Monday, 31 October 2011

Typing like crazy

I've been frantically typing up the first set of revisions to my MS in time for Peggy's NaNoReviMo but I fear I'm on a losing battle.
I'm close to finishing them, and this time I've done it in record time, but I will probably be a day late.
And, that bugs me.  I'll be a day behind even before I've started!
Then again, I haven't set a target yet.
Maybe I can use that as my first day's work.  Set a target of what I want to achieve. :o)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Second opinion

My son injured his wrist seven weeks ago in the first footy match of the season.  We spent 3 hours up at Casualty before they decided that he'd pulled the ligaments.  Being the goalkeeper, this meant that he couldn't play for six weeks.  He finally got to play again last weekend.
Yesterday, we got a call from the hospital.  They'd had another look at his x-ray and decided that he had a fracture, and could we bring him back, so that they could have another check, and make sure that it had healed properly.
Two hours later, they decided that it had healed as expected, and he is fine.

What I want to know, is why can't Lit Agencies behave like this.  How good would it be if they called me and said that they had made a mistake, and could they see my manuscript again, as they now realise that it's really good.

Well.... I can dream can't I?

Monday, 24 October 2011

New motivation

I now have 13 pages left to hack at (erm.. Edit) to complete my first revision of Odd Squad.
It's quite exciting getting this close, and knowing that I've made massive improvements already.
The problem is that they are just a mass of scribbles and crossings out on a hard copy.  I need to get them fed back into the pc, which is usually very slow and laborious.
This will no longer be a drudge after today.  Peggy has set up a NaNoReviMo.  Now I can't sit there and look at the piles of pages and think that I really should be doing something with them. :o)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Signs of improvement

I'm about two thirds of the way through my first edit of Odd Squad.
When I first started writing it, my main concern was to get the ideas down onto paper (ok, into Word), before they escaped from me.  I knew that it was going to be far from perfect.  That's what editing is for.
In between the writing, I was also doing a major re-write/edit on the previous MS (Ghost School). ((This will become relevant, I promise))
When I reached the halfway mark in my edit of Odd Squad, I started to notice that the text had been written in a more active style than the earlier bits.  It seems that the work on Ghost School to make it more 'Show not tell' had influenced the new project.  (See!  I told you it would be relevant.)  It still has many flaws, but it's rather nice to find evidence that I'm growing as a writer :o)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


My second writing group meeting went really well.  It seems that I didn't need to worry as much as I did.
The critiquing of their work was welcomed with smiles.  I noticed a few things in a couple of the pieces that had been missed by the others, and they commented on me being a fresh pair of eyes, and that as they knew each other's styles, it was easy to miss things.  One of the comments I raised opened up a whole new area of debate for five minutes.  It was quite a nice feeling, knowing that I was contributing to the group.
Another thing that eased my concerns about my comments on their work, was that even though I was very mindful that I was talking about something that was personal to them, it was face to face, and I could explain my comments without fear of them being misinterpreted.  It turned out to be fun, knowing that I was helping.
Then it came for my piece to be critiqued.
Bracing myself for a bit of a beating, they went round the table with their comments.
To my delight, it turned out to be nearly all good.  The ending left a few of them feeling cheated, and that they were expecting more, although, they understood that the word count restriction was responsible for the abrupt ending.  Next time, I should ignore the word count and let the full story come out.

Other comments (unprompted by me) touched on all of the elements of the story that I had tried to achieve.
The layout/structure of the test was good.
The start put the MC in the heart of the story, and pulled the reader in.
The dialogue was snappy.
The underlying tension slowly built through the story.
The internal conflict was strong enough.
The story was active, not passive, and they could see the emotions being played out.

The really good thing that I'm taking away from last night is that these are people, that when they received my copy of the homework, had only met me once for a couple of hours.  They were reading/reacting to my story on it's merit.  As I'm employing the same style to the edit on my MS, it appears that I am on the right track to producing something half decent.
If I smile gets any wider, it'll join at the back, and the top of my head will fall off.
It seems that I do have a small bit of writing ability after all.  :oD

Monday, 17 October 2011

Maybe I'm just mean.

During the past month, a handful of members of the writing group that I joined have been submitting their attempts at the homework.  I don't know how other groups work, and being new to this whole thing, I think that this group's aim aim is to critique the work that's been submitted so that the author can see the weaker areas, and going forwards, learn how to strengthen them.
Last month was the first meeting that I'd been to.  It was very friendly, and they seemed to take the critiques well.  I thought tthe task of critiquing would be fun.  You know, looking at their work, suggesting where it could be improved, and telling them where I thought it was strong.  It turns out to be a lot tougher than I realised!

