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!

Those plot holes

In this week’s instalment of my novel writing journey, I’m thinking about those annoying, wake-you-up-at-3am issues. You know, you’re happily writing away, (or in my case, editing) and something just feels a bit off. But you carry on anyway thinking ‘I can edit that later’. And then before you know it you’re wide awake, staring into the abyss, screaming inside your head.

Let’s set the scene. Your protagonist is doing their thing, tracking someone using their security services issue tracing device which is never to be used in anything other than an official capacity (but hey-ho, she’s doing that anyway), and then it all gets a bit shady and so you decide to highlight the paragraph, make a note in the sidebar and move on.

And then a few weeks later another scene links back to that first shady scene, but you decide to highlight the paragraph, make a note in the sidebar and move on. Because it’s not central to the plot, but is a wrinkle. And you can edit that later.

Repeat, until you have eight of those ‘edit that later’ moments.

Ladies and gents, that ‘edit that later’ time is now. Or rather, for me, it was yesterday. In my initial editing phase, I had still skipped gaily over those ‘edit that later’ highlights because, I could still ‘edit that later’. Here’s the back story. I had made an abortive attempt to completely edit my novel at the beginning of this year. And then Covid happened and everything was chaotic and well, you know. Everybody knows. So I stopped editing and put it all to once side until the last day of August.

So where I am now in my super-charged editing phase is that I am in the final third of my manuscript and I haven’t read this part of my novel with an editing hat on since the end of last year. I don’t know about you, but my memories of the previous year are generally really rather vague, even more so now because, well, 2020. Anyway, on Thursday evening another scene popped up, linked to the earlier eight scenes up above and you guessed it, I had, when I first wrote it, highlighted the paragraph, made a note in the sidebar and moved on.

You might be shaking your head by now, quite possibly rolling your eyes so loudly that I can hear you (yes, I can hear you). Well, nobody is perfect, especially me, although I am making an attempt to be better because… I fixed all of these plot holes yesterday in a four hour stint of get your head down serious work. By the time I had reached the final stage of my normal back-up process (save on laptop (and therefore the cloud), save on pen drive, save on Time Machine external hard drive), I felt accomplished. One small step for Freya, one giant leap for Anti-Virus.

Perhaps I could have gone about this in a more efficient way. Perhaps I could have been more of a planner, less of of a pantser*. I’m pretty certain that I’m in that hybrid plantser category – you know, plan a bit and wing the rest of it. My novel started out as a germ of an idea entirely focused on a dis-United Kingdom scrabbling over water and other environmental resources in a climate change situation. That was a long, long time ago. It has evolved. It still does consider the human impact on our planet, it still is set in a dis-United Kingdom (and good heavens I really hope I’m not foreshadowing the future in too much detail), but it is very different from the ‘worthy’ nature of its beginnings and is firmly dystopian because that’s my bread, butter and jam. So, plantser. (I still have the initial handwritten notes I made about this, so I have the proof that I did plan, well, something).

I’m feeling good about where I am with Anti-Virus. Even if it is going to wake me up at 3am again (it probably will). Onwards and upwards!

*For those not in the know, ‘pantser’ as in fly by the seat of your pants. Planning and pantsing is a hot discussion topic in the writing community!