365 days of writing – Feb update

At the end of January, I crowed (let’s be honest, I was smug!) about achieving my goal to write daily. I posted a few badges to show my progress, and then vowed to keep going through February.

Here are the stats for FEB

  1. My daily target is to write 250 words a day – my daily average was 341.25 (earning THE CLASSIFIEDS badge)
  2. 86 hours of editing (badges are set at specific milestones, so this month I get the 50 hours badge)
  3. 27.5 hours of critiquing (badges are set at specific milestones, so this month I get the 25 hours badge)
  4. Quarterly goal passed (based on writing 90k in 2018 and earning INTERN REPORTER badge)
  5. 9555 words written (making at YTD total of 29,474 words) – No badge, just a few numbers 😉

So, you know what this means …

Not so smug this time, as I missed out on the CONSISTENCY badge. But, overall, I’m happy with the progress.

Yes, I do realise I’m like a little kid who needs a sticker after going to the dentist … 🙂

So far, March is looking better still … (whoops, reining in the smugness 😉 – for now!)

Thanks for reading 🙂

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It’s great … REALLY!

So, how’s the book going? 

Okay, yep, it’s going well.

That’s great.

Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

Yeah?

Heck, no, it’s an out-and-out lie.

Really?

It’s not great – not in the slightest. There’s nothing great about it.

Aww, what’s up? 

Too many inconsistencies, says she with the red pen.   It adds depth … and mystery, say I.

Too much exposition, she says.   It’s Story-TELLING, I say.

Too slow for a thriller, she adds.  Well, I can agree on that point.

There you go. A silver lining.

Yeah, because it’s not meant to be a thriller – so why does she think it is one?

Ah! Point taken.

It’s only one opinion anyway.

Exactly!

No-one that matters, really.  Not any more.

Hmm, are you sure?

Yes, I am.

Well, okay then. 

I’m plodding on regardless.

Good for you.

She knows nothing.

So, it’s going great, then?

Absolutely!

 

Such is life!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Too busy to write? Not me!

The best part about being a writer is the writing (oh, and research – I  research), so it came as quite a shock when I realised that summer was over and I’d barely written a word.
The reason: Eddie & Marcia – aka editing and marketing (two words that fuel my procrastination like no others)

Editing, in the form of Eddie the Evil Reaper, is a natural by-product of the writing process, complete with scythe to chop away those words and trim your text.

He demands your complete attention, being one of those necessary evils. You just have to do his bidding and get on with it.

Fortunately, I’ve come to the end of the line and am now able to pass my WIP – Casualty of Court – onto my editor, who will no doubt cast the mighty red pen over all those changes I meticulously made in an attempt to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Marketing, however, enters your life as a mischievous minx named Marcia, but who is known by the wise  as the very devil herself. Wearing a shiny dress and flapping her gossamer wings she offers all the treats in the world if you, the author, deign to share your book with her. She teases you with images of glittery success, forcing you to promote your stories in places you would otherwise fear to tread – SOCIAL MEDIA!

I played along though, running a promotion for Lacey’s Law that garnered more downloads than ever before. However, it didn’t translate into reviews, so Lacey continues to die a death in obscurity. Personally, I think Marcia is jealous of Lacey and so spiked the whole process – promising the world in one hand and then taking it back before any benefit could be found.

Magic O’Clock had much more success with The Story Cartel, where in a month it received several new Amazon reviews across different countries. The same could be said of Goodreads where Magic had a  growth spurt as well as featuring in some wonderful – and I truly mean fabulous – blog posts. Not even Marcia could knock the shine off Magic’s time in the spotlight.

But now the marketing must take a backseat as I work towards bringing Fern & Raven back into the limelight. The prequel – A Fifth Wheel – has been well received, but it’s time now to tell the rest of the story. Casualty of Court (as mentioned earlier) has gone to the editor …which means I have time to write. Yay!

Heirlooms & Heiresses is now under construction, and Fern & Raven are back again, this time as private investigators in their own agency – The Blackleaf Agency. This story requires some research, so I’m mixing up my time, writing and planning as the story unfolds. (Naturally, there is no outline, but I just don’t … !)

And while that’s rumbling on, I’m polishing off another short story – To make the birds cry – ready for release in a couple of months.

It’s great to be back at the writing stage – although I know Eddie and Marcia will return to spoil my fun in the not too distant future.

But in the meantime, I can safely say – too busy to write? Not me!

