Just when you thought the apocalyptic detention was over...Having fought their way back to what they believe to be their home world, Rev, GG and The Ape discover that they're now stuck in the nightmarish world of doppelgangers, surrounded by a town of super-powered killing machines. Johnson, Billie and the Moth are still trapped in the empty world. Alive, but with no way home. Can Rev get the misfits back together? And even if she can will she be able to do it before the world ends. Time is running out...And believe it or not that's the least of their problems.
Delete is the sequel to last year's brilliant Shift, and I'm really looking forward to getting back to Jeff Povey's unusual world. The book is published this week in the UK and Simon and Schuster have organised a fun blog tour which I'm excited to be part of.
I hope you enjoy the following guest post, and thanks to Jeff for writing it!
Why Every Writer Needs Their Own Personal Reader
by Jeff Povey
No one knows the importance of footsteps in the literary world more than I do. They are the barometer of everything I write. When I hand a manuscript to my wife I usually go upstairs and lie down awaiting her verdict. Sometimes it’s the other way around and she goes upstairs to read and I lie on the sofa instead, watching telly and probably eating sweets. In due course the footsteps will begin… We have wooden floorboards and I have learned to tell the difference between excitement or disappointment just from the speed of the footsteps. A quick, staccato rap usually signifies that I have a done a good job. I’m already on my feet awaiting to embrace further approval of my genius. But the slow footstep, the torturously long plod from bedroom to lounge or vice versa is the sound I have come to dread more than any other. I’m already tensing, I have put my sweets down, I’d like to say they fall from my hand and roll across the floor but that’s just melodramatic. Possibly in keeping with the rubbish I’ve just forced Mrs. P to read. But then again that’s what it feels like. It’s the end of days and even before she gets into the room with a look of sorrow and pity I know I’m in for some severe criticism. And worse, I know she’ll be right.
Every writer needs a sounding board. In fact I imagine anyone who is in the business of presenting or unleashing anything artistic onto the unsuspecting world probably needs someone to comment on their creations before they put them into the public domain. I would love it if I could write something amazing every time, and for the footsteps to go away, but I don’t believe perfection is achievable first time out. I think writing is as much about rewriting as it is about that original manuscript where you thought you’d just completed Paradise Lost and you were officially now a legend. I read somewhere – and this may not be true – but Stephen King of all people won’t release a book until his editor is satisfied. That might be a myth but I know why I want it to be true. Writers like me need help. They need another head to come along and cast an eye over their work. And this eye is instinctive. It knows instantly when something jars or a character says something that doesn’t ring true, or recently in my case: “What the hell do you think you’re doing killing that character off?” In the first ever version of Shift Billie died quite early on and I had created this masterful chapter where that happened and then the gang went off on their further adventures. Mrs. P was vehement that I couldn’t kill Rev’s best friend and then have her pretty much not react in a reasonable way. She argued that the death of a best friend would eviscerate Rev and stop her being the character I wanted her to become. I tried to argue, weakly, that I was right, then I got into a huff and pouted, and afterwards I went to my office and started rewriting the chapter. Mrs. P’s prevailing instinct combined with the footsteps of doom broke my resistance pretty swiftly. When you read Delete, the sequel to Shift you will understand how right Mrs. P was.
It takes a lot to listen to constructive criticism and a whole lot more to accept it. But to learn from it is the key to writing. That is the fundamental difference between a hopeful author and an author who is determined to improve, to take their work to the best level they can. My belief in rewriting comes from my career in writing for television. I would honestly keep going until every word was perfect but with TV filming crops up and you have to let go. Yes it’s in great shape by then but when I watch it broadcast I sometimes see where a better line or a better moment could have occurred. I’m talking about tiny probably unnoticeable things but with a novel you have the opportunity to write until it’s right. In fact that is my battle cry: Write Until It’s Right.
The question of who you would trust to read your work and then to be as honest and frank as they can is a crucial one that you need to answer. Remember we seem to live in a world where for some reason we have to hear superlatives about ourselves before we’re completely convinced of our ability. An actor can never be good, they have to be stunning. A book can never be compelling, it has to be utterly and completely enthralling, a film has to have five stars and it has to change your world view with its unbridled testament to greatness. Good is a dirty word. But your reader, your personal critic will have been as exposed to superlatives as much as anyone and they know in their hearts that after reading your work they are expected to join in with a chorus of greatness. Well tell them no, that’s not what you’re after. Tell them to be honest. To reveal every thought and worry they have to you. Some thoughts will be right and some will be wrong, but even the wrong thoughts might have a soupcon of truth to them. You need to be prepared to hear everything. And that takes guts and a steady nerve. It also takes belief. Belief in yourself and belief in your reader. Then you need to be able to distil what your reader is saying and either accept it or not, but whatever you do, don’t ignore it. People react on instinct and I always believe in the first instinct, that initial gut reaction, more than anything else. We spend our lives listening to our instincts so why when someone reads your work should they behave any differently.
If you are fortunate enough to find someone you trust to read your work then don’t be afraid to listen out for the slow footstep. It won’t feel good and you’ll get angry and belligerent and swear a bit but ultimately if you end up with a better manuscript then it can only be a good thing. You might be good but you can always be better.
One last thing, don’t ever buy your reader wooden clogs. They’re really loud.
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