Ed James writes crime-fiction novels across multiple series.
His Scott Cullen series follows the career of a young Edinburgh Detective investigating crimes from the bottom rung of the career ladder he’s desperate to climb. The spin-off Craig Hunter series focuses on a cop and overcoming his PTSD from his time in the army.
Putting Dundee on the tartan noir map, the DS Vicky Dodds books star a driven female detective struggling to combine her complex home life with a heavy caseload.
Set four hundred miles south on the gritty streets of East London, his DI Fenchurch series features a detective with little to lose and a daughter to find.
Formerly an IT project manager, Ed began writing on planes, trains and automobiles to fill his weekly commute to London. He now writes full-time and lives in the Scottish Borders, with his girlfriend and a menagerie of rescued animals.
So in this brave new world of Cullen novellas, I am on fire.
I redrafted Devil in the Detail last week – even better than I remembered. Got another draft to do – it’s cut as a sequel to Ghost in the Machone and a lot of the detail doesn’t work as backstory. Should be publishing in the next week or so.
There’s three other ideas I’m toying with.
I’ve managed to get the plot of Ghost to work so a redux version will be novella 2. Miles better, it really is. There’s a lot that can be reused but i’ve got to be able to not repeat mistakes and to fit into the new way of writing.
The other nailed on one is a flip of the second book i wrote “before the fall” told from the detective’s point of view. It’s called “spanner in the works”.
The final idea is “dyed in the wool” which is about sectarianism. But it’s proving tricky to nail..,
Just kind of realised that I’m getting nowhere with “Ghost in the Machine”. I like the idea, don’t get me wrong, it’s just how I’ve executed it.
It’s a 90k monster, and I’m not sure the story justifies such grandiosity. It’s a novella idea padded to a novel length.
The interesting realisation is that I’m writing for publishers or agents. I’m now writing for myself. “Devil in the Detail”, the novella sequel to “Ghost”, is much better – tighter, leaner and with a better story. It’s only 23k but it’s perfect.
So what I’m going to do is to junk “Ghost” for now, and concentrate on getting “Devil” on Kindle. It’s a much more mature work and it only requires some minor continuity tweaking to make it the first story. And I’ve got a great idea for another novella.
If I can keep this up – publishing 20k-50k novellas – then it’s both manageable and feasible. It’s also a market that doesn’t really exist.
Someone like Jim Thompson used to only publish short novels, 170pp or so. Nowadays there’s intimidating doorstops which are impossible to get into. There needs to be a market for accessible, immediate stories.
Hope to get it on Kindle in a couple of weeks.
So I’m struggling to find time to write just now. Astonishing that it’s two months since last update…
Up to just shy of 60pc BUT I’ve managed get through a bad mistake (which let me sort out some plot detail) and I’ve just finished a really difficult redraft chapter – at least two hours worth of fixing. Aim to get the thing done by mid-October…
Quick update. I’m lying in a hotel in london, away on work. Bit of a pisser being away from home and the other half, relying on going out for a meal on your own. Still, the up side is that ive got plenty of time for writing. Got a four hour train journey on thurs, back again on Sunday then return on Weds.
Managed to break the 40% mark in the latest draft which is pretty good going. While I’m editing mainly, I’ve had a lot of new stuff to write so far and I’ve found it actually a pain editing old stuff. I’ve got a big chunk of new stuff coming up, really good stuff so hopefully that 12 hour train hell will see me through a lot of it. Thank god for my netbook.
Okay. I’ve picked up the last edit of Ghost in the Machine from September last year and I’m going through it all again. I think the first eight of fifty chapters have been fully edited before but I’ve now gone through the first four with a fine tooth comb. I’m surprised at how good this draft is, it’s a lot tighter and slicker than what I had before, with less cliches and quite a few of my idiosyncrasies removed. The big work is ahead of me – there is about 25-30% of the book which is new text and has to be written and the remainder requires heavy editing, if only for consistency. I’ve got about forty notes which need actioned as well, mainly plot tweaks and slight corrections from my police chum.
