Tag Archives: Current Project

Editing

I have recently been editing a YA novella on my computer. I thought I’d done a pretty thorough job, so when I downloaded the calibre-ebook maker software, I decided to try this story as my first ebook. Chuffed that I’d managed to work out the software, I uploaded the ebook onto my kindle and took it on the bus with me the next day.

It is amazing how frustrating it can be to read a piece of your work in electronic format when you can’t edit it. I had barely got off the first kindle page and I found an error. A few pages on, a missing word. A bit later, an extra word. Then a word that was very nearly the right word, but it wasn’t the right word. All of this on a piece I thought I had thoroughly edited.

I printed a copy of the story on paper so that I could read it with a pen in my hand. I found a whole collection of other missed edits. I still haven’t found the missing word that I saw on my kindle read. I can’t tell you how much it bugs me that I know it’s in there somewhere and I can’t find it. I’ll need to read the kindle version again.

Something I’ll never understand is why we read different formats so differently. It seems that my brain is most likely to make auto-corrections when I’m reading on the computer. This is rather problematic given that I do most of my editing directly in Word. I pick up the most grammatical errors when reading on paper. And (apparently) I find the most typos when reading on kindle.

I’m lucky this story is only a novella, because I can see that I’ll be reading it many more times before it is actually ready for release. At least I should take heart in the fact that I still enjoy it despite all the re-reads. Maybe that will be the most important part of the edit of all; if I like it when it’s finally edited, then maybe it’s really ready?

When to consider the market

This question really is quite academic for me at the moment. In truth I have *no* market, so I’m not restricted in what I write. For the most part the short story magazines I sub to don’t care if I previously wrote like-genre stories. In fact half the time they strip your name from the submission so the short story stands alone, regardless of the author.

Novel publishers are different. They care deeply about what you have published previously, or what else you can give them if they pick up your book. I’ve always had the attitude that I’ll worry about that when my first novel gets picked up. But that approach was easy to have when I only had two novels written.

Now I have written a YA science fiction novel, an adult fantasy novel, a YA dystopian future novel, an Adult near-future science fiction novel and a YA science fiction novella. Recently I re-started an adult fantasy novel I’ve been picking at for over a decade, but then walking home the other day I kept thinking about a YA horror novel that is finally falling together. Not to mention that my adult horror novel keeps bugging me, asking me why I left it hanging.

None of these novels are similar to each other. Right now, if one of those pieces got picked up I would struggle to get any of the others shoe-horned into a similar genre. Which begs the question of what should I be working on next? Do I continue to write what I want to write, or do I start trying to specialise? Given none of the novels I’ve finished so far have been picked up, maybe I’ve gone totally wrong with what I’m writing anyway, and I should experiment with something totally different? Is it worth considering the market with my choice of what to work on next?

If I’m honest with myself, I’m starting to think that none of my novels will ever get picked up. I’m seriously considering the possibility that my only readers will be me, my beta readers, and possibly whoever clears out my crap when I pass off this mortal coil (in the very, very distant future).

So I guess that really does answer the question; my market is me, so I should continue write what I want to write. Now all I have to do is work out what that is. Easy 😐

Motivation

Writing a novel takes a lot of time. Editing a novel (for me) takes even longer. There are a lot of hours in a novel, or even in a long ‘short’ story. My experience has been that exuberant enthusiasm has never held on for long enough to get me to the end.

Motivation to write generally falls into two different categories; carrot and stick. The carrot is things like imagining typing the words ‘the end’, visualising your novel in a book shop, or the burning desire to get your characters through this testing time and see them out of the terrible situation you put them in.

Then there is the stick, which is where pretty much all of my motivation comes from. The stick is things like not wanting to stay in your day job, knowing how disappointed you’ll be in yourself if you get to the end of the week without having written any new words, and the old chestnut of all-pervasive writer’s guilt – which sucks the joy out of all non-writing moments, rendering even the most delicious Haigh’s chocolate unpalatable.

Recently I have tried to find a different carrot method by looking at other successful people and asking myself ‘what would they do if they wanted to be a writer?’ These people don’t have to be writers, they just need to be people who have pulled their finger out and succeeded at something through hard work and determination. They also need to be people you genuinely admire.

How it works is this; you find yourself spread out on the lounge with the cat curled up beside you and some terrible reality TV on the screen. You’ve had a tough day in the office and you are considering finishing off that bottle of wine you opened on the weekend. Then you ask yourself ‘What would <insert person-you-admire’s name here> do right now?’ If you’ve picked the right person it will hopefully get you off the lounge and into your novel.

I’ve been using this for over a year now, and it has helped me get to the computer time and time again. By the time I write my first sentence it all becomes about me again, and wanting to finish the story, but when it comes to getting the computer fired up and the TV turned off I really need to give credit these other people.

