Monday, 9 November 2015

'Playing Frankenstein': A feature by author Barbara Copperthwaite

I would like to welcome Barbara Copperthwaite to my blog today to talk about her writing and editing process. Barbara's latest psychological thriller Flowers for the Dead was published on 2 September 2015.

Playing Frankenstein: From first draft to finished book
By Barbara Copperthwaite

Everyone works differently, and it’s important to find your own way of writing, a way that works for you. For me, though, I like to think of the process of creating a book in the same way as creating a person from scratch. It is literally a body of work in my mind’s eye, and that thought helps me differentiate between the processes involved.

First draft: skeleton
The first draft is a little like a skeleton and major organs. Get this right and there is a strong base for everything else. Once you’ve finished, step back and try to look at it as a whole. Are there bits that are in the wrong place and need to be moved around? If a leg is in the wrong place, the person will fall over; if a part of the book is in the wrong place, it could make the story fall too.

Second draft: fleshing out
With the second draft, I am adding muscle, nerves, veins and arteries. I am ‘fleshing out’ with all the wonderful detail that gives depth to a story and brings it to life.

Third draft: liposuction
Next will be draft number three, where I cut out extraneous material – a bit like liposuction for the body of the book. From paragraphs that add nothing, to tightening sentences, to cutting repetition, every single word should work hard and have a reason for being; no flabby bits allowed!

Editing: the beauty treatment
Finally I will be busy with the editing, a sort of beauty treatment: think deep cleanse, exfoliation, and moisturiser that will make the skin glow.
Although I am an indie publisher, I always use a professional editing service. It’s expensive, but it’s the only way to produce a quality product. No matter how good you are, no matter how full of praise/suggestions friends and family are, they can’t do the job of a professional editor. I’ve been a journalist for over 20 years, and worked my way up to being an editor of several national magazines, so I know all about proofreading, what makes a good story, pacing, copy editing, etc. I’ve done it to other people’s copy for years. And that’s is why I pay someone else to look at my work: because I know the importance of using expert people to carry out specific jobs.
By the time I send the book off to my editor, I’m exhausted, and the time they take looking at it is both a welcome break away from the book, and a painful exercise in patience (not something I am good at).
At this point, the edit is about big picture stuff. Weakness in pace, plot, characterization, timeline issues etc are highlighted, and suggestions made. Don’t get defensive. Don’t think that they ‘just don’t get’ your book. Do read what has been said, take a deep breath, and read it a second time. Go for a walk, read it a third time, and put the whole thing aside for another week. Only then should you start work on making the changes. It’s good advice, given to me by my editor, and it works.
Together, we are polishing my words, checking for mistakes, and getting everything just right so that the finished product is as close to perfect as it can be.

Proofreading: the Spanx of editing
Your novel has a great body, has been buffed and polished, but to be really certain of perfection, run it past a proofreader. They will spot all those annoying repetitions that you think you took out, but actually missed half of them, the typos that your eye glides over, and a myriad of other things. It’s the final ‘tightening’ of your copy.

Clothing your creation
Of course, as an indie author, now my book is finished I shall have to work on the cover, and that's the clothing, hair and make up of the piece. I’m getting my book ready for her party, trying to create something eye-catching.

Hopefully, she turns into the belle of the ball – and not Frankenstein’s monster.

About Barbara Copperthwaite

Barbara Copperthwaite was raised by the sea and in the countryside, where she became a lover of both the written word and the great outdoors. When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.
Her fascination with crime really began during a brief spell working in a men's prison, and only grew when she became a national journalist and editor. Now she is using her twenty years’ experience of writing to create novels.

Both of Barbara’s psychological crime thrillers, Invisible and Flowers For The Dead, have been Amazon best sellers.

To find out more about the novels Invisible and Flowers for the Dead, go to or follow @BCopperthwait on Twitter. To find out more about Barbara, go to

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