I had also uninstalled Evernote off of my netbook and I thought I’d lost my notes. I’m using it on the iPhone so I managed to save the old database. I’m trying to organise myself a bit better and get away from the text files I’ve got littered around the place.
But good God is it fun.
A good friend of mine, Gary Marshall, has just self-published his debut novel on eBook formats:
I know Gary from the old Glasgow music scene, when we were much younger and slimmer, and Gary’s band ran a compulsive messageboard when such things were it. Strangely enough we both went through the same pain of rejection with our novels at about the same time. Gary’s just been quicker with doing something with his… 😉
Good luck to him – I’ll get a copy soon.
Been caught up in the wonderful of work and also the glamorous kingdom of DIY, so there’s been not as much happening as I’d have liked.
Got some new Cullen ideas – “Beast in the Shadow” is one I’m struggling to plot out in detail, so I’ve got another two contenders as a full blown sequel to “Ghost in the Machine”. One is “Dyed in the Wool”, which will feature sectarianism and Scottish football heavily, and the other is “Ghost in the Well”, which is a direct sequel to “Ghost in the Machine” – I’d hoped not to go back to that sort of techy nonsense so early, so I’d like to save it for book 4 or later.
Short story seems to have been lost at the editors… 😉
I’ve put up a load of shelves and have all my graphic novels out, plus my reading list which is growing by the week. I’m stuck in Peter F Hamilton’s “The Neutronium Alchemist”, book 2 of the Night’s Dawn Trilogy, 3,600pp of hardcore scifi. It’s decent – like Stephen King in space – but such an ordeal to get through. I romped through “Pandora’s Star” and “Judas Unchained” very quickly last year but I’ve taken about 4 months to read 2000pp of the other trilogy. The Commonwealth books were excellent and I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up trilogy. But maybe after something short – three Jim Thompsons, “Brave New World” and “Ham on Rye” are glaring out at me. Maybe the two Stuart MacBrides, but I hate to read crime when I’m writing it…
The second draft of “Future Shock” is with my editor now, hopefully it’ll be ready for submission next week.
That sounds really grandiose, but my editor is my girlfriend. I say girlfriend but we’ve been together for 11 years and have no intention of marrying. Partner sounds too formal or euphemistic, whereas girlfriend sounds a bit temporary – that said I prefer girlfriend. Hrm.
So, should be ready to post next week. Phew.
Redrafted “Future Shock” to v2. Pretty pleased with it, got a new section to write which may spawn more. I’m at 9.5k so I don’t want to write too much extra. Probably too many talking scenes (a real problem of mine, that).
“Ghost in the Machine” is something I’ve worked on for the past two years, on and off. It’s a crime thriller – think Rebus but thirty years younger; a rookie cop yet to make his mistakes, dealing with modern cases. I’m a diehard fan of the likes of Mark Billingham, Stuart McBride and of course Ian Rankin, and find the process of creating and writing something in that genre as stimulating as reading at – maybe more so.
I’ve written three drafts, the third of which was submitted to literary agents. I had some interest from a couple, but it ultimately came to nothing. I was halfway through the fourth draft, which was significantly different, in August last year, before giving myself a break having been seriously frazzled by the agent submission process (full manuscript sent in November not notified till Feb) and also the day job took off (promotion and a new project).
So, where does that leave me? Well, I was speaking to a mate who went through the same process I did at the same time and he’s going to self-publish through the various eBook platforms out there (Kindle, Apple, Sony, etc). I decided that I’d love to do that too – just to get the sodding thing out there, to have published something, even if it’s not in tesco or charity shops. I spent eight years of my life with very little to show from music and I’d like to actually do something productive with the writing. I’m half-decent at it and I enjoy doing it, so I might as well have a healthy hobby which means that I can focus on the fun parts – plotting and writing a multiple book series. And maybe, just maybe, some people might read it. I’m not looking to make millions just an avenue to get rid of the creative nonsense that floods my brain.
I aim to redraft it over the summer and publish it in the Autumn – £2 for a 90,000 word book is not bad.