The problem that I have, is that the work is personal.  They have obviously submitted their best efforts.  I found the stories entertaining, but could see where they needed work, and have penned a few notes to highlight this.

I'm now dreading tonight's meeting.  Am I being too harsh?  Did I not point out enough (or any) positives? Will they take it personally, seing as they don't really know me?

I am under no illusion that I will probably get a slating for my attempt at the homework, but I'm expecting that.  I know that I can use it to tighten my skillsets.  Hopefully they are of the same mind.

If I'm honest, I'm seriously considering saying that I didn't get time to review them.  :os

Friday, 14 October 2011

People watching

I know I still have to do a post for the Blog on Fire award that Abby so kindly gave me.  It's coming, honestly, I'm just struggling to find 7 interesting facts about me, other than I can't think of any facts :o|

In the mean time, here's this thought.

I've been doing a lot of people watching recently, and making notes, in the hope of improving my characterisations.
The main thing that I've noticed, is how much I took for granted how people behave, and how unobservant I was.  I can honestly say that this new past time as really opened my eyes.
Looking at people and asking hypothetical questions.
Why has that lady checked her hair and makeup for the fifth time in as many minutes?  Is she meeting someone?  If so, is it for the first time?  Just how nervous is she?
The guy two desks down from me who keeps nodding off.  What has he been doing to be that tired?  Do his colleagues know his secret, and that's why he gets away with it?  Or does he have a double life, and he's struggling to cope.

I know that all of you are streets ahead of me in this writing game, and will have already been doing this for ages.  Are there any observations that have stood out for you?

P.S. I just wanted to say congratulations to Peggy for getting her Agent representation.  It couldn't have happened to a nicer person :oD

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Just the tonic

You guys are amazing.  Every time I start having doubts about whether I'm cut out to be a proper author, or the task ahead seems too daunting, you always manage to offer words of encouragement that makes me realise that I'm not the only one who gets this mindset.

I've had another look at my MS today with fresh eyes, and now, it all seems clear.  I can still see the issues, but I can see that the changes are making it tighter.
I think that part of the cause was that when I write, it floods out, and I don't really concentrate too hard on it as it all seems to be formed and waiting to be typed.  I can see the progress very clearly.  The problem with editing, is that you are scrutinising every word, sentence, and paragraph.  It's slow going, and I lose sight of any reference points to what reads well.
Like I said.  You guys help me re-gain some perspective. :o)
I also received the Blog on Fire award from Abby.  I'll put the entry up for this tomorrow, it's a bit mad at the moment, and I can't think of 7 facts that are even remotely interesting.

Monday, 10 October 2011

An up hill struggle

For once, I found that I had some free time this weekend.  If you're like me, then free time is more rare than a rare thing that's really rare. (or something like that)
What to do with this spare time was a no brainer.  It's uninterrupted editing time. 
There were still things that cropped up which managed to interrupt the flow, but I managed to side step majority of these.  The main problem I had while editing, was that I could see the faults, but didn't really know if the changes I was making were making it any better.
Am I just re-writing the sentence in another passive way?  Is the story any stronger with the amendments?  The more I thought about this, the more the doubts crept in. 
In the end, I had to stop.
Maybe I just need to make the changes, and then look at them afterwards, and see how it reads then. 
Maybe I'll surprise myself.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Mental Credit Crunch?

I was in a conversation with a friend the other day, and he referred to someone as being 'intellectually bankrupt'.  Liking the phrase, I noted it down for future reference.
I can't seem to find a sensible plot path for the middle of my new book idea.  (Yes, I know that this appears to be a change in subject matter, but bear with me, the relevant bit is just coming up.) I have come to the conclusion that I must currently be Intellectually overdrawn. :o|

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Shocked and stunned.

