Tuesday 5 May 2015

Countdown to publication

The publication date of my debut novel is 10 months away. Time to Say Goodbye will be available to purchase in March 2016. You can already find it listed on Amazon and Goodreads, although there’s no cover for it yet. That’s still to be designed, but I’m told it’s a work in progress. 

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited. Becoming a published novelist has been my dream for as long as I’ve been reading books. Finally it’s almost a reality.

On publication day I’ll be no doubt be hopping from one store to another, eyeing copies up on the shelves and – hopefully – witnessing someone buy one. More than that, I can’t wait for the day when I come across a stranger reading it. I’ll do my best not to make an idiot of myself by going over and saying something cringeworthy – like offering to sign it – but I can’t promise.

I still remember the first time I got a front page story in my early days as a newspaper journalist. Having my byline on the newsstands for all to see was a great feeling. I was proud as punch and bought copies to show all my family and friends. Most readers wouldn’t have even registered my name. Half probably didn’t read past the headline. Not that I cared. I was too busy fantasising about my future as a big-shot investigative reporter, which – ahem – never quite happened. Heigh-ho.

Anyway, I’ve just got the manuscript back from being copyedited. Now it’s my job to go through it again and action the suggested changes. 

It’s interesting how many differences there are in style between newspaper and fiction writing. For example, it was drummed into me during my trainee reporter days that you only spell out numbers from one to nine; from there on up, you use numerals. Not so in fiction. The convention, I’ve now learned, is to spell out numbers from zero to one hundred. Only then can you use numerals. And it’s not quite that straightforward, as there are specific rules for things like time and dates. If you’re writing something yourself and want to learn the ins and outs, I found this article helpful. 

Another thing is the requirement to use either italics or quotation marks for certain titles. The newspaper style I was taught involved neither. However, I now know that in fiction, a book, TV show or album title is italicised. And yet a song title appears in quotation marks. For more information, here’s another useful article.

I can’t believe I’ve never picked up on these conventions while reading, which I do a lot. I guess it’s not the kind of thing you pay attention to unless you have a specific reason. That’s my excuse, anyway. 

Finally, I was also surprised to find all my –ise spellings (realise, recognise, organise etc.) changed to –ize. ‘But that’s American,’ I said to my editor, only to be informed that this was the Oxford English Dictionary preference and thus the house style. I know many of my former newspaper colleagues will disagree, but what the hell, I’m going with the flow. That said, I’m sticking with my old journalistic style for this blog, as you’ll see if you look carefully. 
It’s just a shame I didn’t know these fiction writing rules before I wrote the manuscript for my next book . . .

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