Current Project

Hi all,

If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’d know that lately my writing has been focused around a single project: a novel. Usually my focus on long term pieces of writing like this don’t tend to last, but I’m currently at 21,469 words and I’m working at an average of a thousand words a day. In order to keep content coming, I’ll be posting bits and pieces of the first draft on here as I write. Nothing too big, but enough to make you guys feel loved. These posts will be tagged with TMDMIL (an acronym of the working title).

So what’s it about? Well without being too spoilery, it’s the story of a disgraced war veteran struggling to find his place in the world and how he comes to join a criminal empire. It’s a reworking of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Colonel Sebastian Moran and Professor James Moriarty. Though I have written fan fiction before, this is for all intents and purposes a serious imagining of the two characters in a contemporary London setting. The genre falls somewhere around the crime / action brackets and is LGBT fiction.

Below is a section cut from Seb and Jim’s first meeting, where Jim offers Sebastian a job.

“Are you going to try and tell me these people deserve to die?” I interrupt at this point.

Moriarty purses his lips, “I won’t insult your intelligence, Moran. I ask that you do the same.”

I raise my hands in mock surrender and let him continue.

“If you have any moral opposition, now is the time to voice it. It’s murder you’ll be hired for.”

He waits a few seconds. Probably ready to have my throat slit the moment I object. I keep my face passive, telling myself I’ll play along until I can get away.

“I was a solider for ten years. You’ll have to find something more grizzly than murder to scare me.”

Steepling his fingers together, Moriarty leans forward, “You’d be assigned to our sniper unit. A small team. Elite. The others are all trained professionals, but none have your experience.”

There are few who do.

“Where would I be posted?”

The corner of Moriarty’s mouth twitches a little and I wonder if he thinks I’m too eager. I need to tone it down.

“You’d be based in London, but missions have the potential to be,” he pauses, “further afield than that.”

In a way, he’s offering me the same thing that the army did. Travel the world and kill for a pay check. I won’t lie, I’ve missed it. I miss having a team at my back, the weight of a gun lying in my palm and someone to give the orders. I’m a dog bred for war and now here I am, masterless, packless.

But I still don’t trust Moriarty.

That’s it for this post. You can contact me on here or on my twitter with any questions about my novel or general questions about writing. I’d be happy to help.

Emma

What not to do when writing a synopsis

In a continuation of my “What not to do when writing” series, I’ve got here a quick guide on things that I’ve seen people do in their synopses. Read it, learn it, never do it.

WHAT TO INCLUDE AND WHAT NOT TO:

  • Don’t forget to mention your genre. If you’re sending your manuscript to a publisher who only deals with one genre, I would still mention it. Reassure the reader that you’ve sent your work to the right place.
  • Avoid technical jargon and if you can’t, make sure to explain it. A synopsis is an explanation, don’t confuse us even more.
  • If you go more than a paragraph without mentioning a character’s name, you’ve probably focused on the wrong thing. Realistically, every sentence should mention a character.If you manage to write the entire synopsis without naming your main character/s then you’ve DEFINITELY done wrong. (This really happened.)
  • Please use full sentences when writing a synopsis, it shouldn’t be in note form, or missing words like “a” and “the”.
  • That being said, short sentences are preferable. We want quick bursts of info, not long winded rambling with major plot points that get missed in our efforts to read it. For example, I just read an opening line that was over 90 words long and contained the entire plot of the novel. I didn’t retain any information from it.
  • Does your synopsis have an exclamation mark or two to make it sound exciting? Delete them. Re-word your synopsis until you get that effect with words.

FORMATTING:

  • Generally a page is a good length, somewhere in the area of a few hundred words. It’ll vary depending on the length of your manuscript.
  • Don’t put entire words in all caps or block typeface. Trust that I know what an important fact is when I see it.

MISC:

  • If your synopsis ends with a question (such as: “will our heroes survive?”) then you’re doing it wrong. A synopsis MUST spoil the ending. You aren’t writing a synopsis for a reader, you’re writing it for someone who wants to buy and sell your work. Those people need to know everything.
  • Please proof read thoroughly! I’ve read synopses where a character’s name has changed halfway through, make sure this isn’t you.