Additionally, I’ve written a sequel novella called “Devil in the Detail” which would likely follow just before Christmas before I embark on the proper sequel “Beast in the Shadow”.
It’ll be nice to have a little world to fill up.
Current project is “Future Shock”, a sci-fi short story concerning rebirth and is a man out of time tale.
I finished the first draft last week, having procrastrinated for a few months, and have started the second draft today. Initially it’s a tidy up and annotate – it gets sketchy towards the end and there’s a bit of flab in the middle. Pretty pleased with it though – it’s a useful way back into writing. I plan to submit it to a scifi mag in the next few weeks then get back to the main event, draft 4 of “Ghost in the Machine”.
Just a quick note to say that I finished the Scott Cullen novella “Devil in the Detail” today. Starting to redraft it, which shouldn’t take too long, as it’s only 22k. Very pleased with it; it’s an idea I’ve kicked around for a couple of years and finally managed to get nailed. It’s been an exercise in baddies, action and plotting; I’ve got a new plot method now, which seems to work for me. There’s no more getting lost in Excel spreadsheets for days, it’s a bare bones .txt file.
I’m next going to redraft “Ghost in the Machine” for resubmission to some other agents. It’s a very slow business, seems to take longer than forever. Writing “Devil” has given me some more ideas, and it’s always good to look stuff over again after a period of time.
Final point – I’m conscious of the fact that my site is a bit under-contented, so I’m going to add some of my writing samples up here. I did a similar doofus thing with music about ten years ago – website with no tunes – so it’s no surprise. Three chapters for “Ghost” v4 once it’s done and dusted.
Then it’s on with “Beast in the Shadow”…
(I think this is from the March of that year)
No major news to report, still a lot stuff in stasis.
I’m ploughing on with Ricochet which is the new title for Catharsis. It’s great writing something unplanned. When I say unplanned, I mean that Ghost in the Machine had such a high level of intricate planning and this is a story with an end state I need to manoeuvre towards and can seed stuff as I go and pick up later without having to worry too much about the detail. It makes the writing fun, in a very different way to the fun I have with the planned stuff. I’ve got ideas of how to take stuff forward and it’ll hopefully influence later writing – over the course of writing and copiously editing Ghost in the Machine, my style came on immeasurably, so it’s a chance to let that sort of thing be the focal point.
I’m also writing it on my mobile phone, a Nokia E63 with QWERTY keyboard and Word-compatible word processor (QuickOffice), so it kills time on the train every day and means I’m not a slave to the laptop every night.
One of the big things I’ve discovered about stress is, as my manager at work told me just before he left, that it comes from within – stress is entirely your own making and is just an inability to deal with a situation. There are obviously types of stress that are externally-driven, e.g. poverty, etc, but work-related stress is about getting perspective on things. I’ve had two bouts of dreadful illness this year and both relate to periods when I’ve pushed the writing too hard along with the day-to-day rubbish I deal with at work, so I’m trying to use this writing as non-pressure stuff, a chance to get stuff out of my system and maintain a passion for it, unlike the pressure that killed my enjoyment of making music for so long.
Anyway, enough of a rant, would be great to have some news to report. I think I need to refresh the website layout a bit.
(I’m migrating my old blog on here – apologies if any emails go out!)
Been frantically busy over the last month or so getting draft four of “Ghost in the Machine” finished.
I just completed the paper edit tonight on the train home. It’s strange how powerful a tool it is, in the 21st century, to print something out and edit it with a pen, rather than on screen. I suppose it’s something to do with the permanence of print, and the fact that you commit. In Word, there’s always the scope to tamper yet further, until you tamper too much and have nothing really to show for it.
Other news is that the sample stuff is all printed and packaged up on the desk beside me as I type. I’d hoped to have done this all months ago, but real life takes precedence sometimes. Still, I’m pleased with how I’ve coped with ten hour days at work and chipping away at the novel. It’s been an endurance feat at times, but I’m at the closing point of it.
