Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fiction or non-fiction? Is there really any difference... for writers

Yep, it is time for me to venture into the world of blogging. I often think about what I would write, but never sure where to start. I decided that I would take people on the journey of my first crime fiction as well as other books that I will write once I have finished this one.

For a little bit of background on me.

Hi, my name is Amanda Howard. I am a professional true crime author. I have four books under my belt and a fifth being looked at the publishers as we speak.

My first foray into the publishing world was with River of Blood: Serial Killers and Their Victims. I co-wrote this book with a friend and it was released in 2004. For a first effort it took quite a bit of writing to get it there. Looking back now I would change almost all of it. As one would expect the first book is always a learning curve. When I get around to it, I will have it re-edited and condensed into probably two slicker books rather than the one mammoth one it is now. But that's for later.

My next three books were a commission for ticktock media, which was a challenge. I had been on leave from work for 12 months prior to the commission after having a baby and the week I went back to work I got the project with a very very very tight deadline (of 3 weeks). I don't think I slept at all for those three weeks. Initially the commission was for one book, but it turned into three. I was asked to write a book on the Graeme Thorne kidnapping and murder by Ticktock after they had seen a chapter on the case on my website: www.thecrimeweb.com From there I was if I'd like pick up any more in the series. Two other authors were dumped from the project so I was asked to do the book on the Lockerbie bombing and one on the theft of two Van Gough painting. For a non-artist, this last one was an uphill challenge, I had to learn to speak (very basic) Belgian to fulfill this one.

The three books were published at the end of 2007. Getting paid for them was a different story, but I got it in the end.

After being sideline by the commission, I returned to another project I had started on Australian crime. I completed the book earlier this year (2008) and have begun shopping it around to the few agents there are in Australia. I have had two bites and am now waiting for feedback after forwarding them my full manuscript.

When I sent out my blurb to the agents, many wrote back saying, "great writing, but we only do fiction." So it made me start to think, perhaps I should try my hand at writing a fiction. I remembered a short piece I had started many many years ago. I found it buried in my files on my computer. I printed it out and read it all again. Not bad. So with a starting place, I started putting fingers to keyboard and began constructing a storyline and character outline. The original premise was a bit of a horror/supernatural/cop thriller. With werewolves and police detectives and a bloodline that was down to it's final two, one a killer, one a hunter (police detective).

I wrote quite a bit, but when I went back over it, it lacked the hard-hitting police fiction that I so enjoyed. So it was out with the werewolves and in with a new killer and new storyline.

Early this week I hit the 200 pages milestone. Something I didn't think I would reach in a million years - doing a fiction. To get to the 200 pages mark in River of Blood (the book ended up being 369 pages) took me about 5 years and every step was hard going. This time, I hit the mark in just under six months. I started this book at Christmas and I am going at a very steady pace.

I don't write though, when I don't have anything to write. If a scene comes to me I sit down and do it straight away, whether it be straight onto the laptop, in point form in a notepad in the middle of business meeting, or on the scribble pad at 3am in the morning. Whenever it hits, that when I write. It helps that I have a basic chapter list already set out, so I cam mull over scenes in my head until something hits as the right tone.

Another good part has been that I have several family members who are great (and honest) sounding boards, to help me iron out the kinks in my story. I have a lot of the back story already mapped out in my head so I need other people to read it to make sure I am not jumping to conclusions about what the reader will know.

I am also enjoying hearing the family's theories on who the killer is before they get to the end. No-one has guessed it yet, which is pretty promising. But we'll see if they think it's any good or not. I have already begun mapping out books 2, 3, and 4 when ideas have hit about other crimes, killers and twists.

Well that is where I am up to on my first foray into fiction. To answer the blog's title, is it any different writing fiction and non-fiction? I can say that my twenty-years of research of criminals and crimes have certainly helped me put together this story, but there is a lot more freedom to writing fiction, there is far more opportunity to flow with ideas and not stop and start writing with checking and cross-checking intervierw notes and research material. Only time will tell though if my fiction is as good or even better than my non-fiction.

Until next time, happy reading and stay out of trouble...
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