Friday, 2 September 2011


Roz Morris
C’mon, it happens to the best of us ... beaten by a nose to a new idea. But BeWrite Books is proud to have run a close second to a thoroughbred like the admirable, best-seller Roz Morris. She gets a firm and manly handshake from us all on the BB team, and a continental peck on each cheek from me.

She and we had the same idea for running ebooks in specially constructed, bite-sized chunks, building up over a short period to a completed novel. But while we were still preparing the first six titles to launch what we’re calling our ‘Build-Your-Book’ project, Roz released her own four-episode novel, MY MEMORIES OF A FUTURE LIFE, in a similar way earlier this week, with Episode One, The Red Season.

In this special BB blog edition, she explains how she did it. And – more importantly – how you can do it, too. Now that’s generosity in our book. A bit like the winning jockey sharing his first-place bonus with the second-runner.

She’s like that, is Roz. That’s why her last book, NAIL YOUR NOVEL, was a non-fiction piece, crammed with advice for authors, established and – with special focus upon – those in development. And she also runs a regular advice blog for authors and developing authors HERE.

And that’s nothing new for this London-based word artist. She’s spent nearly two decades of experience writing novels in helping floundering authors find their way. She has been a senior book doctor for a major literary consultancy in the UK and now consults independently – so if you have a project that you need help with, Roz may well be your huckleberry.

She writes fiction under her own name, freelance edits a medical magazine and has ghost-written best-selling fiction for high-profile ‘writers’ with major publishers, including Random House, Puffin and Mammoth.

When left to her own devices, she writes quirky literary fiction and she now has two novels completed ... refreshingly, under her own name at last.

My Memories of a Future Life is for the adult market. It’s represented by Jane Conway-Gordon Associates and is released as four linked but self-contained novellas of 25,000 words each, constructed to build to a completed book as she releases pre-prepared new episodes. It was released this week (dammit!). Episode Two will be published on September 5, Episode Three on September 12, and the final episode on September 19.

Her next novel, Life Form 3, is for Young Adult readers and is represented by Piers Blofeld of Sheil Land Associates. Her current project, Echo, is also for YA readers. Both are far along the pipeline to release. Also My Memories of a Future Life will be released in print form when completed in ebook editions, but no fixed date yet for release. Won't be long in coming, though. Watch this space!

A fellow-former journalist, Roz has eleven published novels under her belt, ghost-written for others whose names they now carry. As always in ghosting, these novels and their credited ‘authors’ are confidential. That’s the deal. I’ve been there myself. But it can be darned frustrating when the books you wrote become huge best-sellers hitting above the half-million sales mark as many of Roz’s did. Mine achieved humbler sales and were all non-fiction.

She says, ‘When I was still a journalist, I decided I’d far prefer making stories up than reporting the chance realities of other people’s lives and situations – the most insignificant fact of a news story would fill my brain with little bees, buzzing, ‘what if …’

“But writing fiction isn’t just inspiration, there’s a lot of craft involved. I am endlessly interested in this process of writing, in how people do it – and in figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I love working with stories – and that’s why I started critiquing the work of others as well as writing my own.

“Structure is the secret to knowing whether your story works. It’s why splitting my novel into episodes has given me a useful new tool.

“The most important F of FAQs that I’m being asked at the moment is this: was it easy to split my new novel into four parts? Did I originally write it that way?

“When I first had the idea of releasing My Memories of a Future Life as episodes I was wondering how on earth it would work. Perhaps it wouldn’t go.

“But when I divided it according to page numbers I found that, give or take a few, at the end of each quarter was a major shift. The stakes changed, or what the narrator wanted changed. I did some minor tweaking to punch up the episode beginnings but the structure was there already.”

So onto Roz’s guest article for BeWrite Books …

By Roz Morris

If you’re not planning to release your novel in episodes, why is this relevant to you? Because all stories need these major shifts.
On the count of three …

Hollywood talks about the three-act-structure three-act structure for movies. Act 1, the first quarter, is the set-up with the inciting incident. Act 2, the second two quarters, is where the problem is being actively tackled and confronted. Act 3, the last quarter, is the resolution.

Now Hollywood movies have pretty formalised structures, but that’s not just because they like formulae. The three-act structure isn’t simply a matter of convention. It comes from the way the brain naturally looks for change – and the way it likes to see a problem explored.

For the character’s journey to feel significant, we have to feel we have gone a long way between start and finish. That’s not done by dragging the reader through a lot of pages. It’s not done with the number of characters you whirl in and out, or the number of locations you visit like a James Bond movie. It’s done with an internal shift for the character. It’s done by altering what the journey means.

The stakes can’t be the same at the end of the story as they were at the start. The character must change what they want.

Three acts, four episodes?

Hang on; classic Hollywood structure is three acts. I’ve got four.

That’s because there’s also the ‘midpoint’.

I refer you to Blake Snyder, of Save the Cat fame. He explains that in his early days of movie-writing, he used to tape movies on C90 cassettes and listen to them in the car. At forty-five minutes, where he turned over the cassette, he realised the most compelling movies had another crucial change – that midpoint.

The midpoint shifted the whole dynamic of the story. It was the threshold between the beginning and the beginning of the end. It was, to quote the great man, ‘the point where the fun and games are over and it’s back to the serious story.’ (And fortunately I had that too.)

Once you understand what the reader psychologically wants at each point of the story, you can give it a really thorough workout.

Have you focused your story wrongly? 

You can even tell if you’ve misunderstood it. Writing teacher and author Darcy Pattison discovered that her second act began far too late, did some soul-searching and realised she was focusing the story wrongly. She thought she was writing a quest, but her structure told her that her story was actually about the characters maturing. When she revised with this new focus in mind, it helped her create a tighter, more compelling manuscript.

