The journey from scribblers to published authors – 24 January 2018

Short and sweet? Or long and winding?

AWC’s very own Pat Young, author of Till the Dust Settles and Michael Malone, author of several books, including A Suitable Lie, Dog Fight and House of Spines shared the hot seat and, thanks to Alison Craig’s skilful interviewing, told us of their writing journeys to publication.

Pat, who never had the urge to write until a few years ago, was inspired by an intriguing find at a French campsite. Joining Ayr Writers’ Club, participating in NaNoWriMo (National Writing Month) and attending a writing course led by Caro Ramsay encouraged Pat to write her first (as yet unpublished) novel. After writing short stories and winning some competitions, Pat turned her attention to writing book number two. She pitched this second novel at the Scottish Association of Writers’ Dragon’s Pen competition. The following year, 2016, this novel won both SAW’s Novel Competition and a one-off competition to win the guidance of a literary agent for a year. Although this agent submitted Pat’s novel to many of the large publishing houses, unfortunately there were no takers. When Pat parted company with the agent, Michael suggested she send her manuscript to Bloodhound Books, a small and new kid on the publishing block. Three days after they read it, Pat had signed a contract. A few months later Till the Dust Settles was published in 2017.

Michael knew he wanted to be a writer since he was five years old and wrote his own version of Tarka the Otter. As a child he was influenced by the works of Enid Blyton, CS Lewis and Ursula le Guin before moving on to adult fiction writers such as Stephen King, Wilbur Smith and Catherine Cookson. Michael joined AWC in 1996 and although he had a completed novel shoved in a drawer, focused at first on writing poetry. Then he entered a novel to SAW’s Crime Novel Competition in 2003 – and won first place. This novel, Blood Tears, was eventually published in 2012. In fact Michael had six full novels written before he succeeded in having his first one published.
Michael says he fell into crime writing. Working with smaller publishers Orenda Books has given Michael flexibility to shake off the “crime author” label and write something different.

Both Pat and Michael gave us plenty of information on their writing process and advice on how to improve and stimulate our own writing. In truth, if I wrote up all my notes from the evening I could have a book to rival the great Stephen King’s On Writing – a book highly recommended by both writers. So here are just a few of their gems –

Go to loads of writing events and writing festivals – Tidelines, Imprint, AyeWrite.
Go to any writing course you can. Swanwick Summer School recommended.
Get yourself a work method. Find when and where you are most productive.
Build your word count up one bite at a time. Get your central story idea and just write.
Put your first draft away for a while and then go back and read it again. Space can allow you to spot inconsistences, see if your characterisation is flawed or if the narrative doesn’t flow.
When you are in the writing zone – don’t do research. Keep going while you are in a creative mood and do your research later.
Stop writing for the day at a place in your story where you can’t wait to get back to.
Don’t have too many characters. If they don’t contribute to your story – kill’em.
Skrivener app a great tool for recording characters’ traits , background etc.

So what’s next for our two authors?

Well, Pat Young’s sequel (its title is still to be revealed) is due published on March 1st, while Michael J Malone’s next, as yet unnamed, novel will be published in September.

Many thanks to both for a fun, informative and inspiring evening. We wish you great success with your future projects and look forward to reading more from you.

Crime writers really are the coolest gang !

Linda Brown

One comment

  1. Eddie Phillips

    Inspiring. Am writing three short stories simultaneously.

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