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!

Decay

As I mentioned last week, the editing process for my work in progress novel came to a halt round about the beginning of lockdown here in the UK. I know I’m not alone in suddenly feeling like I just couldn’t be creative, at least not in a literary way.

I felt like the words had been sucked out of me, also not uncommon in what is now known as ‘these unprecedented times’. However, peculiar to my novel was the oh so ironic title of…

ANTI-VIRUS

Now, whilst my novel is set in the UK and takes place in a pandemic-type setting, the central plot isn’t about the pandemic itself (not really), nor is it about finding a cure (well, maybe it is), nor is about the heroic survival of a selection of characters against the odds (although perhaps it is). There is jeopardy, there is intrigue, there are twists and turns and characters who turn out to be, well, wrong in the head, but

IT’S NOT ABOUT A PANDEMIC! (EVEN THOUGH IT IS, KIND OF)

Sorry for shouting. It’s just that I had to do this to myself (in my head, I don’t actually shout at myself) in order not to let my novel shrivel up and die and become a largely insignificant – in the grand scheme of things – casualty of 2020. As you can probably tell, it’s complicated. I just didn’t have the energy to explain it back in March, April, May when things were really bad here (although not Anti-Virus bad).

That, dear reader, saved my novel, or at least meant that I felt connected enough to return to my literary offspring before the end of the year. It also meant that my pandemic era, government-approved, one hour walks turned into treasure hunts – if you consider treasure to be sinister, ugly broken things that are menacing in monochrome. Luckily I do. Also luckily I live in a city where there are pockets of these places tucked away, if you look hard enough. I am nosey and curious, so I have found them. I also found a new source this morning, a full seven months later, which pleases me immensely.

I know that this post is somewhat a reiteration of last week’s, but it’s important to me. I look to my left and I can see that I have increased my word count in the editing process. That, in this case, is a good thing. I mostly wrote Anti-Virus on my commutes to and from work, so in hour long snippets. This meant the writing was quite spare and my chapters were more like scenes – in-fact it read a bit like a screenplay. The extra 10,000 words (so far) are contextual so that there is more description of the world in which my characters exist. Not so much that there’s no room for imagination, but enough so that it doesn’t read as if everything is happening in an empty space.

I’M EXCITED!

Next week I’ll move on from the ‘thank God I didn’t let my novel die’ phase. But I’ll still be hunting for more photographic treasure, you can be sure of that!