I’m thinking about doing a few other blogs along these lines. If you have any specific requests of genres or the like, send me a message and I’ll try to incorporate it.

What Not To Do When Sending Off Your Manuscript

All right, as some of you know I recently did some work for a publishing press. What I did was read unsolicited manuscripts (stories sent by authors with no agent) and decide if my boss should read it and publish it. During the weeks I spent doing this, I came to discover that authors really do have the worst habits.

Everything below is something an author has done and that I’ve read first hand. In order for you to do better, here’s my advice:

NAMES:

  • For god’s sake put your name on your submission. Holy shit, why is this something I actually need to say?!
  • Write? Your? Name? With? Capital? Letters? You guys this is a joke. It should be “John Smith”, not “John smith”.
  • If you are sending in more than one submission, do NOT change your name on each submission. I’ve seen authors go from “John Smith” to “J A Smith”. Please don’t. (Note that this does not include pseudonyms, which are entirely different.)
  • Additionally, if I have to learn your surname from your email address, you’re doing something wrong.

WHAT TO INCLUDE:

  • Never include character bios unless they are specifically asked for. It’s normal for publishers to want a synopsis with your story. This should NOT include bios. When you send in a submission with character bios you are saying “I don’t think I’ve described my character well enough in the text, but the information isn’t important enough to be in the synopsis.”
  • Try not to go too overboard in your introductory email. What works differs from person to person, but I don’t like to see people comparing themselves to bestselling classic authors or being too informal. Aim to stay professional.
  • On a similar note, don’t use chat speak in your email. I feel I should repeat this because I just read it in an email.
  • Finally, go ahead and start that email with “Dear Mr X” or “To Ms Y”. Don’t just start rambling. (Once again, I shouldn’t need to say it but some people don’t do this.)
  • Never send more than the submission asks for. If we want a 10,000 word excerpt from your novel then DO NOT send a word over. If you do, the person reading will simply stop at 10,000 words. I just opened a document that was 38,000 words over the word count. Don’t take the piss.
  • And don’t think you can avoid this by sending chapters in different files. I will add up the combined word count and I will stop after whatever it is I have asked for.
  • Please don’t send your proposed cover artwork. You may think you’re being confident but it comes across as cocky. I didn’t ask for this, I don’t want it.
  • When we ask for contact info that does not mean your tumblr and twitter URLs. Yes, I’m serious, people have sent this before.
  • Please mention the title of your piece (or pieces) either in the email you write to the PH or in the file name of the document.

FORMATTING:

  • Do not send a document with different colour typeface. If you use different colours to show different drafts in a document, make a copy, change all the typeface to black, and send that instead.
  • Additionally, do not send a manuscript with any typeface that has been struck through. It tells me you are not confident and that you are in a rush to send off your work before it’s ready.
  • There’s no general rule as to what you should title the file that you’re sending, but do not have the draft number anywhere in that title.
  • Make sure your files never have blank pages at the end.
  • Unless it’s asked for, don’t submit something written entirely in Italics. Write however suits you, but send off work that meets the publisher’s style sheet.
  • On that topic, indent your work! Either that or have a space between each paragraph.

MISC:

  • Don’t send the same story more than once. Why do I need to tell you this? It’s not a raffle, we aren’t more likely to pick you if we see your story more. On the contrary, I’m annoyed that this happened. Stop wasting my time.
  • If you’re an American writer using Americanisms and phrases, then maybe you shouldn’t be sending your manuscript to a British press? Because if I can’t work out what you mean, I’m sure my readership won’t be able to either.
  • For goodness sake, spell check is your friend. Use it (and don’t rely on it).

Ultimately, you want to make things easy for the stranger who will be reading your work. Do what you can to save time for them and they’ll look at your work more favorably. At the end of the day, we WANT to like your work.

Please note that different publishing houses and presses have different requirements and you should always check their house style sheet and their submission information. The above is a guide that should apply to most companies. Please contact me if you want further help or find me on Twitter: (x).