Of course the previous two weeks where I didn’t write a word show that this doesn’t work all the time, but it has worked often enough that I’ll continue to use it. And to be honest in the last week I have written nearly 5,000 words and the question I’ve been asking myself is ‘what would *I* do if I was serious about being a writer’ and that feels a whole lot more positive. It also means I can appreciate my Haigh’s chocolate again.

What would I know?

Okay, so I thought I had the answers about how to get stuff written. I was wrong. This new, dark novel is killing me. It’s like wading through a cold tar pit in the dark with a blindfold on. I have no idea where I’m going, my progress is slow and it is terribly uncomfortable. I’ve decided that I can’t spend this much time is such a bleak space. It is making me depressed, and this isn’t what I want from writing.

I get the feeling I would need to be in a super-happy place in my life to have the resilience required to write this novel, and something tells me that if I was fortunate enough to find myself in that place I wouldn’t want to write the novel. I really can see that there is a reason why I have only written dark short stories before. If you can’t close the door on the story with a ‘the end’ before you walk away from the computer, it follows you around.

So for the first time in two years I’m going to have to concede defeat; I’m quitting the novel. I have decided it is best for my mental health, and it is much better to make this decision two weeks into the project rather than two months (or more). It also leaves me quarter of the year to finish something else. And after the two weeks I’ve just had, I think it is going to be something fun.

It will be interesting to see how my outlook on the rest of my life changes (if at all) when I start spending my imaginary life in a better place. I think there might be a much bigger crossover between my two worlds than I realised. I’m still not sure what is crossing over which way though. I hope changing the fiction will change the fact. I can’t keep eating this much chocolate.

Adult pantser novel

I loved the process of creating my YA pantser* novel. I loved the abundant writing of it. I loved the wild unknown and the surprises it threw at me. It also terrified me. I had no idea how it was going to end, and at times I thought it wouldn’t.

As great as the full pantsing experience was, I was relieved when it was over. Since that novel I’ve written a novel and a several short stories that had elements of pantsing about them, but I knew how they all ended before I started them.

Another pantser novel has just started haunting me. I can see the opening. Every time my mind goes blank I see the opening. I’m living it, breathing it, feeling it, dreaming it. But I have no idea where it goes after the opening. It scares me.

Not only that, but I’m starting to see it everywhere. It’s like those moments when you spot the cute guy from the bus in the supermarket, or at the coffee shop when you don’t expect it, and you get that little flutter of excitement. Except the pantser novel doesn’t have the disappointing likelihood of actually having a wife and three kids at home. No, the pantser novel is all mine. For better or for worse.

I thought that if I ignored it that it might go away and find a bit more direction before coming back to me. But it refuses to leave. It is my last thought when I go to sleep and the first thought in the morning. I’m carrying it like a weight around my neck, and I know there is only one way I’ll be free of it.

I have to write it.

There are equal measures of dread and excitement about this prospect, but if I’m honest, the excitement is winning. I am so ready to throw myself completely into a new novel, and I think this one might be the one… for now. Wish me luck.

*Pantsing = writing by the seat of your pants without a plan, you only find out where the story is going when you write it.

Wham, bam, thank you spam

“Life, no end to this there will be bonded, finally, it will reach the heights of success. Love you could also gift your soul mate diamond…”

Yes, it is very nearly a coherent sentence, but doesn’t quite get there. This is a quote from one of my recent spammers. I get these sorts of things all the time and would dearly like to lift them and put them into a story. I read these little snippets and smile at the idea of a computer getting a chance to be creative. Okay, it doesn’t make sense, but sometimes it almost does.

Of course computers becoming sentient has been done to death, and done really well (Terminator is one of my favourite films of all time). It’s up there with meet the devil or win the lottery for ‘no more please’ stories. But that is like a red flag to a bull for me. I want to find a different angle and I’m sure if I keep reading my spam, I will see it there one day.

I have a terrible habit of setting my brain a subconscious task (yes, I know I’ve told you to work on the novel, but hey while we’re sleeping you have all that spare time on your lobes) and it almost always delivers. There is a magical Eureka! moment when the story, fully-formed, pops into my head.

So let’s see how long this one takes. The clock starts ticking today. Maybe the clock knows it’s ticking? Maybe there is no clock? Honestly, who would want to live in my head!?!

Top 10 writer things to do – finish a novel

Okay, so I’m assuming you want to be a novelist. Obviously if you love the short form or you write screenplays then this doesn’t apply to you. But if you are a novelist, then there is nothing that makes you feel more like an author than getting to the “The End” bit of a novel.

