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Not a Hobbit’s tale, but a writer’s one.

One of the things I hadn’t expected when I started writing was how many times I’d revise, edit, re-draft and so on – it’s not that I thought everything would be at a high standard straight away, but that I thought a few read-throughs would be sufficient to tidy up the tale, pick up typos and make it quite clean.

The truth, in my case at least, is very different.  I am now on what I laughingly call draft six of the family tree novel (probably more like  9, or more if you count all the notes I wrote before I started it!); I’ve had it proofread twice by another person, and I’m still changing things.

I haven’t even gone through everything from the last proofread yet, and I’ve restructured all sorts of elements.  Little bits that are relatively unimportant suddenly jump out at me as too definitive, or poorly worded, or out of character, or just giving the wrong impression.  I’ll read something and decide it sounds too judgemental and I’ll change it, and then I’ll worry that I’m changing it as me, not from the point of view of the character.  I’ll tie myself in knots trying to justify changing it back, or keeping the amendment – and it’s not even that important in the context of the story.

But there we have the crux of the matter – importance to the story.  My current thinking is that every sentence should have a purpose.  It might not feel purposeful to the reader, but in the context of the story it has relevance.  I don’t always feel like that but I do now.

And now I have re-read the story, and corrected typos and changed sections.  Tomorrow is a bank holiday here so I won’t get much done as I’ll be out and about, but I’ll start re-reading with a more editorial eye to identify issues picked up in the proofread.  I’ll aim to get that all done by Friday.  Then I’ll read again to check the edits improve the flow and remove the issues.

I’ll get to the end, and start again.  And again…

But the day will come when I have to stop.  To say to myself that my adventure with this book’s creation is over, and it’s time to take the next step.  It won’t matter how perfectly useful each line is if I never send it off, after all.

I think this is the hardest part of all.

In other news – I have to say a big thank you to Mandy Eve Barnett for giving me the Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness!  This was a new one for me and just typing it out makes me cheerful – WordPress bloggers are a lovely supportive bunch!

And finally – I saw a brilliant photo of Morris Dancers on Leanne Cole’s blog, and it got me thinking.  We all have access to cultural activities we take for granted and as I’m very interested in this area I thought I’d do a few ‘added extra’ posts about weird and wonderful customs and folklore here in the UK.  You never know what might inspire a story or a setting but there’s plenty of material!  If anyone else is interested in sharing something of their own, please let me know!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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You may remember that a while ago I was given a Daisy award, and I said I’d pass it on soon…  Well, six months later, I still haven’t sorted myself out.

Since then, I have been presented with two Liebster awards and said I’d pass them on.  I still haven’t sorted myself out.

There’s a pattern forming…

I love receiving these awards, they are like a virtual smile, but I am not doing well passing them along.  Collectively these three require highlighting 25 new blogs, which I haven’t even started thinking about properly, and so I am going to do things a little differently from now on.

I am setting up a page for awards, where the nominator and the image can be found.  Over time, I hope to highlight other bloggers via the ‘in other news’ sections of my Sunday posts.  That way, I can send things on as and when rather than waiting for months!

What I’ll do in the future is explain why I like a blog and why it’s important to me, and not do facts – but in honour of those who nominated me, you can find some facts here and here.  And, as one of the Liebsters set some questions, I hereby offer up  a slice of EJ life!

a) Which genres do you prefer to read? All sorts: I have a mix of books from chick-lit to literary fiction to fantasy to comedy and so on.  

b) Is there somewhere in the world you would love to visit?  This changes all the time, but anywhere with ancient monuments makes me happy!

c) Have you got any phobias? Yes, but I’m not saying what 🙂

d) Which would you choose – meat or seafood? Meat.    

e) Which famous person do you wish you were? I don’t – I think fame may be a hard cross to bear. I’d like the outfits a few famous people have though…

f) Are you sporty or not?  Most definitely not!

g) What was the name of your first pet? Bramble

h) A tropical beach or a ski resort? Beach, although I’d prefer a windswept field and an ancient monument!  

i) What would be your perfect job? Writer 🙂

j) Which snack do you prefer when watching a movie? Revels.  

k) Which book are you currently reading? Lantana Lane, by Eleanor Dark.

