Author, Author! is the traditional cry at the end of a brilliant performance.
If we may call the talk given by author Harry Dunn, to our writing group, ‘a performance’ then we should send up the cry.
The group met in the Clock House Tavern on Friday 26 February 2016 and everyone agreed it was a brilliant event, a masterclass in how to interest,entertain and inform in just one hour. We all felt we had learned so much and enjoyed every minute.
Author of two novels, featuring his hero, Jack Barclay, Harry has spent holidays in Lanzarote going back over thirty years and has done much of his writing here on the island. At present he is working on the third book in the series and took time out, from his precious holiday, to come and meet the members of the Lanzarote Creative Writing Group.
Some of the Writing Group members enjoying Harry’s talk.
Harry told us how he actually started his first novel over twenty years ago but put it aside as he was too busy. When he took it out again, years later, it took about eighteen months to two years to finish and was then about 8,000 words longer that the final version.
He then, like so many successful writers including J K Rawling and John Grisham, received a number of rejections from agents.
The message is persistence, have faith in yourself and be aware that writing is hard work. The first draft is the fun part. The reworking, editing, rewriting and correcting, and applying the advice of others to your manuscript is the hard graft.
Do not underestimate the value of listening to the advice of those who have gone before, and are willing to share, writers editors, publishers and of course readers.
Seeking advice himself in the early days of his writing career Harry went along to a talk by Margaret Murphy, the founder of an authors’ group named ‘The Murder Squad’ but he managed to get himself to the wrong room and found himself at ‘Beginners Composting’!
Good advice, we were told can be found by looking up Elmore Leonard’s ‘Ten Rules of Writing’ and in Stephen Kings’s book ‘On Writing’. The ‘Writers and Authors Yearbook’ is invaluable.
In the end Harry signed a contract with Caffeine Nights for his first novel, Smile of the Viper, and then he began the marketing.
He set off with his banner and ‘a bag of tricks like an old doctor’s bag’ and arrived at his first book signing to find a queue. But it was actually for Gregg’s pie shop, next door!
- Among the many tips that Harry shared, he suggested that it is better to write an outline of your story at the start.You need a beginning, a middle and an end, and it seems about 80% of books have ‘unsatisfactory endings’. Have a good idea, at least, how it goes but then get it down and work on it afterwards. Writing is fundamentally rewriting.
- Most agents will know, in the first two paragraphs whether they are interested in your book so it is important that you start well. Introduce your main character, give the reader a reason to continue.
- Make the characters interesting, the reader will remember them more than the plot. Get inside the head of the main character in particular, but it is not always necessary to give a detailed physical description. Harry’s Private Investigator, Jack Barclay is around thirty-nine; attractive to women; fairly rugged exterior, but with a soft centre; and never described by the writer, leaving the details of his appearance to the imagination of the individual reader.
- Do not have too many characters, Harry recommends about seven or eight. Make the baddies genuinely bad and the goodies good but realistic, flawed as we all are.
- Aim to make a first novel about 80,000 words. publishers are unwilling to take the chance on longer works from unknown writers. Anything over about 50,000 counts as a novel, under that is a novella.
- The modern trend is to write in short chapters.
- Read a lot, particularly in the genre you are interested in writing.
Harry Dunn’s second novel ‘Forever Evil’ is out now and a short story, ‘One Night in Andalusia’, introducing his protagonist, Jack Barclay, is available free on Amazon.
Harry is happy to talk to groups and organisations and makes no charge for his time. He does have a favourite charity that he supports and invites his audiences, if they wish, to make a donation to ‘The Ollie Young Foundation’ in aid of brain tumor research You can find out more about this amazing charity, in memory of a little boy whose tragic death was four years ago on 26 February 2012, on Facebook or at
Category: Advice and Info. Fun Activities. Tags: Books, Writing, Useful Sources, Writing Groups