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Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

This week at writing group we were talking about feedback and critiques.  As the person responsible for making sure we cover these things, I took along a poem I wrote a couple of years ago so people could practice giving feedback without worrying whether they were offending someone.  

It’s a poem I’d forgotten about, to be honest; although I think it has a certain charm it’s not one I’ve revisited since June 2012 – and that was only the second draft!

Being able to listen to feedback and make it constructive for you is important, but that’s not the point of the post today.   No, what really struck me is that I haven’t looked back at old work for a long time.

Working on the woods novel, which is now in stasis, I spent a lot of time working through its inherent issues, and writing new pieces to keep me going.  What I didn’t do was revisit old folders of work.

I often work on old pieces, don’t get me wrong – but they’re the pieces I’ve finished and take to open mike nights or readings.  I amend them based on hearing them read out loud.  On the other hand, I haven’t looked back at my files of early, unfinished, drafts for a while.  I think that without really noticing, I just closed my mind to them.

So after having that blast from the past, after having a look at my old folders full of random lines, or articles, or early attempts at expressing myself, I am determined to write a whole new set based on those bits – a whole new set to go out and read for an audience.

I don’t write drafts just to forget them, and I don’t want that to be their fate.

In other news – We’ve got to Book 19 of the Best Novels list – The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.  I saw this come up and read it this week, I’ll give you my impressions on Thursday.  I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really agree with this list though – or at least, if these books are really the best in the English language, then I don’t enjoy the best!

Also – as I was looking at the newspaper, I found this article about the deadly argument two friends had over the relative benefits of poetry and prose.  I thought I’d share it to remind us all to keep things in perspective – and to say I think both poetry and prose are fabulous!

And finally – I was watching a programme about house-hunting in Wales, which discussed, briefly, Dylan Thomas’s love of the area. Subsequently I came across this article about places to visit in the area to celebrate the centenary of his birth.  I’m taking it as a sign that Wales is a good writing destination, and that our trip to the retreat at the end of April will be a success.

We writers love to interpret signs, after all!

Happy writing

EJ

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Today I decided to have a quiet evening – I’m supposed to do this once a week but I barely do it once a month – and sat with a jigsaw, a coffee and some classical music trying to clear my mind of all the hurdy gurdy noise of life.

I know, I have a rock and roll lifestyle, don’t I?!

It was at about 9.30 that I realised it was time to write the blog and although I’d been working on something I have parked that for another time, because there was something more timely to share…

You can visualise a story as a jigsaw – pieces that fit in different places, that show light and shade, that have a collective meaning, that come together to form a whole. Any story is like that, to varying degrees.

Well, I can’t see the full picture in book two any more. I keep vacillating between options: how and whether to proceed.  I’m changing my mind every few days – so it came to me today that what I should do is re-draw the image.

It sounds simple, as these things do – but imagine half-way through a puzzle you’re no longer trying to make the Mona Lisa, and instead you’re doing The Scream. It’ll be a mess, and may put you off for life!

Sometimes the jig is up. You have to accept that the work you are doing can’t be what it should be, and you put it away in a drawer to work on in the future. You put it aside until the details are hazy enough to wipe away and reframe, and all the pieces are there.

I never throw away work, and I keep drafts as I travel along the revisionists road, so there is no waste, writing-wise.  A great deal of disappointment, and frustration, but no writing waste.

More positively though, all the time and energy has taught me an important lesson: sometimes your ideas just don’t transfer into pages in the way you imagined.  You can’t will it there, and you can’t fill the gaps without decreasing the quality of the story.

If you love your characters, and love your idea, don’t waste them on a sub-par product.  Give yourself a break and reconfigure.

Happy writing,
EJ
🙂

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This week’s post is a little short because I am away again – more about that on Thursday, I imagine!

After last week’s frustration about what exactly to do with the woods novel, I did what my heart told me. I stopped trying to revise what I had to make it work, and I started writing new chapters.

I think it was inevitable, really. The changes I had planned way back in the summer just didn’t fit what I was trying to do – which was revise each chapter to remove substantial elements and replace them. The further I got into the story the more complex the changes were becoming, and the more untidy the work became.

So I have started working on a new, unblemished, section to replace the messy and half-revised middle.  It feels good, even knowing my timetable is yet again a pointless distraction – I am not going to rush to finish before Christmas.

Other than that, I’ve also been doing a lot of note taking in the last few days, filling up my notebooks for the new year.  It’s great to feel I have plenty of projects, whether they are poems, short stories or plans for novels in the future.  I know some things will never be used but the more options I give myself, the more chance of doing something that is really effective.

I thoroughly recommend building a portfolio of ideas for the future.

In other news – back to the 100 best novels list.  We’re up to number 12, which is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë .  It’s another one I can tick off my list; I studied it, in fact, back in my schooldays.  I wasn’t over-keen at the time but it did encourage me to read both Wuthering Heights (by Emily Brontë) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (by Anne Brontë) so it had a positive impact on my reading choices.