So thank you to Lee A Jackson, Daydreams in Wonderland at CardcastlesInTheSky and Mandy Eve Barnett – I hadn’t forgotten 😉

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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Some writers are very focussed.  I’ve read the interviews in magazines: they drop the kids at school, then go home/the office/wherever and write all day until they pick the kids up.  They don’t write at evenings or weekends because that’s not working time.

I, on the other hand, work at three in the morning, or over lunch, or on a Saturday night when I’m back from dinner/visiting a friend or when I haven’t bothered to go out because I need to get some work done.  Oh, I have my timesheet, of course – otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d still be on chapter one of the first book 😉

This works for me and whilst I’m sure my partner would like me to put the laptop down some evenings (as would the dog, who tries to shut it using his nose), it doesn’t really get in the way of doing anything else.  But now I am studying I thought it would be a good idea to look at the way I structure my time, and I found something interesting…

I am using my new course as an excuse to put off editing!

Over the last week, I’ve probably done less than five hours editing compared to around 15 hours of studying, and despite my general dislike for editing, even I can’t justify that…

I don’t need to spend so much on the course; I am doing extra reading and asking questions on forums and so on because it is all very interesting.

But I’ve signed up to courses through to the end of July at least, and I don’t want to still be doing this editing in the summer!

So I’ve decided that in order to get this editing done and dusted, I’ll start the day by editing the relevant month (the book is split into chapters by month; each month may have one or two chapters), and after that I can study.  That’ll break up the time and mean I give the editing the majority of time – I can’t stop until the month is finished.

That means I’ll be done by next Sunday ready to be all happy and self-congratulatory in the blog post!  If I miss my target for astrobiology-related reasons, please feel free to point and laugh.

In other news – thank you to Mandy Eve Barnett for nominating me for the Liebster award – I have nearly finished my award/nomination post so will get that out soon.  There is a backlog so it might be a long post!

Also – I recently heard in a radio interview that Hilary Mantel’s two Booker-prize winning novels are being turned into plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company.  I love this idea; it will be fascinating to see how the stories are re-imagined for the stage.  I wish more modern novels were adapted in this way.

And finally – despite dropping the editing ball this week, I did spend some time reworking the new sections I wrote in, and that at least is going reasonably well!

Onward and upward, as they say…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Now I’m into November, and the tight schedule for NaNoWriMo, I’m very aware of how many words a day I should be writing. I’m on day four so a reasonable amount at this point would be about 6-8,000 if I want to get 50,000 done by the end of the month.

I’m on about 700…

I’m not worried about this because I haven’t had a lot of time to work on the story since Thursday.  Still, I am hoping this week things will improve somewhat, and I’m also hoping to get another few hundred done today – but it’s got me thinking about the arbitrary nature of word counts.

I’ve always thought that word counts are a strange way of judging how far I’ve got with a story. This could be due to my style of writing, where I map out a scene in the first draft then fill in details as I revise the story. Or, it could be due to the fact that a book could be anything from 50,000 – 500,000 words long!

Having said that, they are one of many useful tools for a writer.  Knowing how many words you have got on paper does show that something is happening – just not the quality or relevance of that work.  So, I’ll carry on working to get towards the target number of words this month, but I know from experience that it’s only once the first draft is completed that I can really see how far I’ve got.

In other news – now Halloween is over, here in the UK we have Bonfire Night (or if you prefer, Guy Fawkes Night).  A few years ago I attended an event that involved people walking down a hill through an old town, down cobbled streets in the darkness, lit by flaming torches.  It really was a spectacle and one that deserves to be written into a book or a poem – I’m hoping to include a scene like this in my NaNo piece if I can fit it in.  It’s one of those events that is full of dramatic possibilities!

And finally for this week – I saw this gallery of books that are hard to finish, and it made me smile – the only one I’ve tried is Das Kapital (and not even the whole thing!) which was for an essay when I was a student.  How can a book be hard to read, and yet a prize-winning book?  Surely readers want to be able to finish the story…

At least this proves that a word count isn’t the only thing to think about!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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Editing.

Say it out loud and if it makes you shiver with dread, you’re like me.

I’ve said before that I find editing a struggle, but I have to do it.  Unfortunately, working across multiple pieces, some of which are a year or more old, I have found all sorts of issues.  Some are simple typos, and some are more extreme. Factual errors, consistency errors, or worse: stories that aren’t telling the tale I want to tell at all.

My problem this week has been deciding what to scrap and what to save, or what to salvage from the messy sections that have no intrinsic value to the story.