I’ve done it four times, and it is such a rush. The first three times I cried my eyes out when I finished. Not because bad stuff necessarily happened at the end, but just because it was the end. My time with those characters was over. They were now in the world, able to stand on their own feet and they didn’t need me anymore.

At least that’s how it feels at the time. Pretty soon they become like annoying family members who keep dropping around as you go through the editing process and watch the same scenes over and over again. Tweaking, re-tweaking and then totally re-writing.

When I tell people I write it is amazing how many of them say they too want to write. They then start telling me about the great idea they have for a novel. It’s incredible how many of them have not actually written a word of this novel. And that is, ultimately, what the difference is between a writer and a non-writer. Writers write, and get things finished.

Incidentally I think the only reason I didn’t cry on the last novel was because I knew it hadn’t worked, so it wasn’t really finished . That’s the novel I’m currently editing (very heavily). This time around I have connected with the characters so much more, so I’m confident there will be tears when I get to the end. Hopefully in the next fortnight or so.

Waiting… again

I know that one of the key things I need to learn in life is patience. I’m not good at being patient. I’m better than I was in the past, but I’m still a lot more impatient that I would like to be. Where I am both best and worst is with my writing.

When it comes to actually writing a novel, I no longer look at the long slog ahead with dread. I know that it is within my power to get it done and with a bit of patience I’ll get there. If anything my impatience works in my favour here because I want to get it finished fast.

Where I am falling down is waiting for responses. I’ve sent out 4 stories this year and haven’t heard back from any of them. For some I’ll have to guess this is a passive ‘No’, but for others I know that they are just really busy people who have a lot to get through. So I understand why they are taking so long, but it doesn’t stop me from checking my email multiple times a day, my heart in my throat each time. I really don’t like that character flaw in myself.

So I’m going to try diversion. I’m sure the fact I’ve only been working on short stories is why I’m getting focussed on the unimportant stuff. I think it is time to jump back into a novel. When I’m working on a novel I struggle to focus on work, so I’m sure I’ll be able to forget a few attempts at publication.

Now I just have to work out which story. I thought I had it worked out, but then the epigenetics novel kept asserting itself, which is usually a sign that the time is right to get it written. I might just have to be a little bit more patient with the novel I thought I was going to write. I know it will get done eventually.

Why YA novels?

Just in case you missed it, I had another PUBLICATION this week! It is an eco-horror tale and, as with most of my short fiction, it is aimed at an adult audience. Yet I have four completed novels and three of them are young adult. The next two that I’m planning are also YA – so why the different audience?

Nearly ten years ago, when I really first started writing seriously, I noticed a change in published speculative fiction. It started to get dark. Where previously a murder was mentioned or glossed over, the books now seemed to go into a lot of graphic detail. This was the same for intimacy scenes. Where once the door was closed, now it was open… wide open.

I know I might cop a lot of criticism over this, but I don’t like to write that. I don’t judge you if you like to read it, I just don’t want to. I know some of my stories, particularly the horror tales, get gory sometimes, but I like to think they never get gratuitous. I show as much as you need to get the picture. This idea doesn’t seem to sell adult books.

Young adult novels are exactly what the name suggests; aimed at young adults. This means I can write adult themes, deal with mature concepts, and (even better for me) I can mash-up genres BUT I can also get away with toning down the graphic bits. I’m not saying all YA novels are soft, there are a lot of very dark, very graphic YA stories, but publishers don’t demand it of you as a writer.

So I am happy to spend 60 or 70,000 words exploring my speculative theme with slightly younger protagonists than my short stories. I don’t feel like my wings are clipped at all. If anything I feel like I am able to take my writing wherever I want to go with a YA audience.

It was YA that first made me realise that novels could be just as entertaining as movies. I remember reading Lois Duncan for the first time and thinking to myself ‘this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’ It’s been a while since then, but I’m finally fulfilling that wish.

 

To break or not to break?

In the middle of October I started writing a novella and I finished the heavy edit on January 11th. What do I do now? I was spending at least 20 hours a week on this thing in December and January. Should I give myself some time off now?

With both the novels that I finished recently I think I may have burned myself out a bit, and I took a month off after each, but at less than 40,000 words the novella doesn’t feel like it has taxed me to the same degree. If anything I feel like it has revved me up! Not to mention that I’m working part time now, so that’s 16 hours of “work” time I’m not wasting at work each week.

I think jumping into another novel right now would be a mistake, and even a short story so hot on the heels of so much work might be pushing it… But I do know of a flash fiction call for subs which is closing in February. Maybe it is what I need to slow me down just enough to get ready to start the next big project?

I would like to find a way to sustain my writing throughout the year instead of doing several months of intense work and then a whole month of nothing. I might try this pacing thing out and see if it works.