Thursday, 17 November 2011

Changed gear

I've finally changed gear from writing fresh stuff to editing and honing the draft. It's hard to look at words you have read dozens of times before and to see them - or hear them - afresh. I'm listening, reading and reworking the lines and paragraphs and looking out for trite phrases (clichés, it turns out, are my speciality) and especially, repetitive use of favourite words. For example, I had a scene where my male character was trying to unlock his door. How many times did I manage to use the word 'lock' in three sentences? Four. And an 'unlock'. I cut the stupid lines in the end anyway!
I have a few confusing names - a Charley and a Carly, for example. I have some very long-winded chapters of the historical strand that need to be cut into chunks and threaded better through the contemporary strand. then, at some point, it will be done, finished, finito. In theory. Then, thank goodness, it can go off into the world like a five year old you hope and pray will remember his toilet training, and I can get on with the next book. I'm getting bored with this one, now.
Another thing I have neglected big time, is my poetry. Poetry makes me use my words better, and I would really like to get a few poems published. It's a whole new writing muscle, though, and there's a course at the Open College of the Arts which would be very useful. Something to work on once the book is out there.
Oh, and a very big thank you to Beth, who has read the book and fed back some useful stuff. More description of my characters - how many times have I heard that these last few weeks! 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Where do you write?

I keep getting moved with the building work, and I seem to write differently in each location. Rewriting (not my favourite activity) needs a lot of concentration, somewhere quiet like the room I used to have as a study, but that's a bit of a building site at the moment. My desk is stuck in a  sunny bay window at the moment, which makes seeing the screen very difficult, not to mention the noise from the team hammering and sawing next door. It's a good environment for new ideas - I seem to have half a dozen next novel ideas going around my head. Not to mention ideas for poetry.

Meanwhile, the study is finally warm, the draughts have been patched up and a proper floor laid, and the ceiling has been insulated. The smell of sewage seems to be a thing of the past, and the cloakroom is getting a paint job. Now I just have to find places to put everything that normally lives piled up in heaps and old boxes in the old room. Hopefully, getting back to a quiet corner of the house will help with the tidying and rewriting!  

So, where do you write? 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Editing is painfully boring - going over each sentence and word, reading it aloud until you are cross-eyes, looking for better ways of saying things. I find it difficult, mostly because I start to question whether I need a particular word - sentence- paragraph - actually, what the hell is this chapter for, anyway? If I'm not careful, the chapter can be whittled away to nothing. Somewhere along the whittling process is an improved draft, but it's tricky knowing when to stop. 
I'm reading my Revision and Self-Editing book, but it doesn't make the process any easier! I've done chapter 27, and am working on chapter 28. That just leaves chapters 1-26 and 29-end to do. Sigh. Distractions beckon - I have wiped out legions of zombies this morning, and eaten too many cookies. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

House in chaos and me with it.

I know people say if your room is in a mess your head is too - this may be true at the moment. The whole house has been in a crazy mess for months, as we completely redecorate and sort out rooms. Getting the deadline for the Mslexia submission made me work, but now I'm a bit lost.

A friend said (closer to Halloween) that our house is a bit Gothic and it's true, no happy little moppets toil up the long, dark drive past the black end wall, towering three stories over the cliff, in the hope of Halloween candy. Jehovah's witnesses rarely make the trip either. It always sounds like we're millionaires, with eighteen rooms, and more than an acre of garden. Hah! You have to be a mountain goat to get up the garden, even if you could get through the brambles. Most of the rooms were terrible when we moved in and the reassuring munch of woodworm helped drown out the scamper of ratty feet in the loft...We liked the bats streaming out from the eaves (and riound the house, at first), fortunately, but I get what she means. From inside it's a modest little house because all the rooms are small and so crooked you can't put furniture in without it sagging against the corners or running downhill to the south-east. I believe I could afford a two bedroomed house in Winchester with what we paid for this house...

I did send out four poems for the Plough Prize (no harm trying) and I have a number of magazines to submit work to, but I'm feeling a bit lost and unfocused, which exactly describes my house! I know I have to go through the book and make sure all the 'setups' match with 'reveals'and invest in some description. Not my strong point. Back to work.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Worked it out

It turns out I have discovered the way I have to write a book. It's the least sensible, structured way I could think of, but there, I get there in the end.

  • First I start a story with huge enthusiasm, and write for weeks in  a creative fever. Then all the loose end and impossibilities that creep in slow me down, I fill with doubt and I slow, the stop.
  • Then I start again, rewrite. The old draft is a springboard for the new but here's the trick. All the problems are embedded in the first draft so I need to really write all over again. Most of my problem scenes have been a result of just editing old prose. The second draft powers on another 20k then falters. 
  • Start another rewrite. This time the first 40k just needs extensive editing, the last 20k needs a complete rewrite and that propels me into the next 20k.
That's where Borrowed Time is now. I really need to edit, prune, cut and tidy extensively, and possibly rewrite the last quarter of the book by starting another rewrite. Unfortunately, in the last  few days I have written/edited 22000 words and my hand is so swollen and painful I'm down to one finger and have to use the mouse with my left hand.

In another bit of good news (they just keep coming!) I have a children's story being published in Vortex.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Wow, sleepless nights

I feel dazed. Three nights staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning, working flat out. The book is done and dusted, ready to go off, and I have a clear view of how to improve it for publication. It's a bit flabby, I could trim 10% of the words and it would be better, but the main thing is saying - it's good enough. There's a plot, characters, and a story arc. Wow. I did it.
Last year I started an MA. Friends and family, on the whole, were on a continuum from 'Good for you' to 'What on earth are you doing? Are you mad/selfish/stupid?' My answer to the latter, and (a few of them were very critical), was I wanted to finish a book to a good standard. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn't hold the whole book in my head and I couldn't plot.
I'm not sure the MA helped with any of that, but it gave me a discipline about putting my writing high up my priority list, and showed me how to improve my writing. So here's a raspberry for those who told me I was wasting my time and neglecting my family. And a huge hug to the people who supported me, from belief in my writing to those who think that, good or bad, we should be allowed to spend time and money on our interests. And to Russell, who never wavered or doubted, my love and gratitude. Words finally fail...