I feel very honoured (and slightly mystified) to have been given a Blog Award by Erin.  Thank you!!!
I've only been blogging for a little over a month, and thought that these things were for the seasoned blogger who's 'been around the blog' a couple of times.
Looks like I'm going to have to find a virtual DIY shop so that I can get a virtual shelf to place it on :o)
The award rules are:
1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me. (Done. But think I'll do it again.  It's Erin Summerill)
2. Share seven random facts about myself.
3. Pass the award along to 5 newfound blogging buddies
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.
Oh blimey!  Seven facts… Ok, here goes:
1) I belong to an Amateur Drama Group.  We've just finished a small tour of  'Allo 'Allo. 
It's a wartime spoof set in France.  I played Herr Flick of the Gestapo.
2) I used to do trampolining competitions.  I can still do double somersaults with twists but I ache like hell the next day!
4) I received confirmation last week that I have a place in next years London Marathon.  Initially I was excited, but then I realised that I'll have to start training. (Where was number three?)
5) I first met my best friend when I was five years old on the first day of school.  I had an argument with the teacher about adding up numbers. ( I said I could do it, she said I couldn't and wanted me to add up pictures.)  The end result was that I was sent out of the classroom.  Bill was already out there, having been kicked out for some other offense.  We've been firm friends for the subsequent forty two years!
3) (Ah! Here it is!) I once made a crop circle in my friends lawn with his sit-on lawn mower.  It took two years to grow out.
6) I can say the longest place name in the world: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu
It was used in a song called The Lone Ranger, and it charted in the UK in the late seventies.  There was an interview with the singer, and he said it slowly.  I taped it, and learnt it.  My kids never tire of me saying it to their friends.  No, really!!
In case you are wondering, it's in New Zealand, and means: The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one.
7) I'm afraid of heights.  I mean really afraid.  It's a big relief that I'm not that tall, as I don't think I would cope very well.  Driving over bridges gives me the willies, and if I'm up a hill and I can't see the ground running all the way down (because of the brow of the hill gets in the way), then I get very cranky.
Now for the Five newfound blogging buddies (in no particular order):

1) So You're A Writer - I love Carrie's take on things.  She always does great posts.

2) Something To Write About - A fellow chocoholic.  Go check her site out. 

3) Get Bust Writing - Emily has some brilliant guest posts on Mondays.

4) Alexi Bass Writes About Writing - A great blog.  The Friday Five's are worth looking out for.

5) Will Write For Cookies - Peggy's posts always make me re-think things.  I always feel inspired after reading her latest posts.

I just want to say thank you all for making me feel very welcome and a part of the Blogsphere :o)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Editing order?

I’m always unsure what areas to tackle first when I start to editing my MS.  If I get it wrong, I’m probably going to be making more work for myself in the long run.
Do I tackle the obvious issues like perspective?  Should I tweak the plot? Look at the Active/passive sentence structure?
Maybe there isn’t a right way.  They are all going to have to be addressed at some point.
It feels like I should address any plot issues first, as this will involve re-writing portions of the story.  It seems daft to polish the prose, only to bin them for a piece that tightens the plot.
Do you have a way that works for you?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Reality Vs Iain: The fight back

You may recall my run in with reality, where it decided to make a point by showing that falling satellites don’t leave half a mile wide craters, and therefore can’t be used as a means of creating terror.
This left me with a problem with the plot of the new MS I was about to start.  You can imagine the scenario:-
Bad Guys : Do what we say, or we’ll crash satellites into your cities.
World Governments: No!  We’re issuing our townsfolk with hard hats, so there!
Bad Guys: Damn!
As you can see, it’d be a rather short story.
Reality 1 – Iain 0
Now for the good news, where I tell Reality to stop mucking me about, and go and pick on someone else’s plot. 
There are anti-satellite satellites.  Various military parties have looked into being able to take out satellites by parking their own satellite, which is packed full of explosives, next to their target and then blowing it up.  If the bad guys were to cause these to crash into a city, then I’m sure that there would be a mile wide crater. 
Reality 1 – Iain 1
The good bit is, that Reality can’t contradict me, as these are all top secret satellites, and officially don’t exist.
Reality 1 – Iain 2
After Reality had stuck its nose into my story and told me that I couldn’t use this idea, I was forced to start dreaming up a new idea.  I started brainstorming (ok, it was just storming) and I came up with a new outline for a book.  This means that I now have a sequel, and a follow on from that.
Reality 1 – Iain 3
I think it’s time to quit giving Reality a hard time now, before it decides to get its own back.
P.S. I apologise if it’s your plot that Reality has picked on instead.

Monday, 3 October 2011

It's good and bad.

I’m suffering from mixed emotions at the moment. 
I’ve started re-reading the first draft of Odd Squad that I completed the other week,
So far, barring a few minor tweaks, the plot is standing up to scrutinisation.  The peaks and troughs of the tension and emotional journeys are clear enough that the reader is being carried along the path.  So far there doesn’t seem to be too much that needs to be chopped out as being superfluous (with the exception of the first chapter, which starts in the wrong place.) 
The quality of writing, however, needs some major work.  There’s far too much passive text, and the perspective jumps from character to character like a moth in a room full of candles.
This is where the mixed emotions fit in:
The work required to tidy up the text is going to be long, slow and arduous.  It’s made me realise how far I still need to go to be able to turn out something that’s half decent.
On the other hand, I can see what needs to be done.  I’ve obviously learnt how to spot the issues, and have some idea what is required to improve it.