I’m very pleased with it; I’ve got a good sense of closure and achievement that I never got with “Before the Fall” – with that I always thought there was something drastically wrong with it. “Ghost”… Well, it’s as good as I can make it. I’m confident it’s commercial enough and strong enough and innovative enough to grab attention, but that’s all in the lap of the Gods now. Well, it will be once it’s printed.
Tip: Beware that Canon inkjets have a tendency to not collate print, and instead print 20 copies of page 31, followed by 20 copies of page 30, etc. I’ve spent this evening mainly collating pages. Very irritating.
My next things are to type up the paper edit and to work on the plot for “Devil in the Detail” which I’ve got an increasing number of good ideas for.
And I might read something; that attic full of paperbacks isn’t reading itself…
(More old stuff)
Currently just polishing my submission. That’s as in making it sheen, not making it Eastern European. I’m 40pc through draft 4, 12pc through draft 5. Once it’s out of the door, I’ll have about 6 weeks to nail the remaining 60pc, then polish. Tiring but enjoyable.
Been a manic two weeks. Well, actually it’s a week that feels like two. Been ploughing through stuff, trying to get Ghost in the Machine nailed. The rules for submitting manuscripts is to send a synopsis and your first three chapters. The problem being, of course, that you’ve got to have your full book nailed before it’s mailed [thanks]. At the moment, I’ve ticked the boxes that say 1st three and synopsis, but i’ve still got to finish my third draft. I’m up to 70pc now, having gotten through 10k yesterday. I’m through the big gap where I had to write two new ‘days’ in, and I’m back to editing. The trouble then is that there were problems in the first draft that the second draft didn’t resolve, so I’ve had to substantially rework the edited bits, so it’s not a simple edit. The sequence of events has changed quite a bit, so I’ve had to rewrite hundreds of words and write new link sections. Believe me, this is the last time I start writing without a very detailed plan! The third draft works in terms of structure and plot, but is slightly unrefined when it comes to the writing, which is quite natural – to resolve this, it’s a manic paper edit, go through the whole thing in a week and get it consistent. The fourth draft is that, and is where the first three chapters come from. They’re pretty much perfect to me, nice crisp prose and with nice short, tight chapters. Style is something I am very particular about but have let slip. I’m aiming for the precise weighted description of Ellroy, with dialogue similar to Brookmyre or MacBride, i.e. colloquial and funny but also serious. I read a piece about Orwell a few months back – he never used common sayings. It’s something I’m trying to excise – it’s very easy to fall into the ‘as something as’ trap when I need to focus on precise descriptions. Anyway. Enough – more editing tonight.
Gearing up to send off “Ghost in the Machine” to literary agents and publishers. I’ve got about a third of my three chapter sample honed and edited, pretty pleased with it – not too much different from the previous draft, but I shaved 800 words off the first chapter which is much better. And I’ve done a draft of the synopsis, four pages of what I don’t like doing. Actually, I loathed it for the last manuscript (should that be autoscript, given I typed into a PC?), but I found a really helpful site which has a method cadged from Robert McKee, which seems to have worked for me. I actually enjoyed it and ironed out a few creases here and there.
I’ve not finished my latest draft, but I’m going to play a game of brinkmanship and send it off now, giving me focus to getting the rest of it edited. I’m into the editing stage again, past the new writing, so there’s only about a week of stuff to do there, plus another week or two of solid editing, and that’s it.
I just wish I wasn’t stupidly busy at work just now. : (
Well, I’ve decided that Honey Trap will now be called Ghost in the Machine. I know i said in my last post that it was a poor name, but it really has grown in me – it’s a quotation from from Gilbert Ryle, a refutation of the Cartesian assertion of the mind in the vat. And the name of an album by The Police, and I’m not sure it’s from their decent period, either. It matches with the title for book two – Devil in the Detail – and makes me think that book three will be called Beast in the Shadow. I know what the fourth one is called and it’s not an “in the” derivative. If nothing else, it means I’ve demonstrably planned Scott Cullen’s progression over a series of novels. I’ve hit the new writing portion of Ghost in the Machine, which is going better than I thought. Also, can access this on my mobile, so more frequent updates will be forthcoming.