That’s it for this week, as I have to get back to my socialising!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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As the descriptions says, this is not about the writing I’ve done this week. It’s about the second novel (the woods novel) and it’s a little bit of a train of thought post so please bear with me…

I don’t enjoy editing, that’s pretty clear from my many posts on how rubbish editing is – but book two is such a struggle I am losing the will to work on it.

I did well at my retreat only to decide to massively change the storyline, and kept changing my approach.  I swapped it for another novel earlier in the year to give me a new perspective, but then something happened in my real life that was too close to the new subject and I couldn’t continue.

So I went back to book two feeling hopeful I could get something from it with a new plan and new character biogs.  However, I am cutting so much I am losing track of what should and shouldn’t be included. All in all, it’s a mishmash of conflicting approaches and I’m finding it hard to see the wood for the trees, so to speak.

Now I’m thinking about the future of the second tale. I remember reading an interview with Margaret Atwood where she worked on something for months and couldn’t get it right, and eventually put it in a drawer to work on something new. The something new was The Handmaid’s Tale.  It was a great outcome, and makes me think perhaps I should put book two in a drawer for now.

But if I do, will it be for the best in the long run? I have worked on it for so long that my heart really isn’t in it any more. In fact, part of me wants to start at the beginning all over again.  But is that just editor’s block?

It’s hard, when I love the characters, not to do them justice.  But it’s even harder to think about giving up on their story.

What do you do when it feels like you’re hitting your head against a wall?  Do you put the work down, do something else, and return? Or do you keep pushing forward, hope that you get your mojo back?

Would it really be a disaster to dump the story as a whole, re-plan and re-formulate, and start again?

I’d love to hear what you think, because this is driving me to distraction!

In other, actual news – My reading rate for the 100 best novels continues to be poor, with number 11 another one I haven’t read.  I gave up on Emma, by the way, which is a shame as I got through Mansfield Park and I always thought Emma was more readable than that.  I think it’s because I’ve watched Clueless too many times.  Alicia Silverstone’s voice was reading the lines out to me…!

And finally – I found this article on books that are lost, and rediscovered.  A couple of names there I know – hurrah, I finally feel like a proper reader!  I came across Antonia White a few years ago, when I bought Frost in May at a charity book sale; it’s an interesting read and the ending feels as though something more was cut from the novel, which is an effect I quite like!  I also found Mary Renault’s The Friendly Young Ladies at the same sale, which is a book I have read repeatedly; I think it was rather ahead of its time. Some older books are far less stodgy than their more famous counterparts might suggest…

Happy writing, and please do let me know your thoughts.  I’ll do whatever feels right in the end, but it’s good to get some input when everything is so messy, for perspective as much as anything!

EJ

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After last week’s target-setting, I have finally got back into some sort of writing groove, even if it is a very shallow and lowly groove.

And although it’s been nothing to do with book 2, it is at least a step in the right direction!

Yes – I’ve mostly been working on other pieces, between a variety of appointments, outings and events.  In fact, today is the only day I haven’t been out at some pre-arranged event or other (I was supposed to go out today but rebelled) so I have a lot of material to use, and if I think about that as work-related, I’ve been incredibly prolific this week…

Certainly a new idea I’ve been working on has grown from a single random thought at an appointment, and ties in nicely to something I saw leaving another event.

You see – every moment is fuel for a writer’s imagination!

I won’t complain about having things to do, especially as most of them were fun, but I definitely need to up my game when it comes to book 2.  My new target is my final target and if I still can’t get motivated by it, I think I have to put it away, which would be awful.

Thinking positively, though, I set some targets for this week: two chapters of the second book edited, completing the prep for writing group, and revisiting my winter poetry set for the possible post-Christmas performance.

Manageable in a week, I am sure – as long as I don’t let myself get too distracted!  I am away for a few days, so need to get going as soon as possible…

In other news – Well, after a late uploading, book 9 and this week’s book 10 of the 100 greatest novels are up – and no, I haven’t read either.  I am beginning to think my education was sorely lacking…  I haven’t even heard of the first writer, and I wonder what exactly is meant by the ‘greatest’ novels – especially after attempting Emma again, and finding it much less engaging and enjoyable than Pride and Prejudice.  I will carry on and hope my faith is eventually rewarded!

And finally – I found this story about a manuscript forgotten in a garage and stored in a soup carton.  Putting aside the financial value, it is wonderful that something with such great history, which survived the Second World War, has come to light.  I can only hope it the person who buys it is willing to show it to the world.

I’ll leave it there for today, but let me know what you think of the 100 best novels list so far, and if you’ve read any of the books!

Happy writing,

EJ

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You can fix anything but a blank page

This quote by Nora Roberts comes from The Daily Fig

Happy writing – you’re nearly half way there already!

EJ

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It’s still all a bit unwriterly here so this is just a quick post, to keep me meeting at least one deadline this week!

I’ve been looking at inspirational quotes this week for anyone needing a boost during NaNoWriMo, and found a lot that really appeal to me.