Thanks for reading 🙂

X is for … X-roads

Dilemma, dilemma, dilemma – when will my book be done?

I’m at the crossroads, trying to get my book in shape and ready for release, but there always seems to be ‘one more edit’ or ‘one last glitch to check’ or ‘one final proofread needed.’

I’ve got to the point where I know more about the plot and story line of my fictional characters than real life family and colleagues.

It’s a sure sign that it’s time to move on.

Just looking at the last few edits I made begs the question: Did I improve it, or did I just change it? If I’m not adding value at this point, or making it more interesting or richer or even more readable, then surely it’s time to stop. Am I simply delaying the inevitable? Quite possibly.

It’s time to put Courting Danger to the test, let the betas to have their say. I can put it aside for a while and come back to it in a couple of weeks. Armed with their feedback – good and bad – I can read it again with fresh(er) eyes.

The last thing I’ll do is to read it backwards. Yeah, that’s right – not word for word, but a chapter at a time.

Then I can do no more: Time’s up. There’s a deadline to be met.

Courting Danger will be ready in time. It will be. I made that promise to myself.

Farewell crossroads – I have a real path to follow.

Writing Fiction – the value of reading

7The value of reading novels and short stories

A writer has permanent access to the best teaching: in novels and short stories. In terms of technique, nothing is or can be hidden: it’s all there on the page. It’s up to the person reading as a writer to ‘unpack’ how a novel has been made.

Starting out, and throughout a writer’s career, seeing how other people do things is invaluable. Writing without reading is to write in the dark: it might work, but it’s an unnecessary handicap. Being well-read isn’t just about quantity but more a question of immersion, and familiarising yourself with how books feel. Reading is another way of developing the ‘habit’ of writing.

Books are a great comfort to any writer: you can see how others have faced the same problems you face. When you’re reading as a writer, even people’s ‘mistakes’ are invaluable. If you think a book doesn’t work, just articulating why will be useful.

Editing

Editing your writing is very important – some would say the most important aspect of writing. It’s often said that anyone can write but only writers can edit. Once that you have written your first draft and left it to settle for a while, you will need to go back and reflect on what you have written, and make changes accordingly.

  • Don’t be afraid to cut large parts of it if necessary.

  • You might find that when you have got into the story you can go back and cut out the opening sentences. Some openings may well have been used as a way to get into writing the story, or a particular passage, but the story might be more vibrant and enticing without them.

  • Remember that you are aiming to develop a character who is complex and not too predictable.

  • Remember that you are aiming to make the story as interesting and intriguing for the reader as you can.

  • Reflect on all your reading and any tricks or techniques that you see in the novels and stories that might help you.

Also reflect on the reading you’ve done that displays techniques and approaches that don’t seem, to you, to be working.

Writing book reviews

Noticing details about the construction of language, plot and story in what you read will help form your own writing taste and style. Note why you like or dislike about the books you’ve read; what you think works or doesn’t work. This ongoing engagement with your reading will feed into your writing practice. Even the simplest observations might be valuable. For example:

  • How long is the short story or novel?

  • Are there chapters? Sections? Parts?

  • If it’s a short story, how is it structured?

  • When and where is it set, do/how do these things appear to matter, and how are they conveyed?

  • From whose point of view is the story being told? Is it the story of one, or more than one of the characters?

  • Is there dialogue? If so, what does it contribute to the story? What does it tell you of the characters?

  • Is the language modern, plain, elaborate, colloquial?

  • Are there short or long sentences?

  • Are the sentences ‘properly formed’, or broken down? For example, ‘Get this. Bravery. That wasn’t even in it. Heroism? Maybe that was nearer the mark.’

  • Would you say that the story was a ‘page-turner’?

  • Is it full of ‘researched facts’?

  • Is there much ‘internal’ psychological or emotional detail, or is most of the novel or story taken up with ‘external’ events or description?

  • How do you learn of the main characters?

  • Are the minor characters sufficiently clear or too flat?

  • In your opinion, is it clearly aimed at a certain type of reader

Start Writing Fiction – Editing

3More tips from the OU Start Writing Fiction – this week we’re looking at …. editing! (You can come out from behind the sofa now because ‘Editing is your friend’  – apparently!)

A writer is simply a word for a person who writes. That’s all it takes to ‘qualify’ as a ‘writer’. But  published stories and novels very seldom emerge fully formed, or perfect, as if by magic. They undergo many transformations before they reach the shelves. They are rarely, if ever, the raw expression of a writer’s output.