From now on, I’m going to try splitting all my novels into four.

And as for the four-part serialisation? My agent at Sheil Land is watching keenly to see how it works as a model for ebook releases of their own. Yes, folks. Writers here and now are setting the agenda for the future of the industry.

Many, many thanks Roz. That’s what building your book is all about, people: careful structuring!

And, if you create a four-act novel, it will be satisfying as a complete read and perfect for the episodic release treatment Roz employed and on which we’ve almost completed the first half dozen of our own from existing titles in the BeWrite Books catalogue.

I love the neat way, too that Roz so simply and briefly side-notes My Memories of a Future Life:
If you were somebody’s past life …
What echoes would you leave in their soul? Could they be the answers you need now?
It’s a question Carol never expected to face. She’s a gifted musician who needs nothing more than her piano and certainly doesn’t believe she’s lived before. But forced by injury to stop playing, she fears her life may be over. Enter her soulmate Andreq: healer, liar, fraud and loyal friend. Is he her future incarnation or a psychological figment? And can his story help her discover how to live now?

A novel in the vein of The Time Traveller’s Wife, Vertigo and The Gargoyle, 'My Memories of a Future Life' is much more than a twist on the traditional reincarnation tale. It is a multi-layered story of souls on conjoined journeys – in real time and across the centuries. It’s a provocative study of the shadows we don’t know are driving our lives, from our own pasts and from the people with us right now. Like Peter Shaffer’s plays The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Equus, it asks questions about what we believe, what we create and how we scare and heal each other.

Above all, it’s the story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs.

If you like audio-books: You can listen to the first four chapters of My Memories of a Future Life HERE (HEAR?)

And that’s all folks ... for now. And food for much thought, I’m sure you’ll agree. Catch you all soon.

Thanks again to Roz Morris. Happy weekend to everyone everywhere. And we appreciate your visit and your precious reading time. Usefully spent, eh? Bestests. Roz, Neil et al at BB


  1. Wow - what an idea. And how generous of you to feature her so boldly. One aspect of the publishing industry that I love.

  2. Thanks, Rosanne, but the generosity was on Roz's part. Until I passed a first draft by her shortly for an OK or adjustment before posting, she was under the impression that we'd merely asked permission to lift her own blog post as a guest piece here. Bestests. N

  3. Bear in mind, too, Rosanne, that there's no copyright on ideas; they're for the sharing. And it's not 'intellectual theft', but a pleasure when others find your notion makes so much sense that they adopt it for themselves. Good luck to anyone who takes Roz's advice and takes this one out for a spin. Neil

  4. Hello, folks! Really I was surprised no one else was serialising novels. I would hear it discussed in the media and it would be dismissed without a moment's thought. When Neil emailed and said they were working on it too, I thought - thank goodness, someone else who thinks like I do! And they're charm personified, I might add.
    For certain kinds of story I think it's a great format. We've grown to love serials like Lost and we love to talk about what we think will happen next. Let's make an occasion out of it!

  5. Thanks, DWC(that's Roz's blog name,people, as you'll have gathered from the avatar). It was fun to work with you yesterday.

    Our wee problem has been finding novels in our existing catalogue that lend themselves to this treatment. Few do.

    The hitch is in fixing good cut-off and pick-up points whilst bearing in mind some kind of balance between the weight of episodes.

    We have found some and are already working them, with some ready to go. The response from their authors has been enthusiastic and encouraging. But our first releases (probably six simultaneously later this month) will include novella-and-shorts collections, novella collections, and short story collections.

    But these -- having been published before the bite-sized chunks release idea occurred to us -- may not be themed, although they will all be by a sole author and written in similar style and mood. A good starting point and testing ground for the plan, we thought.

    In a nut shell, Roz, the work we have currently available was not specifically structured by author or editor with this model in mind, as was yours. And although it must have been no simple task, your massive past experience must have been a huge benefit, as an author, in constructing 'My Memories of a Future Life'.

    After we see how these early experiments take off, when we re-open to unsolicited submissions on Jan 1, we'll be ready to open a category of subs particularly suitable to the episodic form you describe in our joint blog piece above.

    Let's see how she blows, but we and you have a good feeling about this new approach in ebook form. It's exciting, stimulating and a healthy challenge to authors and editors ... and it should go down very, very well with those thousands of readers who love and miss the old-style episodic form of fiction in newspapers and magazines.

    Here's tae us a'.

    Slainte. Neil

  6. I must admit that I was puzzled by Roz's use of 'dirtywhitecandy'. Of course I should have guessed in had some cunning meaning. Roz explained it in another blog that had picked up on ours. Fascinatingly logical fun:

    ***Hello John! To explain the DirtyWhiteCandy name...

    It's actually eighteenth century. It's one of the first products that was stocked by the Fornum & Mason food emporium in Picaddilly, London.

    When I found that out I thought how funky 18th-century gourmands were with their names. Imagine Dr Johnson indulging in a nibble of Dirty White Candy. I use it as my Twitter name because the stories I like surprise us with something unpredicted we connect to: characters who are not like us - but exactly like us too.

    It seemed rather a good manifesto for what storytellers do.***

    Agreed. And if you'd like to visit John's non-commercial ebooks blog, folks, you'll find it here:

  7. @BeWrite Books & Neil - Thanks so much for the mention of my "Writers Welcome" blog @

    I also write "Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue" blog at

    I invite all interested in all aspects of publishing & writing to drop by both my blogs and learn the latest and greatest and be intrigued with me :)

  8. Yours is a fascinating blog, John. I'm already following you, but here's hoping others from here will pay you a visit. It's right up their street. Writers and readers all.

    Thanks for popping by. Luck and best wishes. Neil et al