30 September 2011


As I plan the final read-through/s and edit/s (hedging my bets here!) of Interrupted Lives, the thoughts at the back of my mind have been pushing forward.  They are of a three-quarters complete first draft. 
I left the manuscript at that point for a couple of reasons.  I had finally heard back from publishers with feedback on Interrupted Lives, and went back to editing and working on that.  The other – very minor! – point was that I was stuck at that part of the first draft.
I’ve decided to go back and do more planning on the partially complete first draft, as I spent less time on that than I usually do.
A comment on the blog a while ago mentioned Save The Cat by Blake Snyder, which I’ve been reading and finding very helpful, so many thanks for putting me onto that.  On the topic of screenwriting – writing is writing whatever the end medium – is this post on getting a different perspective to a troublesome scene.

26 September 2011

Over Writing

I’m an over writer.  When I finished the first draft of my present manuscript it was around 110,000 words - now after a few edits it is significantly less.
Someone else told me they need to write themselves into a novel, and subsequently delete much of the first couple of chapters.
As with everything else, we all do things differently and need to find our own way.  Much of my over-writing tends to be repetition, and not just repeated words, or even sentences.  In my first drafts I can often find three paragraphs saying the same thing, and then there is the obvious element of backstory.  This and more is deleted in later drafts, leaving me then worrying whether I’m going to have any words left!
Realising I’m an over writer in fiction was an interesting revelation for me, as in business writing I tend to a minimalist bulletpoint style.
In contrast to the (relatively) sprawling nature of a novel, I do enjoy the constraints involved in writing to a word limit, especially flash fiction.
Here is one of mine from a while ago.
'I've been sitting here for eternity. Pretending. Passing time. We both know, but can't look each other in the eye. You used to carry me on your shoulders and now you struggle to breathe. I don't want you to go, and yet I can hardly bear to stay.'

23 September 2011

To Times or not to Times

As I kid I spent most of my pocket money on books.  Each week, Scrooge-like, I tipped my coins out and counted, until I had the magic amount.  Most of my books were purchased from the local newsagents shop, so I didn’t have a huge choice.  I would hotfoot it to the shop, pick up each book from the whirly stand, read the back cover, check out the first few pages, and then spend long minutes agonising over which to buy.
Around this time my parents introduced me to the delights of the library.  It didn’t take me long to finish the books they had for my age, and so I moved onto the next set of shelves, which happened to be C in the adult section.  I picked up an Agatha Christie, and after reading it I was delighted to see there were plenty more with her name on the spine.  Moving surreptitiously along the shelves I came across Victoria Holt, and on reaching P - Jean Plaidy, only later discovering they were the same person.  I dabbled with Ellery Queen and a few other American crime writers in-between forays into the Brontes and Jane Austen.  If nothing else was around I’d read the cereal packet!
I still enjoy browsing the shelves of my local library, only now I have a little more discretionary budget I also browse the shelves of local independent bookshops, as well as Borders in the mall, and because of the difficulties sometimes of getting books by smaller publishers, The Book Depository.
I love the feel and smell of books, and many are like old friends, but I also love the new interloper, my Kindle.  
I’ve looked at a number of forums and blogs discussing the positives and negatives of print books compared to ebooks.  Personally I love reading, whether it be the e- or print variety.  They both have their virtues.
One of the things I love most about my Kindle is the choice of font.  My pet hate is Times New Roman.  In fact I dislike a lot of serif fonts.  I know studies suggest that serif fonts are more readable in print material, but I don’t like them.  I find sans-serif fonts much cleaner and easier to read.  In print material I don’t get a choice, although many magazines now use sans-serif fonts, but on my Kindle I choose.
The print verses e-book discussion is an interesting one, but I’m just happy to keep on reading, and use both mediums.

18 September 2011

My Latest Edit

Over the past three days I’ve read through the latest version of Lives Interrupted.  I’ve lost count of the number of complete edits I’ve done on this manuscript.  Some have been multiple sweeps going through for specific items (weak words, deepening character in dialogue, etc.), others to make sure the plot holds together, and things happen when they are supposed to.  Here are links on my editing process if you're interested - Big Picture - here - here, and finally here.  Some are obviously less work intensive than others.
I was hoping this would be a final read-through.  Did you pick up a clue in that sentence?
Now I’ve finished this particular edit, I'm happy there were fewer changes than in previous ones, though unfortunately a few too many for me to say this was the last edit. 
There is an interesting post from Janice Hardy on the subject of making things worse when editing.  I’ve found a few instances of this: some of sloppy cutting or pasting where a stray word gets left in, or moved to the wrong place, and others where I realise that in changing a sentence I’ve now used a word that is in the next/previous paragraph.  Grrr is this task ever finished?
I can see I’ll be reading out loud again next weekend!

