Monday was one of those nail-biting days. An email arrived with the first thoughts from my editor. She’s quite a big deal name in commercial fiction, so I’d been ready for a mauling. I expected her to brand my efforts as a mismatched jumble of bad ideas and inept delivery.
Thankfully the broadside was gentle, but much of what came back gave me reason to think. And it’s stuff I want to share, as if you’re writing commercial fiction, it might save you a lot of ‘find and replace’.
As much as we tell ourselves this is our story, that we have total freedom over what we write, if we ever plan to publish (self or otherwise), we’ll want someone to read what we write.
Market trends matter. If what we publish doesn’t fit, it goes unread. Everything can influence reader attraction – even down to the names you give your characters.
‘Think about your main character’s name,’ my editor said – I’d opted for Sally. ‘Of course, you can name your character whatever you feels suits them best, but I would suggest looking at some alternatives to help the character feel more contemporary. It would also be good to aim for a memorable name, which is easy to spell. This will go a long way to ensuring that readers remember her.’
She went on to suggest currently in-vogue names and share a tip that when writing commercial fiction, surnames that include colours or flowers do well.
Because my character’s family is Italian, I was limited, but after much thought Sally Cotelli became Evie DeRosa.
Her next naming change concerned the central setting. I’ve based the story in Brighton, in a tumble-down cafe. It’s name was one I never quite liked, it was a placeholder until forced to find something better – The Purple Pig. I thought this felt a bit out of date, suitably crass. I hoped that she’d see I used this name to indicate its failure. She didn’t.
‘A name inspired by the seaside would lend itself nicely,’ she said, and the Beachcomber Café was born.
So two easy changes later and she’s right, things already feel better.
She also offered valuable tips around how to pitch the finished work, and I’ll share those in my next blog.