Freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Webridge is commissioned by a national newspaper to write an investigative article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross. There she meets prostitute Princess, and police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan. When Princess later arrives on her doorstep beaten up so badly she is barely recognizable, Hannah has to make some tough decisions and is drawn ever deeper into the world of deceit and violence. Three sex workers are murdered, their deaths covered up in a media blackout, and Hannah herself is under threat.
As she comes to realize that the taste for vice reaches into the higher echelons of the great and the good, Hannah realises she must do everything in her power to expose the truth …. and stay alive.
In praise of the shorter novel
The American author Elmore Leonard gave lots of excellent writing advice. One tip that has resonated with me is: “When you write try to leave out all the parts the readers skip.” I have taken this to heart and if my eyes glaze reading my own work – I know it’s a sign that something needs to be cut.
My first novel, Dancers in the Wind, is just over 60,000 words and that’s a length that works well for me as both a reader and a writer. For many years I abridged both fiction and narrative nonfiction for Reader’s Digest and that taught me a lot about what you can lose from a manuscript without it being detrimental to the plot or the writing.
As a journalist I had to write to a specific word count and deadline, which has stood me in good stead throughout my career. It concentrated the mind when a newspaper sub just hacked off my last paragraph to make the story fit the layout!
Also writing short stories to a specific word count is brilliant for focussing your attention on each word and making it work. The first one I had published was a “confession” written in the first person. Then I had a couple more stories published in now defunct magazines before my big break – getting published in Bella Magazine. These were the short tales with a twist and longer short stories about relationships rather than romantic love.
More recently I had three award-winning pieces of flash fiction. A complete story in just 99 words was a joy to write.
But back to writing novels – a crime or psychological thriller can’t be a “fast and pacey page-turner” if the narrative is bogged down with the unnecessary details of someone getting up, showering, dressing, having breakfast and so on … unless this is a prelude to something awful that’s about to happen. The mundane is there to lull the reader into a false sense of security – it’s there to enhance and counterbalance the truly horrific/terrifying action that follows.
In Dancers in the Wind there are a few domestic scenes like this – but don’t be fooled. They are there for a reason and it’s usually to counterbalance a dramatic moment that shoots you into the next – short – chapter!
© Anne Coates, 2019
Thank you, Anne Coates and Love Books Group Tours.
For most of her working life in publishing, Anne has had a foot in both camps as a writer and an editor, moving from book publishing to magazines and then freelancing in both. Having edited both fiction and narrative non-fiction, she has also had short stories published in a variety of magazines including Bella and Candis and is the author of seven non-fiction books. Telling stories is Anne’s first love and nearly all her short fiction as well as Dancers in The Wind and Death’s Silent Judgement began with a real event followed by a ‘what if …’. That is also the case with the two prize-winning 99Fiction.net stories: Codewords and Eternal Love.