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Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

This week has not gone entirely as expected – life is like that – but I have been editing the novel.

Again.  And, also, again.

I’m having conflicting feelings about editing, really. Obviously I wanted to correct the typos, but as I worked, I started to change a word here, a phrase there – and found myself in editing mode very quickly. I don’t mind that, per se, because I want to make it the best I can. However, it’s not what I intended!

Re-reading it, I was happy.  It’s the microscope effect of searching for errors that makes me read as an editor rather than as a reader.  And an editor has to pre-empt potential issues.

For example, I know from my reading group friends that using the same word in two sentences of a paragraph will have no effect on them whatsoever – but three or four might become noticeable.

For me as editor of my own work, any repeated use has to be tested, checked, and alternatives considered.

Thus it ever was, I suppose: it’s not surprising to me that there are only a few instances because I’ve gone though this exercise many times before.

And that’s just one example of where the perception as reader is not the same as an editor.  Any page could have an error, a discrepancy or simply an unnecessary word or phrase.  I may correct word usage, or speech, or tense.  The whole novel has to be addressed, line by line.

I will carry on with my task for the next week, and hope to be finished by Sunday.   After that, the synopsis can be properly finalised and the novel can go out to agents.

Again.

Editing is my least favourite part of writing but it’s also the part that makes a rough diamond sparkle.  Going back to it after a prolonged wait may actually be better for my book than sending it out straight away, because I have a different perspective on it now.  I need to finish editing at some point, otherwise it’ll never go anywhere.  But if I know the work needs attention, I should be correcting things – what I send out is a reflection on me and the potential I have.

Besides, it’ll help polish that diamond just a little bit more…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I recently saw a post on twitter about a writing competition and decided it would be silly not to enter, so this week most of my writing attention has been on that. It’s good timing though, as it involves looking back at the Family Tree novel which is what I’ve been doing anyway!

It has given me a chance to re-write my synopsis too, focussing on what exactly I want to tell an agent/publisher/reader/competition judge about my characters.

I want to make them feel for them, just as strongly as I do – I need them to care what happens to them, what trials they face and how they get through them. I want them to see the way the characters develop and grow, how each person impacts on the others and changes their perception of what the world is.

So that’s what I’m trying to do. For this competition, the synopsis can be up to 10 pages long which is ten times the agents I tried, so there’s a lot of scope there – but there is a definite balance between giving details and being too detailed, which I need to reach. I have only a few more days to work on it, as I intend to submit on Wednesday.

Wish me luck!

As well as that, I’ve been gradually trying to sort out my writing space.  I have a study at home, but for a multitude of reasons I never write in there.  In fact, my writing desk is actually in my lounge (the one in the header picture above!) and my husband sits there when he’s working from home, so we rarely use the study at all.  The hope is that when it’s reorganised, I will have a quiet space to hide away and get a different perspective – I really do find that changing where I work can break down writing blocks, so the more places I can get pen to paper, the better!

That’s it for this week – I’m off to summarise some more!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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At the moment I should be working on some of the poetry being used in the wedding, and I am trying to finalise the one poem I want to read on the day, but there are so many things to do that the poems keep getting pushed backwards.

When I think about the amount of time I spent on the poem for my cousin, I really do feel a little disappointed that I’m not doing the same for my own!  So this blog is a reminder to me – and to any of you who are struggling to find the time to create – that the writing has to come up the list of priorities.

This is a plan of action post.  A ‘putting it all right’ post.

This week my target is to have written up all my draft poetry, identified poems that are ok to leave as they are and those that need help and TLC/scrapping and starting again.  By the end of the week I want at least 50% of the wedding poetry ready to print.

I think that’s a realistic and reasonable plan, because it’s not all completely unrefined and some things will be very quick to tidy up and agree with my partner.  Let’s just hope I can find time to stick with it…!

Once that’s done, I’ll have time to work on the rest of it and by the day of the wedding I’m sure it’ll all be fine.  And if it isn’t, so be it – I’ll still be married!!

I’m leaving it there for today as I have 1001 things to do, but I’ll write more next week because I’ll be able to tell you about some successes for once!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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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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