I am not frightened of cutting large sections if necessary; I have done so before with success.  It’s working with what’s left behind that is off-putting.  Large scale revisions often lead to completely new stories; ones that are only tenuously linked to your original idea.  That’s fine if you have no guidelines or themes to write within, but a pain for some submissions.

Editing a few sections, words or phrases here and there to get back on track is generally harder for me, though.  Every word has to be weighed and synonyms investigated, sentence structures examined and punctuation reconsidered. Sometimes it’s a bit like a crossword, trying fit everything into the structure and plot without leaving gaps or getting things in the wrong places.

So from now on I will try to be strict – I’ll learn my lessons from this week’s disjointed editing approach and be systematic.  To cut out, or not to cut out, will be the question.

After all, it’s for the good of the story!

In other news – I’d like to say thank you to the lovely Lee A Jackson for nominating me for a daisy award. I honestly can’t say enough how much the support I get means – not just the awards, but followers, anyone who clicks on the ‘like’ button and those of you who comment. Anyone, in short, who is generous enough to give me a little of their time. So big cheers all round, and I’ll visit all the blogs I haven’t had a chance to look at as soon as I can. 🙂

Also this week – I read this article, about the number of books shortlisted for the Booker prize that are published by independent presses. I thought this was interesting as it is a long-discussed subject that mainstream publishers are taking less and less risks. Maybe this is a positive step for writers of less easily categorised books – we can but hope!

And finally, my project update for the day – well, another day has passed without great progress but I have been working through some characterisation issues in ‘The Story of One’, doing some more space research and am off to do some more work on those draft poems…  Oh, and I bought three magazines which accept short story submissions so have started looking at the content they are currently accepting.

I feel OK still but am not enjoying the countdown clock any more!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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This week’s inspiration is courtesy of other bloggers!  Recently Mandy Eve Barnett nominated me for an Inspiring Blog Award, just after The Living Notebook nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  As I’m sure you can image, I was very pleased by these.  I’m still fascinated by the general sense of warmth and support on these blogs, and this is another example of how people come together in a really positive way!  One of the things I love about the blogs I follow is that, whether I agree with a viewpoint, or have the same religious, political or social beliefs as the writer, there’s always something I  can take away – a passion for something, a desire to make things better, a willingness to share even the most painful experiences.  Or for those of a more artistic nature – a beautiful image, or wonderful colours, or a moving poem that brings out an emotional response.

As always, there are rules to these awards…  For each, I have to a) thank the person who nominated me (as above!) and b) share seven facts about myself (as a little cheat I’m doing 7 in total as this post will already be really long!).  I also have to nominate others – for the ‘Inspiring Blog Award’ I have to nominate 15 blogs, and for the ‘Very Inspiring Blogger Award’ I have to nominate 7.  Wow, that’s a lot of nominations, it’s taken a few days to get these lists together!

 

So – thanks guys for the nominations!  Here are my facts to share:

1. I love the seaside when clouds form over the water but not on land – it makes me feel the power and uncontrolled beauty of nature.

2. My favourite flowers are any red flowers in cobalt blue pots – they make me think of a Mediterranean summer.

3. I find smells very important and evocative – I should exploit this more for writing!

4. I recently discovered the TV show ‘The Big Bang Theory’, and it has inspired me to learn the element in the Periodic table – Einsteinium, anyone?!

5. I have a lot of reference books, about all sorts of subjects, and especially like ones old second or third hand ones – they are sometimes factually out of date, with new research having overtaken the old, but I don’t mind that because I love the texture of the paper and the dated language.  It helps me lose myself in the pages.

6. A woodpecker likes to visit my garden, I watch him find food in an old wooden post that is used to hang bird feeders from – it seems right for him to eat at the same table as the others!

7. I used to make beaded jewellery and have boxes full of it – I eventually plan to deconstruct a lot of it and make more useful things!…

So there you go: a few facts as required.  I have tried to keep in the inspiration mode and maybe something there will spark your own imagination – as I was writing a story idea occurred to me so it can work!

So now onto my 22 – yes, 22 – blog nominees…  Deciding which award went with which site was oddly difficult but I hope you can see why I’ve done it the way I have!  I have to put my hand up here and say I look at other blogs in a very ad hoc way, sometimes looking at a page three or four times in a week, sometimes not looking for weeks.  These awards have given me permission to spend some time looking around and generally being nosy, which has been lovely!  I’ve also discovered a couple of new ones so that’s been fab!

