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Interview with Anne Duguid – Teacher, Journalist and Freelance Editor

Anne Duguid Copyright © 2014

Anne Duguid
Copyright © 2014

“Interview with Anne Duguid – Teacher, Journalist and Freelance Editor”

Part of the  Interviews on Authors I Admire Series

Thank you, Anne Duguid, for being a guest on my blog.

I am glad to be here.


  1. How did you do in English as a kid?

I loved English and was always top of the class in my primary school. I read long before I went to school and must have been an appalling PITA. Fortunately, my teachers all had book cupboards and sent me off to read when I was being too much of a know-it-all.

  1. When did you decide to become an author?

I remember the day. I was eight and saw my name in print under a poem in the school magazine. I decided to build on the success and write my first children’s book in the school holidays. The leading character was an elf imprisoned in a cardboard box. Sadly I found no way for him to escape and that was the end of that.

  1. What’s your favorite book? Why?

No, sorry, can’t answer this at all. I read seven to ten books most weeks and the favorites are those which leave me feeling bereft when I’ve finished.

  1. Are your characters based on real people?

I have photos pinned on my cork board to remind me of physical characteristics of my longer-running characters—some of them have been hanging around for years waiting for me to finish their story, poor things. Good job that Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author never found me. They’d still be wandering round. My characters are mostly second-hand, with quirks taken from actors portraying real people.

  1. Did you outline and plan your books before you wrote them or did these stories flow on their own?

I flew by the seat of my pants for the first few books and loved how the characters took over to sort out their own problems but the resulting novels had flaws even I could see, most of them fatal. Now, I outline and plan but not rigidly. There is always leeway for characters to use freewill.

  1. How much research did you have to do for writing and/or publishing your books or manuscript in progress? What helped you in doing your research that others could benefit by your experience?

I try to write from experiences I know about. As a national journalist, I learned how to research quickly, who to go to rather than what to read. This makes the research much faster. There are many Internet sites set up to link authors and journalists with experts in their field, for instance http://www.experts.com/Consultants/Categories

  1. Did you cry while writing one of your books?

Only when I wrote something unbelievably bad and couldn’t work out how to make my words match the image I saw in my head.

  1. Do you have trouble saying goodbye to your characters when the book is finished?

Both when writing and editing, yes. Some characters stay in the mind like friends forever. This is why writing a series is a good option for me. It’s also a proven way to build readership rather than writing stand-alones.

  1. What’s your favorite book you’ve written?

The one I’m writing or editing at the time. So now it’s ShriekWeek—a novella for a Halloween Anthology—but it’s also coming out as a single title in mid-October. It was a challenge to write a cozy mystery in 15,000 words. There are a few unresolved issues but this leaves the way open for later books to fill in the gaps.

  1. What is your favorite genre?
    Only one? Mystery—preferably with historical background.
  1. What’s your advice for outlining a compelling plot?

I start by reading everything there is about plotting lol. The first method I ever used was the Snowflake method and that was an excellent start. I use James Scott Bell’s Revisions and Self-Editing. We recommend it in the Savvy Authors’ EditPalooza workshop to check that everything is in place and fits together.

For the novella I’m writing now, I did a mathematical summary for the outline which I’ll share after the book is released as a free report for subscribers to my blog. It’s a composite of novel and screenwriting plans and it keeps me on track when my characters try to take off in all directions.

  1. Tell us about your job as an editor?

I love content editing, which has to do with the plot development rather than the grammatical nuts and bolts, and freelance for two of the best Indie publishers in the business.

  1. Any hints for writers?

Writers nowadays have to be totally professional, follow submission guidelines and be prepared to be flexible.

If you want to publish without changing a word, use self-publishing. Editors are in place because they know the market and know what sells.

Start the story with the problem that sets everything in motion and move forward from there. Keep back story to the minimum. Filter it in only as and when needed.

  1. Are there submission guidelines for the publishers you work with? Give us links, please.

The competition for acceptance at both The Wild Rose Press and MuseItUp Publishing is high.

Read about each of their imprints carefully to select the right line for your query. Read what is requested and follow the directions carefully.

  1. Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer?
  • This would make a book of acknowledgements in its own right! If it had not been for PubSubbers— www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com —making me feel so guilty and chivvying me along never to give up, I might never have submitted my novel at all. (Thank you. I am so glad Pub Subbers helped you. Hip Hip Hooray for you.)
  • Lea Schizas and the presenters of the Muse Online Writers Conference http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com spring to mind for all the great advice and support.
  • Holly Lisle at www.hollylisle.com whose courses are very comprehensive and she gives great advice and support.
  • Marg. McAlister with her tips and challenges at http://www.writing4success.com,
  • Ruth Barringham of www.writeaholics.net.
  • Reading, reading, reading also helped me.
  • I once had an unnecessarily nasty put down in a critique group which felled me for a bit, but now sits in the back of my mind as motivation to succeed.
  1. What are your favorite blog posts?

Blogs which offer great value and unstinting help to their readers are an outstanding way to increase marketing potential.

  1. Please tell us more about your new book that is coming out October 13, 2014.

ShriekWeek (one word), which I wrote as Anne Knol, was written in answer to a Wild Rose Press call for Halloween themed ​​stories of no more than 15,000 words. The deadline date was six months away so I figured I’d write 1,000 words a week(!) and have two months left for revision. That, of course, did not happen.

I sent in a detailed synopsis, strong with a goal, motivation, and conflict for hero, heroine and villain and a blurb ( one paragraph for heroine’s goal, one for hero’s goal and a final paragraph for the conflict.)

The editor approved them, but changed them as the story developed. My original synopsis was too complicated to develop in a few words and I was forever tweaking blurbs.

In the end I probably wrote twice the number of words needed and spent my revision time cutting back. I hit the deadline at the very last moment.

I read cozy mysteries all the time. Agatha Christie is a great proponent of the cozy mystery genre. Think of Miss Marple or Poirot. The murders take place in the main off-stage, any violence is, for the most part, described, not enacted. The murder is not solved by an official figure, but by a member of the community where it takes place which could be a traditional small town, village, theatrical cast, or a golf club. There is often a sweet romance element, too.

I knew my characters, knew my synopsis, made a file card system for characters and events and still I struggled. The first three chapters came easily but I could not tie all the threads in the final chapters. I was forever forgetting to plant the necessary clues. I just had no idea how difficult it was going to be.

I have a marvelous editor in Nancy Swanson who suggested I write a series to resolve the unanswered questions readers may have after reading ShriekWeek so several of the characters are now to have a book of their own, provided I attract enough readers (hint, hint.)

As an incentive to any writers who buy the book–watch my blog in mid October–I shall share my synopsis plans, blurb thoughts, writing plans/muddles for my second novella as it progresses in a free mini Write Your Own Novella course. I’m going for a summer story so suggest, unless you’re self-publishing, you also choose that time of year or later.

I do recommend keeping an eye out for requests for themed submissions–Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day, and Easter are often requested–and remember that your ideas need to be in at least nine months before your chosen date.

And if you’re a slow writer like me, you may find that limiting your word power makes it easier to write more.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Anne, for a wonderful interview filled with great advice and powerful information Cozy Mysteries and about submitting manuscripts to publishers.

Anne Duguid is a teacher, journalist and freelance editor who has been encouraging writers and talking to imaginary friends for a very long time. She blogs at http://slowandsteadywriters.blogspot.com


Anne is offering one reader a free critique of first 1000 words of a fiction or non-fiction manuscript as a gift for responding with a comment between now and midnight September 16, 2014.  Random.org will choose the winner. I will announce the winner in a new post on Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

Believe in you and your writing.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards


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