Monday, November 5, 2012

Second Time Around: Susan Buchanan

Susan Buchanan is a formidable writer. Her first novel, Sign of the Times, has an amazing 12 characters, each with their own intriguing story. I loved Susan's first novel, and I can't wait to read her newly released second book, The Dating Game. Thanks, Susan, for joining us today!

Well, thanks Samantha for this opportunity to come on your blog.

So, what did I do differently this time from writing book one to writing book two. Hmm, where to start?
Well, first of all, I didn’t take 6 years to write it and 4 years to publish it, as I did with Sign of the Times. I took a year off work in 2008 to finish that. With The Dating Game, I wrote the first draft of the first 3 chapters in 2009 and then started writing back in April this year, full-time. I had finished my previous job in Feb.  It took me just over 6 months to write and do the redrafts, but I was seriously working my butt off!

I used the same editor, an old uni friend, but whereas I had written half of the book last time around before she saw any of it, this time she got it almost chapter by chapter. I am not sure that was necessarily a good thing, although she certainly pointed out loads of issues along the way, which helped me going forward.  As I worked my way through the second half of the book, she received the chapters in tranches.  Next time I might go the whole hog and not let my editor see it until I’ve finished it!  I realise this is the more orthodox approach.

I have learned so many things in the past eight months.  On 17th March, my other half sat for an hour or so and made me a book cover. It was far better than I could do and with it, I managed to take Sign of the Times to number 1 on the Amazon free chart back in May. However, I should have listened early on when other authors were talking about having a professional cover done, and so, a few months later, my new cover designer created the current design for Sign of the Times. I had discussed with him that I wanted a brand and an image I could carry forward to future covers. I think he has pulled this off nicely with my new release, The Dating Game.
Another huge difference this time around is the way I proofread and edited the book myself. I had learned of so many foibles that I had, that even my editor didn’t pick up on, or that she was too close to, to notice either. So I did specific edits just for those.  I have a huge list of things, which I have kept for the future, of items I need to edit for - whether it’s repetition of certain phrases, repetition of similar words within the same paragraph, the list goes on!

In addition to  having an editor, I also had a proofreader this time.  Invaluable.   As the author, you are so close to the work that it simply isn’t possible for you to notice every error, no matter how careful you are.  Plus I am a great believer in two heads, or in this case, two pairs of eyes being better than one!  I also did several final checks on my Kindle, something I didn’t do last time around, when I did it all from the laptop. Somehow missing closed quotes,  letters, and periods, jump out at you on the Kindle.
The other major change, and I am much indebted to them, is that I decided to have beta readers. A lot of writers are precious about having people critique their work and quite frankly, although I am not precious,  I am not one for critique groups.

However, I chose a select group of fellow authors and a reader, (some had read and enjoyed my first book) then I asked them for their honest opinion, and gave them a list of questions to answer. I am so glad I did!! They enjoyed it, but one actually pointed out that my withholding of information in a certain key area might make the readers want  a different ending. I hadn’t wanted to give too much away, preferring to build up the suspense. I mulled it over and decided that, actually, including an extra couple of paragraphs wouldn’t give away the ending, and made the book so much more powerful, as well as giving the readers the ending I believe they want.
As regards the actual writing,  I tend to write and just keep writing, but I am more conscious of word count and do a chapter plan at the beginning.  That said, about 15 chapters into The Dating Game,  I realised I had deviated from the path somewhat. I wasn’t too fussed about that, as I like to have a plan, but I also like spontaneity. Often my characters tell me what’s going to happen!  So I redrafted the chapter plan and apart from cutting a chapter later on, as I figured I had enough story, I adhered to the rest of the plan.  I flesh out my characters at the start and build up profiles for them in Word. I also have a spreadsheet now with all the characters names, including the very minor ones. It wouldn’t be the first time I have unwittingly called two minor characters 20 chapters apart by the same name in a draft! 

Third time around will be different yet again. I will start writing my third book in about 2 weeks time - or rather the character plan and the chapter plan.  The good thing is, we, as writers, are always learning. I like to focus on the cliffhangers I am going to have. Readers want  to be propelled along, unable to put the book down, anxious to find out what happens next and let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good cliffhanger?!

Susan has a long-standing love affair with Italy, travelling, reading and languages. She has a Masters degree in French and Hispanic Studies and when not injured, loves running.
She lives in Central Scotland, with her partner Tony and is on this crazy writing rollercoaster now, unable to get off. She already has a further six books planned.

Twelve people. Twelve star signs.

Sagittarius - Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.

Capricorn – Holly’s fiancĂ©, Tom misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?

Gemini - Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating she discovers, can have devastating consequences.

Libra - Holly’s uncle Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.

One event binds them all…
Workaholic recruitment consultant, Gill McFadden, is sick of her friends trying to match-make for her.  Up until now her love life has been a disaster and she’s going through a drier spell than the Sahara desert. 
She realises she has to act, as work keeps piling up and at this rate she will have retired before she has time for a relationship.
Seeing an ad on a bus one day, she decides to visit Happy Ever After dating agency.  She quickly discovers men are like buses. They all come along at once. Unsure what her type is, Gill decides to keep her options open.  Soon she has problems juggling her social life as well as her work diary. Will she ever strike the right balance?
Before long she is experiencing laughs, lust and… could it be love?  But like everything in Gill’s life, nothing is straightforward and she ends up wondering exactly who she can trust.
Buy the Books!
Sign of the Times
The Dating Game
Connect with Susan!
Twitter: susan_buchanan



  1. This was really interesting, and I'm relieved I'm not the only one taking a loooong time over the first novel.
    I would be interested to hear more from Susan on the beta-reader process and whether she asked for high level or detailed feedback at that stage.

  2. hi Pauline. I had 5 fellow writers who are now also friends (all of whom I met on Twitter) and a reader as betas for my book. I asked them specific questions, and told them to be 100% honest - do you like all of the characters, if not, why not? Is the pace of the novel right? Are there are any sections you felt dragged? Did I gloss over anything? and so forth. I got amazing feedback. I did reduce word count in some sections based on the betas comments. I truly believe it's a better novel for me having taken on board some of their comments. Clearly I wasn't going to agree with everything and not everyone agreed. Interestingly several of the betas liked different guys in the novel! Hope that helped, Sooz

  3. Hi Susan & Sam, great post.

    Great job on the branding - your covers look great. I'm glad to hear you say you are not one for critique groups and use beta readers instead. I'm the same, but have heard so many writers/writing teachers say, "oh you have to be in a read & critique group." That format of reading little bits at a time each week with a R&C group doesn't work for me. I'd rather do like you - have some select people you trust read the ms straight through and give (hopefully!) honest feedback.

    The books sound fun! Best of luck!