For the ‘Inspiring Blog Award’ I have nominated 15 sites which give me specific inspiration.  Most of these are not writing-related:

Urban Wall Art & Murals

This World Thru My Eyes

Julia Christine Glass

Dianne Grey

Conor Cullen

Water is the Spice

Lee  A Jackson

Emma’s Fabric Studio

Leaf and Twig

PhotoBotos

Leanne Cole Photography

Texana’s Kitchen

The Martha in Me

Kitty Kats Krafts

Zebrabajz

For the ‘Very Inspiring Blogger Award’ – I have nominated 7 writers who have shared their own work, who make me laugh,  who are willing to share their personal experiences and beliefs in an open and honest way, or who write about something new to me.

A Writer’s Writings

The Forced Mind

Brad Stanton

Thoughts on Theatre

Edilio Ciclostile

Ashley Jillian

Cancer Killing Recipe

So there you have it – 22 other writers are the inspiration this week!  If you want to share your own inspirational blog, website or image, please put a link in the comments (and please put a warning if content is in any way adult or potentially offensive!).

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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Wow – I’ve been on this blog for an entire year, and it’s probably the most sustained diary-type writing I’ve ever done.  One year in, it’s a good time to reflect on what’s going well, and what still needs some work.   Then I’ll set myself some new (writing) year’s resolutions!

Going well…

The novel (with reservations) – it is written, I have done one full edit and decided on some significant changes, and am in the process of making those changes with a deadline of the end of the month.  I would like to feel that it’s all nearly there, but I know it’ll need a few more work-throughs.

Poetry – I am finding a specific voice, I am regularly writing poetry that I am proud of, and which covers a number of subjects and styles.  I certainly feel confident that my poetry now holds up against work published by other poets, and no longer has that whiff of trying to meet the needs of the tutors!

The blog – thanks to some really helpful feedback, some incredibly supportive friends, family and followers (and my finally understanding the need for categories), the blog is developing and getting a wider audience.  It is also helping me devise ways to challenge my own frustrations.  From a writing point of view, it’s amazing how much can be done with just five minutes a day so even if that’s all the time you have you can still produce something that makes you proud.

Still needs some work…

Short stories – these are being neglected, even the ones that simply need a little editing.  I’ve said before I need to decide what my focus is: just saying ‘to write’ is too generic, and mainly short stories get left behind.  But it shouldn’t take much time to make those minor amendments, and I’ve got to stop putting it off.  I know this needs to be rectified because it had a knock-on effect on:

Submissions – I’m not doing enough.  Writing is not a big earner unless you get picked up by a publisher who will market your work pretty aggressively, and even then there are no guarantees.  I have read articles in trade magazine exploring the diminishing advances, the dropping of mid-table writers from publishers at the end of contracts, and of course the poor earning potential has been explored here before.  Still, people can and do make a reasonable living from submissions.  The problem is, in part at least, fear of rejection.  But I know once I’ve sent something I don’t think about it any more so I should learn that this feeling is just my equivalent to an athlete’s adrenaline rush!

So these remain the areas I need to work on.  That sounds mightily like earlier assessments so I really do need to think about why short stories are always the poor relation of my writing.  Maybe it’s just that I want to finish the novel, and by the time I’ve worked on this for a few hours I need a break from writing, maybe it’s that my targets are too vague, or there’s no penalty for missing them like there would be if I worked for someone else.  This leads me into my resolutions for the next 12 months…

1. Get the novel finished.  I’ve never given myself an official end date, and I’m not going to pick a date in the next 12 months, but this is the target.  It will be concluded by week 104!

2. Increase my hours per week.  I’ve said before that writing should be considered a job – for me it’s a part-time job as I can’t write for 40 hours per week!  But I can and will do more than I do.  I’ll also try to be more consistent about this, and use my time more effectively.

3. Get on with the short stories and submissions.

4. Post some work online – at either Kindle or Smashwords, or both.  This will probably be poetry, and then I can link to it as and when I do an open mike night…

5. Do an open mike night.

So that’s the next 52 weeks in a nutshell!

Finally for this post, I’ll say a big thank you to Mandy for another award nomination – what a lovely way to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next.  More on that next week.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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