I can define my approach to writing through the ones I like most, in some ways – the principle of writing first and editing later; of making a habit of writing; of working on things until they are right.

My poems are drafted, and revised, and redrafted many times over, and my stories are the same.  This has taught me that some ideas start slowly and grow and bloom like flowers, and that some ideas are formed almost before I pick up a pen to write them down.

The good thing about my experiences of writing is that I now know the most unassuming, quickly-written, basic sentence can become something strong and powerful with time.  I never throw any writing away.

So when you write anything, remember it’s a first draft – it can change, and grow.  Some sentences/lines may be exactly what you want, and some might need smoothing, or tuning, or reorganising – but it’s all valuable, and deserves your time and attention.

Keep earlier drafts, keep notes, keep anything that shows your journey from start to finish.  Keep sections you cut out, or ideas you decided not to include.  It’s great to see how far you’ve come.

Besides, you never know what you might want to use in the future!

Happy writing,

EJ

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One of my difficulties through NaNoWriMo was controlling my internal editor.

A good trick I’ve learnt is to highlight areas I want to work on in more detail, and make one or two notes about why. For example I might write ‘more detail needed’ or ‘check facts’, something that will remind me of the problem.  That way you can keep your editor at bay – but not lose sight of an issue you’ve noticed.

If you reach your 50,000 words early you might want to go back and do some tidying, but if not at least you’ll know where to look first for revisions.

Happy writing
EJ
🙂

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The last few weeks, and the last few days, have been very topsy-turvy.  I know the impact this has on my ability to work, and I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling to motivate myself when other things are taking my attention.

When life gives you lemons, sometimes making lemonade isn’t the first thing on your mind.

This week I haven’t met my aim of getting through 30 pages of editing.  I haven’t looked at poems, or written any notes.  I’ve dropped the historical fiction writing course.  In fact, this week is a non-writing week except for the blog posts.  I suspect next week will be the same.

Self-imposed targets are useful, but I am experienced enough now to know that not meeting them doesn’t make me a failure: I just have to set a revised target.  It happens in project planning often, and contingencies are built in – admittedly before work starts, usually, but it’s my project and I’ll update it if I want to… 🙂

So I’m building my contingency.  If I don’t get the editing done, I’m not going to feel bad – other things have taken priority, and that’s the way life goes.  I still want to get the work done though, so I am giving myself a target of 1 January 2014 to start the first formal edit.  That means I can continue this revision up until Christmas, if I really have to – it’s not ideal as I like a month between to let the story ‘settle’, but if I only have a week, it’ll be a really busy week not thinking about the book at all!

That’s it for this week – I’ll leave ‘in other news’ until next time when I’ll have more time to look for useful and interesting snippets!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Ah, King Lear. I studied this play at school and really disliked it, and yet some of the lines come to mind very readily…

The reason this particular quote has surfaced is that I’m sitting waiting for high winds that have been forecast over parts of the UK.  I can already hear the howling noises so am hoping I get this posted early in case we lose power tonight!

This week has been another one of those up and down ones, and a lot of my writing time has been very administrative – editing, filing, formatting, reorganising, submitting and so on.  I am struggling to get to grips with editing book two, and am ignoring the two courses I should be doing – ignoring them studiously, actually!  Everything has seemed so fragmented that just spending a few hours archiving old poetry drafts seemed a good way to get some work done without having to focus too much on anything in particular.  My friend and I have also discussed a music and poetry performance for Christmas, so I’ve considered which pieces of poetry might work for that.

But I have to get a grip on book 2.  I have a target of the end of November, and about 130 pages to read.  I am rearranging so much that there will be significant amounts of new writing, and I have barely scratched the surface, with 5 weeks to go.  I can’t focus on the courses now – I un-enrolled from one and will make a decision about the other in the next few days.  If I can watch a few videos and feel they are useful, I’ll stay on the course but if not, I’ll un-enroll from that too. It’s frustrating and disappointing, but it’s been a really challenging few weeks and quite honestly, I think trying to do two new courses on top of everything else means nothing will get the attention it needs.

So I am setting myself a new plan of action.  I will go through – correcting and revising – 30 pages of book two each week until I am done.  I have 5 weeks so there’s 20 extra pages of contingency; if I fall one or two behind I’ve got a bit of leeway.  This will be my personal NaNo, and rather than aiming for a word count I’ll work on edited pages.

I want to get this done before I lose faith in my ability to salvage the strong core of the work – wish me luck!

In other news – well, I lured you here with Shakespeare so I thought I’d better go back to him!  I read this article about Shakespeare being performed in schools.  I love the idea of plays being treated as plays – they are, after all, written to be seen and heard.  If you’ve read Shakespeare and never enjoyed it, watch a performance and see if it changes your perception.  The worst thing that’ll happen is you get an afternoon/evening of theatre or film!

And finally – we’re onto book 5 in the 100 best novels and it’s another one I’ve never read.  I am not doing very well with this list at all.  Roll on next week, let’s see if I can tick one off!

That’s it for today – I’m off to find some candles and torches just in case…

Until next time,

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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