Friday, September 17, 2010

Advice for Aspiring Authors with Guest Blogger Kate Hofman

The Book Boost Welcomes DCL Publications author Kate Hofman to the blog.

She's here with advice for aspiring authors.

Here's what she had to say...

Write, write and then write some more. The only way for you to find your voice is to write. I would suggest you resist the temptation to show your newly begun novel to friends. They will all have different opinions, and since you are perhaps still a bit insecure about writing, you’ll listen to them all. Don’t!

There are a few pitfalls I’d like you to be aware of. After you’ve finished a few pages, print them up and underline in red or whatever color you fancy, every time you use the word ‘and’. You will probably find that you’re stringing sentences along too long!

Cut out ‘and’ as many times as possible. You will find your work reads more easily, and it looks tidier.

Another pitfall is the over-use of ‘a little’ and ‘very’. Go over your work and cut out 90% of ‘very’. Then work on the use of ‘a little’, and change then to ‘a bit’ or ‘somewhat’ or remove them altogether. Your work will suddenly sound more professional when you read it aloud to yourself. Always a good trick, reading it aloud. That’s how you can hear your own voice developing.

I wish you the best of luck, because once you’ve become a writer, there is nothing else that can make you feel so good. And there is that heady moment when your first book is accepted. Nothing else will ever feel quite like that.

A Note from the Book Boost: Those are great tips, Kate. I have a tendency to use the word "that" way too many times. I use the old Search and Find feature of Word quite often when I'm editing. Thanks for stopping by. Please share more about your book with us.


Lydia—our heroine—flies to London to check on the much younger man her mother is raving about. She suspects he is a gigolo and intends buying him off. Now read on:

The flight to New York and on to London went without a hitch. The next morning around nine Lydia was at Heathrow, waiting for a taxi to take her to her mother’s apartment.

Her polite little buzz at the door was quickly answered by a uniformed maid.

“Miss Willoughby? Please come in. If you’ll leave your luggage here, I’ll put it into your room. Mrs. Willoughby is at the hairdresser’s, but I was to advise you she’d be back any time now. Through here, please, Miss Willoughby. This is the drawing- room.”

The maid stood aside and gestured to the room. Lydia thanked her and walked in. She looked around with pleasure. This was indeed a charming apartment. Glass doors were flanked by tall windows, giving a wonderful view of the Thames.

At that moment, a man entered the room from the balcony. He was faultlessly dressed in a dark business suit. Lydia could understand why her mother spent every available moment with him. He was, quite simply, stunning. Tall, long-legged, with a natural elegance and that rangy, loose-limbed build that made women’s mouths go dry—including her own, she had to admit. Another quick glance at his face confirmed her initial impression that he was the handsomest man she had ever seen. Blue-black hair, neatly styled, winged black eyebrows over eyes as dark as onyx, half-hidden by long, thick, curved lashes. A patrician nose and a beautifully sculpted mouth, which seemed to begin a little smile for her.

Suddenly deeply upset that this man had evidently had no trouble at all insinuating himself into her mother’s affections, she lit into him.

“You should be ashamed of yourself, playing gigolo to my mother. She’s very vulnerable right now—my father died only eight months ago. If you had any decent feelings at all, you’d let my mother down gently, and get out of her life. Can’t you invent a sick aunt or a dying grandfather in Greece? My mother said you’re twenty-nine. Well, you look older, probably due to the dissolute life you lead, going from one vulnerable, middle-aged lady to another— Look, if you need money, I’ll pay you any amount you wish as long as you get out of my mother’s life.” Lydia whipped her chequebook out of her handbag and looked at the man, her eyes flashing a challenge.

His polite smile had disappeared at the very beginning of Lydia’s onslaught, and his expression had gone from quietly indignant to absolutely outraged. Lydia thought, If he’s trying to up the price with his indignation, he can think again.

The man opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by the arrival of Alicia. She hugged her daughter. “Lydia, I’m so glad you decided to come.” Glancing at the man, Alicia asked, “Honey, won’t you please introduce the gentleman with you?”

Lydia glanced at the man, her expression stricken. She said, haltingly, “Mama, this gentleman isn’t with me. I thought—” Please God, kill me now.

His manner frigidly polite, his deep voice glacial, the man said, “My name is Raphael Thalassinos. I am the elder brother of Jason. I came here to try to persuade him to leave London and go home to Greece. Our mother is recuperating from an illness.”

Alicia was embarrassed at the visit of Jason’s elder brother, but also indignant at his implication that Jason was living with her. She lifted her chin. “I’m Alicia Wiilloughby, and I want it clearly understood that Jason does not live here. Since you are his brother, you are no doubt aware he has an apartment of his own at the Barbican. If you wish to speak to Jason, surely that is the place to find him. Not here. We go to exhibitions, plays. We meet for lunch, dinner. We are friends! What made you think—?” Alicia’s voice stilled. It was clear that she was deeply offended.

“But Mama, you told me you were buying suits for Jason in Savile Row, and looking at a Jaguar—”

“Good gracious, Lydia, you didn’t think I was buying him these suits? Of course not. Jason paid for his suits, and for the Jaguar.”

Lydia had gone very pale. She dared not look at Jason’s brother. Her long lashes veiling her eyes, she said hesitantly to him, “I’m so very sorry. I’ve made a dreadful mistake—” She ventured a covert glance at him, and opened her mouth to apologize further, but she did not get farther than repeating, “I’m so very sorry—”

At the same moment, Raphael began to speak. She thought that, in different circumstances, his deep voice could be caressing as velvet, but right now it was frigid and aloof. His facial expression remote, he addressed himself pointedly to Alicia. “Mrs. Willoughby, I am sorry if I upset you with my mistaken assumption that my brother was living here with you. Forgive me.” He inclined his dark head in a stiff nod, turned on his heel and left the room.

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Tami said...

I've starred your post on my RSS feed to make sure I go back and check these out in my writing. I hope always that I am getting things done the way they are 'supposed' to be done. But sometimes I feel like I edit the voice right out of it because someone has told me that it's not 'good' enough. So thanks for the advice about not showing to friends right away!

Kate Hofman said...

Tami - congratulations! You've begun your career as a writer, by trusting your own voice, and not asking for the opinions of others.
Another thought: When you are writing narrative, ask yourself if some of it would be more immediate and more interesting, if it were dialogue.
Example: He asked her whether she was comfortable on his sofa, and she smiled up at him, nodding.

"Honey, are you comfy there?" he asked, seating himself beside her--close, but not too close.
She glanced up at him,smiling.
"Sure I am, Bob--how could I not be, leaning against your shoulder?"

In the second example, we get to know a whole lot more about the couple.
In the first example, all we know is that she's sitting on a sofa, and he wants her to be comfy.

Go through your manuscript and stop at passages that begin narrative dialogue (that is dialogue indicated in the narrative, but not actually written out as dialogue).
Any lines that begin with, She told him that... or He asked her whether... think about them in actual dialogue, and whether that improves your story.

I wish you every success!


Tami said...

Kate - thank you so much! I'm a big dialogue person. I'm reading a book right now that is just too much narrative, and not enough dialogue. I want to know the characters more, and this book is boring me. But since my cousin asked me to read it, I will continue. Not sure if I will read another of hers though.

Thank you again!