Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Theory on Thursday with Coleen Kwan

This week on Theory on Thursday I'm excited to bring you debut author, fellow Aussie and Carina Press buddy, Coleen Kwan. I downloaded Coleen's book on Monday and as soon as I recharge my e-reader, I'm reading it. Can't wait. The book sounds awesome and the cover is fab. So here's hoping Coleen shares with us some secrets to her success :)

Take it away, Coleen:

When Rach invited me to do a blog on my favourite craft book I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, so I cheated and picked two.

When I’m in the midst of writing, my favourite craft book is Jessica Page Morrell’s ‘Between The Lines.’ The subtitle of this book is ‘Master the subtle elements of fiction writing’, and I think this sums up the book very well. It’s not a how-to book but rather it highlights areas where our writing could be improved. The author’s writing style is engaging, and she uses many examples from popular fiction to illustrate her points. In her chapter on Suspense, she uses excerpts from The Lovely Bones to show how the author builds up a truly horrifying scene without going into gratuitous detail.

‘Often this sort of understatement is more potent than a blow-by-blow depiction of violence because the reader’s imagination, fuelled by suspense, fills in the details.’

A good lesson for me as I sometimes find myself slipping into melodrama. When I’ve finished my first draft and into revisions, I like James Scott Bell’s ‘Revision & Self-Editing’ by my side. Bell says ‘Writing a novel is like falling in love. You jump in and write. At some point you pop the question and your novel says Yes. You’re married to it now. The commitment has begun. Then some problems surface. Bad breath in the morning. Crankiness. A shouting match. What happened to the bloom? You begin to doubt. But you’ve made the commitment, so you are determined to work things out. When you do, your marriage comes back stronger. Revision is like the counselling process that renders a better relationship.’

I keep reminding myself of this while I slog through revisions. Bell’s book is divided into two parts. The first part is a sort of checklist of all the usual areas: character, plot, dialogue, etc. The second part gives some practical advice on how to tackle the editing part. I like his suggestion of ‘ping-ponging’ if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a big fat mess of a story. He says when he’s revising a manuscript he’s also writing the first draft of another or planning another.

‘This gives the mind a rest but keeps it active as a writer. So the boys in the basement will be on call, sweaty, warmed up, ready to work.’ Don’t know if that image works for everyone, but you get the picture!

WOW - those two books sound AWESOME Coleen! I might have to stop this series soon, before all my money is spent on craft books. Thanks again for coming and can't wait to hear about more books from you.

Coleen's debut book, WHEN HARRIET CAME HOME, is now available at

After ten years of exile, Harriet Brown is back in town. Things have definitely changed, but so has she. Now the confident owner of a catering business, she's no longer the shy, overweight girl everyone—including her hot teenage crush—used to ignore. In fact, she's determined to make peace with Adam Blackstone for her part in exposing his father's secret affairs and corrupt behavior as mayor.

But Adam has changed as well. No longer a pampered, rich pinup boy, he just wants to reestablish his family's good name. He reluctantly agrees to a truce with Harriet, and is surprised by how changed she is. He doesn't want to be drawn to her, but he can't seem to resist her allure.

As Harriet struggles to come to terms with her past, her adolescent infatuation with Adam morphs into something more serious… Will she ever be accepted again? Or will ancient history ruin the chance of a future full of possibilities?


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your debut, Coleen! It sounds fabulous!

I loved James Scott Bell's book Plot and Structure. The self-editing one sounds good too, as does Between the Lines!

I feel a purchase coming on . . .

Barbara Longley said...

I love contemporaries, and your book sound wonderful. I'll have to head to Carina's site...again! Also, thanks for the craft book tips. Sounds like Between the Lines is something I need to have on my shelves.

Veronica Scott said...

Congratulations on your book, which sounds like a great read, have to get it on my kindle today. The two craft books were chockful of suggestions. Ah yes, the melodrama - I have to watch out for that too but I think I have a little latitude, working in paranormal Ancient Egypt. Still, mustn't go too far overboard! Thanks for sharing the resources!

Rachael Johns said...

I haven't read or GOT (surprise, surprise) either of these books, so I feel a purchase coming on too :)

Thanks again Colleen and everyone else for stopping by :)

Liz Flaherty said...

Your book sounds great, and I love your cover.

Coleen Kwan said...

Thanks Rach for having me on your blog, and thanks to all the commentators :)