16 September 2011

Editing Out Loud

I’ve been listening to an audio book this week.  It’s actually a book I read a few years ago, so although I’m familiar with the general story outline there are parts I had forgotten.  While listening I’ve noticed a few slips in POV, and for me, this has reinforced the benefits of reading out loud when editing.
It never ceases to amaze me how reading out loud emphasises the over-use of a word, ambiguous pronouns, POV slips, clunky sentences, and much more.  All these things are harder to spot when you read your own work silently.  They are easy to pick up in someone else’s writing, but we become so familiar with the words we’ve written it’s harder to ‘see’ things that need changing.
If you’ve never tried editing out loud, give it a go.

12 September 2011

Night Ideas

I woke up around 2am this morning.  Not an unusual occurrence unfortunately, but this time I woke with an idea.  A small one, but still an idea.  Some changes in a scene towards the end of the novel that link back to the opening section.  As the hours passed along came the opening paragraph for an essay.  Until that point I didn't even have a topic. 
It may not seem like much, and in the scheme of things the ideas are small, but it has been some time since I’ve experienced the magic of waking up with some creative ideas, and that is precious.

09 September 2011

One Year On

This blog is a year old at the weekend.  Wow a whole year!
I started it wanting to write about my experiences in publishing and writing, and hoping something in it may just help someone else.  Blogging about writing may seem like an indulgence to some people, but it has helped me to focus on things I do instinctively, and really look at the processes I use, as well as question if it is the best way, or at least the best way for me.
I’ve learned a lot this year, and think I can say I’m a better writer than I was a year ago.  A lot of that is thanks to the friendship and feedback from my writing group, so thanks guys.
Through this blog I’ve got to know some of the people who’ve left comments, or got in touch via email, and I've also heard from friends I’d lost contact with.
It’s been a great writing year.  Thank you.

05 September 2011

Answering Questions

After taking part in a few writing courses and practising the craft of writing with short stories for a couple of years, I decided it was time to set out on the journey of writing a novel.  There was just the slight problem of not having an idea for a novel! 
About that time I saw a production of Romeo and Juliet, and accidentally discovered the process that many authors use of ‘What if?’ and asking questions to generate ideas. 
‘What if the young lovers hadn’t killed themselves, but were pushed apart by family?’
‘What might happen if they met up again twenty years later?’
These questions started me along the path that led to Driftwood.  Along with the over-arching questions were others: What happened that initiated the split between Juliet and Luke?  Who is Rose? Is someone trying to hurt Juliet? This later leads onto ‘Who is trying to kill Juliet?’  Some of the questions were there from the beginning.  Others came as the characters developed and moved things along through their actions.
The initial question for Lives Interrupted was; ‘How do different people cope with a traumatic event in their lives?’  From here two of the main characters, Kate and Rosa, stepped onto the page, and in getting to know them and how they would act in various circumstances, the story evolved.
Ideas are everywhere: a brief incident that raises a question, an interesting character you see in the street, or an overheard snatch of conversation that just begs to have a story built around it. 
I've had times when there were very few interesting things happening to write in my notebook, but looking back I realised (not surprisingly), these periods were when I wasn't writing regularly.  
There is something magical about being in that writing zone: waking up with the answer to a scene that has been niggling me, a new plot turn that ties in with something I've already written, or the kernal of an idea that could lead who knows where
I guess experiencing that magic is one of the reasons we write.

02 September 2011

Asking Questions

I love taking part in things like a pub quiz, Trivial pursuit, or shouting the answers to the TV in quiz shows.  Shows such as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, use a simple device to keep us watching through the adverts, or to at least return to the programme.  They ask a question just before the commercial break, and then keep us hanging on over the break to find out the answer.  There is something fundamental in our make-up to want to find out answers to questions.  Who originally recorded that song?  What was the film that actor starred in?  We know that trying to recall the answer will keep us up, or alternatively wake us at 2 a.m. with the answer.
As writers we need to be asking and answering questions throughout our manuscript.  There are the overarching type questions.  Will the hero save the world?  Will the heroine end up with her man?  Will Dorothy ever get back to Kansas?
Realistically the reader knows the answer to these questions – of course Dorothy will get back to Kansas, but the reader is along for the ride, and wants to see how the main character solves the problem. 
If the overarching question or dilemma was the only one, then our book would be quite short and rather boring, so we need to raise other questions along the way to keep the reader turning the pages. 
Some of these questions may span multiple chapters, while others may get answered within one section.
In wanting to find answers, or how the character deals with the problems raised by the questions, we keep on turning the pages.