Colours of the School Yard

In the school yard of 
my pre-teen years 
metal railings bare copper scabs 
to rival those of my classmates. 
Dirt grouted bricks 
smear school shoes with brown, 
mud assimilating 
the bright black. 
Seagulls scream battles cries, 
become dive bombers 
seeking fuel. 
The grains of a cereal bar linger 
between my teeth. Bland. 
Like the colours of this courtyard; 
grey, 
muted.

A living example of the Dickens novel I read. 
Hard times indeed. 
Vibrancy lives only in the blood of our cheeks, 
warm in the company we keep... 
But none between the gap of the teeth 
of the boy 
who takes my bag. 

My satchel, black and purple,
Strap rough in his hands as he runs. 
The red in my cheeks as I give chase, 
so fast I nearly overtake. 
Looking back, he knows he's lost. 
The satchel becomes baggage he gladly drops.

Right 
at 
my 
feet. 

Over the bag I tumble, and 
in a hospital bed I land. 
Arm snapped. 
Black and purple.

When You Wish…

We’ve wished out all the stars
Made the sky black with our desires
As we ask for things not ours
At the cost of the sky fires.

Just something quick and dirty from Tuesday night’s Twisted Tongues event. I’m working on a blog post right now for new writers who want to send their work off to publishers, look out for that soon. Until then, check out my new tumblr blog specially for writing.

Emma

Dear Councillor

Dear councillor
No I’m not attracted to girls just because I was raped
My heart racing words failing as I try to explain
the two don’t relate.
How did you get this job if that’s an assumption you make?
And since we’re asking questions I have to know
What’s this pressure to say my rapist’s name?
As if it will absolve me of my self-blame

Dear councillor
I didn’t tell my housemates this week
It wasn’t the right time you see
It didn’t come up as we were watching tv
But staring at the screen I thought of how I’d want it to be.
I’d tell them anything to stop the jokes
The ones that catch in my throat
And my existence once complex
Once meaningful once MINE
Becomes the punchline of something I can only define
as banter.

Dear councillor
You asked me “Who decided you were raped?”
And I lurch at your words
As I sit on my perch
Thinking about how to argue my case
Like I need to justify my disgrace.
You know what’s worse than being the girl who was raped?
The girl no one ADMITS was raped
Like I need a permission slip to cry,
an appointment to hyperventilate.
You know what you’d call that appointment? 9 to 5

Dear councillor
Thank you
for noticing the improvement in my appearance
I’ve decided to dress how I like
Not hiding from the fright
Of being cat called in the street
Like a dog who slipped her lead.
And when my friend in the hijab
became a statistic too
I saw us as the targets we always were
So I wear my short skirts and my lipstick
But I no longer wear my crucifix
When it’s finally clear
Christ is the only man not looking at me.

Dear councillor
Go ahead!
You can say it.
Depression and Guilt
and PTSD and Rape survivor
Buzz words that go off as the money hits your bank account
And I’m seen out
Make up streaming down my face
Walking at a hurried pace
To the bathroom where I’ll choke on your sympathetic ear
That only listens 11 til 12 on a Friday

Dear councillor
Six sessions and I’m cured? Who decided that? Who signed off on that?
Wait. No.
Six sessions is all you get
When anxiety attacks steal your breath
And classroom debates makes you feel unsafe
And walking home becomes a race
Six sessions is all you get.
So you better be fixed in six weeks, kid
Six hours, kid
Six sessions
Because that’s all we’ll pay
And god forbid
We spend less on a sports building
And more on mental health.

Dear councillor
I actually don’t want to talk today.

An Introduction

My name is Emma Ward and among other things I am a writer and (hopefully) a future publisher. The purpose of this blog is to create a space for me to publish my original writing and to keep in contact with other writers.

Other forms of contacting me include:

I am also a sub editor at The Writer’s Quibble, the treasurer of the Derby Uni Feminism Society, and I perform at Twisted Tongues.

Best,

Emma