought wasn’t needed for home recording, but I intend to use it with a digital SLR camera I got to film videos about the stories out in the field.

I’ve been learning how to record audio files that satisfy Amazon’s ACX vetting procedure. The advice I received from Colony members who preceded me on this mind-blowing obstacle course was invaluable. My audio-files have finally passed ACX. All I have to master now is how to pronounce words perfectly!

Each novel will take at least a month to narrate and master, so that’s most of the rest of the year gone. I record in the evening, as the place where I live is quietest then.

Other activities I could be getting on with, include blogging, writing articles for the Cornish Detective website, making myself known on Twitter, my Facebook business page, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and LinkedIn. I’m also writing the third novella in a series about an American Civil War veteran. I should be querying literary agents, my least favourite part of being a writer.

There’s always something to do being a writer!

How do you prioritise what to do next?

Do you have a set daily routine?

Or, do you mix and match?


Simple & Complex

I came across an observation in an article on writing technique which stuck in my mind. I hadn’t heard it before and it made me think about favourite stories and my own writing:

The best stories have simple plots with complex characters.”

I’ve been kicking around this concept, trying to decide if it’s true. We discussed keeping to a simple theme in an old thread:

But, how does a writer decide to balance detailed characterisation with intricate plotting? At the moment, I’m reading two novels that are are complex stories with complex characters—Mick Herron’s tale of spies Slow Horses and C.J. Sansom’s seventh story about Tudor lawyer Matthew Shardlake TomblandA lot of concentration is needed to work out what’s going on. Fans of these two authors are hooked by their love of the main players and also by the intrigue of the plots.

It made me wonder what the opposite would be, with a simple plot featuring simple characters. That could be a description of a fairy tale, fable or legend, but stories which have lasted hundreds of years hold universal truths about humanity, so their simplicity is a virtue.

It could also describe bad writing, where the plotting is bare and the characters two-dimensional! :confused:

About half of the fiction I read is in my writing genre of Crime. I can think of some stories I enjoyed because of the primitive nature of the plot which drove the action, but which had poor characterisation…these might be better described as Thrillers.

Sometimes, the opposite happens, even with skilled best-selling authors I love, such as James Lee Burke and John Connolly. Their success means they’re permitted to turn in manuscripts that are 720 pages long. A typical crime novel would have 340 pages. The extra bulk doesn’t come from complex plotting, it’s more from in-depth characterisation.

With my Cornish Detective series, I’ve aimed for a blend of simple plotting and describing my characters’ personalities, thoughts and reactions in enough detail to encourage readers to bond with them. My stories are more ‘howcatchem’ than ‘whodunnit’, which helps to simplify the plotting.

Do you agree with the writing advice: “The best stories have simple plots with complex characters.”?

Does it apply to your favourite books?

What about your writing?