Red pen time

Actually using a red pen. On actual paper. It’s a thing.

Those of you who have been reading my weekly-ish posts (thank you), or those of you who are in the know, understand that this means one thing, and one thing only.

The Big Edit.

It’s always interesting (to me at any rate) how reading a book feels different when you are turning pages made from wood pulp rather than e-book pages. Don’t get me wrong, I have a Kindle and it has proved very useful, but my first love will always be a book in its physical form.

Editing a book when it’s in physical form also feels different. I’ve spotted typos or missing words that have passed me by countless times already. Ditto for sentences that have just been far too clunky or Frankensteined for my liking. Also, the flow is easier to pick up on (or the lack thereof). I initially started writing Anti-Virus on my commutes to and from work (remember when that was a thing?!), so it’s even more important to me that this stop-start rhythm is not embedded into my manuscript.

So far, so good. I’ve red-penned twenty something chapters so far (the content dictates the chapter length, so they’re short and snappy) and the flow feels good. My MC, Callie, feels like a real person who both delights and infuriates me, and the world in which she lives feels like now but heightened (and not for the better). It’s dystopia, what can I say? Her girlfriend, Jak, is shadowy, but there’s a reason for that. How can you know and love someone who’s never really there any more?

Have I used a lot of my pen’s red ink? Not so much. In addition to the tpyos etc described above, I’ve deleted a few paragraphs that were surplus to requirements, raised a few questions about consistency (is it traveller, or Traveller, is is Bio-Security or bio-security or even Bio Security, no hyphen, is it secret services or Secret Services, you know, that kind of thing). All fixable and none of it disastrous. To be fair, I’ve got forty or so chapters to go and it could all go Towering Inferno disaster movie wrong, but fingers crossed.

I feel like I’m getting somewhere. I’m not going to say anything like ‘2021 is my year’ because that’s tempting all the fates who have, quite frankly, been having a field day since 2020 and are showing limited signs of taking a well-earned rest so far.

But I am achieving. That’s all I need.

How about you?

Cloudy with a touch of dystopia

It’s a dull, cloudy, very chilly day here in Freya-land. I am somewhat envious of my friends and family who live further north than I (it wouldn’t be hard, I live on the south coast of the UK) and are currently experiencing snow. I can but hope that the clouds that I saw on my morning walk and the clouds that I still see from the window in front of me are full of snow, but I doubt it. They’re not the right kind of clouds, not pregnant enough with the possibility. Hey ho. I’d love to be proved wrong!

Over the past few days I’ve edited a short story that I wrote a few years ago, as part of my mission to submit shorter works to fiction magazines. It’s fascinating how, with some hindsight, you can so easily pinpoint the unnecessary parts, the odd repetition of words in neighbouring sentences, the turn of phrase that isn’t stylistically appropriate – the ‘mistakes’. I am going to pat myself on the back a little because this editing process hasn’t resulted in my inner critic telling me how rubbish I am, how I was an idiot to submit this story in the first place and so on, ad nauseam. What did happen was that I realised I had grown as a writer, that I am now able to cast an objective eye over past me’s work and be kind to myself. I’m not promising that I’ll always be able to respond in this adult manner, but I’ll take it for now. I’m currently in a good writing place.

And that takes me on to my next thought. Once I’ve re-read my novel Anti-Virus (which I have printed out on (recycled) paper) and once my beta reader has also followed up with her thoughts, I’m planning on sending it to a real, live editor. That will be… an experience. However, it is one that I am relishing. I don’t want my book baby to be unleashed without a professional eye cast over it. Of course, no book can be perfect and it will never be enjoyed by everyone that reads it, but I want to give it a decent chance, and an objective editor can go a long way to help with that.

2021 is going to be an interesting year, in many, many ways.

What do you have planned for the coming months? And what has your experience been of using professional editors? I’d love to know!

Picking up where I left off… ish

If you’ve ever dug around in my e-home here on Freya Writes, you’ll have noticed that there have been periods where I wrote a lot of poetry and flash fiction and generally took part in a fair few challenges that you can find in various places online.

I enjoyed them a great deal, but they ended up being the route towards what younger people than me like to call ‘burnout’. Dear reader, in some ways I’m a capitalist’s dream. Give me a thing to aim for, and I’ll turn it into an obligation for myself. And I’ll run myself ragged over it. And my inner critic will not hesitate to give me a hard time about ‘failure’. My inner headspace can be a truly unpleasant world to inhabit sometimes.

Anyway, the point of all this is to say that whilst I have been sorely tempted to take up some of these writing challenges again on a regular basis, I’ve resisted. Far, far better to dip in every now and again, have lower views on my blog/website than have my endorphins spiked with higher viewings but create obligations and burdens where there are none. I don’t need that in my life.

What I am doing though is something else that I also used to do, and had some success with. Entering writing competitions. For me, that is fun, gets the brain juices flowing (mmmm, brain juices, yummy!), has a potential reward at the end (publication, maybe even a small financial gift or a free critique, etc) and best of all, my mind perceives this endeavour as not being an obligation, a must do or else the world will end. It’s a win win, even if I don’t win.

I subscribe to Mslexia, the UK quarterly magazine committed to helping women writers progress and succeed. They have their own competitions as well as advertising other competitions or invitations to submit from around the world. I also subscribe to Woven Tale Press, an online literary and fine art magazine. It is also a ‘hub for writing and visual arts, bringing together notable artists and writers seeking to share their work more broadly with communities actively in quest of unique voices and compelling perspectives’. I’ve submitted a poem to Mslexia over the past few days, and I have ideas for a couple of competitions I’d like to enter, as well as some work I’m thinking of submitting to Woven Tale Press to see if they will include it in a future issue.

This is good. For me, this is progress. Perhaps 2020 will have been the year that I not only had time to learn some things about myself, but was also intelligent enough to take action on them.

Take care of yourselves. It’s been a rough old ride.