A great part of writing fiction is knowing how, why and when you should edit your own work. This is just one of the points at which honesty enters the equation of writing. The more ruthless you can be about your own work, the better it will be.

So, what counts as editing and when should you do it?

It’s important to balance ‘editing’ against ‘self-censorship’. To write in perfect freedom – to express yourself without self-censorship – is one of the most important aspects of writing fiction. Your aim is to tell a story as you think it should be told, to the best of your ability. Editing, once that piece of work is done, is simply a way of clarifying that intention, of saying more clearly what you mean to say.

For example, you write what you think, at first, is a wonderful opening paragraph. You are very proud of it, understandably so: it is a fine piece of writing. But by the time you’ve finished the piece, something doesn’t ‘ring true’ about those opening lines. ‘But they’re so good!’ You can’t bear to part with them.

Ask:

  • Do they belong in that story, for sure?
  • Are they really what you meant to say, or do you just like the way they sound?

Be ruthlessly self-critical and scrupulously honest at moments such as this. You will develop the ability to say what you mean (and not just like what you say: ‘showy’ writing is much easier to achieve than good writing).

Remember to ask:

  • What really matters about this scene?
  • What ‘adds’ something to the scene?
  • What merely adds confusion, detracting from the main point?

After you have written a first draft, interrogate your writing using this editing checklist. Remember that the aim in editing is in many ways the aim in writing: clarity of expression.

  • Is it what you meant to say, really?
  • Have you found the best way to convey it?
  • Would a particular event really have happened that way?
  • Would a particular character definitely use that expression or turn of phrase?
  • Does an idea or scene really belong where you’ve put it, or would the piece be better if that element was cut?
  • Could it be used elsewhere, or on another occasion?
  • What’s missing from your story? Details or background information?
  • Is there enough to engage your reader?
  • Do events occur in the best order and are significant events given enough weight, or are they lost beneath less important things? If so, is that what you intended?
  • Does it read too slow, or too fast?
  • Overall, does the writing convey the right tone – does it create the mood you hoped for?

Look at your writing through the eyes of a reader:

  • Opening sentence. Does it hook the reader?
  • Are there any unnecessary/redundant words or phrases?
  • Is there an over-reliance on adverbs and adjectives?
  • Does the excerpt rely on tired, stock phrases. Does it make use of cliché?
  • Does the writing provide easily pictured images/characters?
  • If there is dialogue is it convincing and natural?
  • Does the writing transport the reader into the writer’s world?
  • Does the writing seem crafted and well-considered?
  • Is the writing free of poor syntax and typographical error?
  • Would you as reader genuinely like to read beyond the submitted extract?

Remember, editing is your friend! An average piece of writing can become a good piece, with good editing.

X is for … X-ray vision

XIf you could have any  magical superpower, what would you choose?

As an avid people-watcher,  it would have to be the Invisibility Cloak, as the ability to pass through any place unnoticed would be  just too tempting to refuse.

However, you may have noticed that this post is (supposedly) about x-ray vision and not about being invisible. And you would be perfectly correct in thinking so and in which case, I applaud your observation skills and will now  explain myself.

I have need for a secondary superpower, this being a specialised form of x-ray vision. I don’t want to be able to see through objects to see what lies behind or beneath (that could have some nasty consequences!) Instead, my version would be able to identify when something is not in the right place, or  is out-of-place completely.

This power would be used to scan through my writing and seek out possible plot holes, messy syntax, stumbling story lines, dodgy dialogue and inconsistent character traits – at the very least!

It would convert my multiple drafts into a more coherent manuscript that would be fit for an editor in much less time, thus making me more productive and ‘publishable’. I don’t expect it to simply correct my scribbles, merely to make them more obvious to me – so that I actually learn from my mistakes. I’m not asking a lot, really. All I want to do is to cut down on the painful task of self-editing, which then frees me up to concentrate on writing.

I know this could all be achieved by just finding a great editor, who understands my thought patterns and my weaknesses – but I’m not sure such a person exists (and if they do – would anyone who can get inside my head really be a reliable source to critique anything!! – I’m sure that says more about me than any potential editors out there!!)

 In the meantime, I suppose I should just bite the bullet and get on with the job of finding an editor (you see, I am overly fond of clichés – you can tell, can’t you?)

But, if you hear of anything that fulfils my requirements, you will let me know, won’t you? I’ll be the one hiding behind the invisibility cloak, no doubt with my foot (or some other extremity) sticking out and giving away my presence!