Friday, 26 March 2010

Synchronised Thinking

I had one of those weird moments of synchronicity today.

My novel has a fair number of mythological references (not too surprising as one of the central characters is a Greek goddess). I was editing a scene today in which one of the (non-goddess) characters is holding a glass of wine like a bowl in her two hands and another character thinks she looks like an oracle looking for answers in a scrying cup. Shortly afterwards the glass breaks and the goddess character has a ponder about bad luck quotas, 7 years for a mirror, how much for a glass?

I decided to Google the whole 'breaking a mirror = 7 years bad luck thing' and discovered that the 7 years bit goes back to the Romans who believed we renewed ourselves completely every 7 years and therefore that's how long a damaged soul (ie one that was broken when a mirror smashed) would take to heal. BUT the superstition goes back further than that, beyond early mirrors and polished shields and slices of obsidian, back to the scrying pools of dark water that were used for divination.


Wouldn't it be satisfying though if my novel ever gets published and I get a letter saying, "Did you know....?"

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

It's Good to Talk

The edit/rewrite continues. I'm loving adding to my word count in the side bar each day. Over 14,000 words edited so far. And I'm actually really enjoying it. The lovely Anna Chilvers author of the splendid Falling Through Clouds told me I would and I should have just believed her - thanks Anna.

Had a particularly chewy scene to deal with today. On the original draft I had scrawled 'what is this scene trying to do?' across it. After reading this post on Calistro's blog and doing some big doodling with a sparkly purple pen borrowed from the daughter's pencil case I found the answer. Then I looked at the scene. It wasn't doing it. The characters were there, Id set the scene but 'it' wasn't happening.

What to do?

I was so mired in the original scene that I found it really difficult to imagine rewriting it even though I knew it had to be done. Then I remembered an exercise we did recently at my Stephen May writing class. I got a blank piece of paper and a non-sparkly pen (optional) and wrote the scene completely as dialogue. I didn't worry about style or precision. I just let the characters chat, pretty much as I thought they would do in real life. Their conversation veered off in various directions but in the end after pages and pages of chinwagging and confabulation I knew that in amongst it all I had managed to tell 'it'.

It took me the rest of the day to edit it down, getting rid of lots of the dialogue in the process, especially the 'Well yeahs' and 'What do you means?' and the bit when they started discussing house prices in York (?!). Then I put back in all the description and action bits.

The scene is now so much better. There is a point to it. The reader learns more about the characters and their desires and fears. It moves the story on. It has a beginning, a middle and an end - yay!

A sigh of relief and a new technique learned. I imagine it won't be the last time I will be using it. 66,000 words to go.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Yeuch its a bit dusty in here. Where've I been? Working mainly but also, ahem, on Facebook. Have decided however that the occasional two-liner on FB isn't doing it for me, so am planning to blog more regularly again.

Couple of things brought me back here.

One was wanting to talk about reading out loud.

I've been told many times that reading your writing out loud is a useful part of the editing process but I've never really taken it on board. Then last week my writing class (taught by the splendid Stephen May) had a reading session in the cocktail bar of a local pub. It was a brilliant night, with some fantastic stories (and the cocktails weren't bad either).

Earlier in the week I chose the story I wanted to read. It was one I had recently entered into a competition and was quite pleased with. I practiced reading it out loud. Eek. How come I hadn't spotted the repeated words, the clunky sentences, the dodgy dialogue. All fixable and I did alot of editing before I read it in the pub, but I really wish I'd done it before entering it into the comp.

Ah well, lesson learned. In future I am going to make reading aloud a compulsory part of my editing (might even progress to taping myself and playing it back - gulp!)

Second thing was The Novel. Still Novel #1 although Novel #2 does exist in a skeletal form.

Quick catch up - wrote novel in 2008-9, March 2009 started sending out initial chapters and synopsis. Throughout 2009 I received 6 rejections - but all with positive feedback- and one request for the full manuscript. Nothing (not even a rejection) has resulted from the request for the full ms despite me sending a follow up enquiry.

Anyway I sort of decided to shelve novel #1 and get on with #novel 2. But novel #1 wouldn't stay quiet. It's a story I really want to tell, and has a central character who just won't stay quiet. So, I got out my rejection letters and tried to work out exactly what they were saying. Turns out they were all saying pretty much the same thing, they loved the concept, they even said they loved the writing BUT they didn't 'fall in love' with the book.

I re-read my novel.

I didn't fall in love with it either, and with the benfit of a six month absence from it I saw the glaringly obvious - no bloomin' conflict. At least not enough of it, not of the immediate and necessary kind anyway. All my conflict was in the past and my characters were just dealing with the repercussions . One of the knock on effetcs of this was that most of my characters were pretty flat. I wasn't showing them at their fictional best ie when they were under real pressure and facing immediate conflicts. This is all basic 'how to write a novel' stuff that I'm theoretically well aware of and yet had somehow managed to miss out on in practice.

So. Major rewrite about to begin. I have gone through my ms with a pen and scribbled sweeping edits - 'drop this character', 'completely rewrite this scene', 'do I really need this chapter?', as well as a few ticks here and there for bits I'm happy with. It's almost like starting all over again.

I've got a month off work and I'm determined to finish this edit by Easter. I'll keep you posted.