Sunday, 20 February 2011


I'm close to completing the re-draft of chapter seven, the end of which sees the characters embark on the next stage of their journey.  There is a shift in location and tone.  So the decision I am faced with is whether to call a halt at this point and review the first seven chapters, or to press on with the story.

I don't particularly like the idea of going back, but it could be beneficial to check at this stage for any holes in the plot, characters doing things that don't fit, relationships that don't click, and so on.  No major re-write, more a re-familiarisation with the text.  And maybe i could write an updated synopsis for the story so far.

But it could be detrimental to the writing process.  It could act as a barrier against any natural evolution of the story.  If the first seven chapters become something fixed - in the can, so to speak - then what room is there for development in the latter stages of the story?

Writing is re-writing.  That statement is so true.  I can already see the improvements in plot, character and narrative compared to the now rather shaky first draft. But how far do you go?  Until it's ready?  And how do you know when it's ready?  Will it ever be ready in the eyes of the author?  It is a craft, like Carpentry, though wheras the Carpenter has a design to work to; a chair, a table, objects that have fixed form and recognisable geometery, the author is working from an idea.  He or she must shape it as they see fit; writing and re-writing, adding and taking away until it feels right.  Knowing when to stop is a skill in itself.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


I've changed the settings so that anybody can leave a comment on my blog now, not just registered users.  Please let me know what you think, or post any questions, thoughts, feelings, observations.  How are you all getting on with your own particular projects?

Look forward to hearing from you!

Normal Service Resumed

What a contrast to last week-end!

All back to normal now, or as normal as it gets when you're attempting to write something worthy of publication.  As i briefly mentioned last time out, i'm going to overshoot my rather ambitious deadline.  What was it i said about being realistic?  So i've decided to follow my own advice and have nominated May as the month of second draft completion.  (To be reviewed mid-April!)

I have, however, reached a significant milestone today.  I am, in terms of word count, a quater of the way through draft two.  I must admit, i thought it would be easier than it has been.  I was happy that my story was in pretty good shape.  I mean it was, is a good story with beginning, middle and end, however i have caught one or two of the main characters doing things without any real purpose or motivation.  In places nothing but the gusting wind is pushing the story along, and in questioning everything that my characters are doing they have revealed hidden qualities.  This has meant that most of the chapters have required wholesale changes and thorough re-writes.  Of the twenty-two and a half-ish thousand words that draft two currently stands at, about two thousand of them have survived from the original draft.  That's approximately ten percent.  On that basis, of the remaining sixty-seven and a half thousand words, roughly sixty thousand of them will be brand new.  Yikes!

But it's better to be honest and upfront about these things.  There's nothing to be gained from burying one's head in the sand.  It's going to be tough, and it's going to take time and perseverence, but the ultimate goal is to produce a piece of writing worthy of publication.  Something that people will want to buy.  It was never going to be easy.

I bought a book recently, the Writer's and Artist's Yearbook Guide to Getting Published by Harry Bingham.  Harry has authored five novels and two non-fiction titles and is the MD of the Writer's Workshop, which is the UK's leading editorial consultancy.  It's a very honest and realistic book that pulls no punches.  I'll admit i read some sections and felt a bit depressed.  The opportunities out there are few and far between; the financial reward often meagre, but that is offset against the sense of achievement of being published, of having people read and enjoy your work.  If anything the opening passages of the book remind you why you wanted to be a writer in the first place:  Because you love to write, of course!

So far i've only read the section on preparing a manuscript for submission to an Agent.  It offers a lot of really sound, common sense advice on covering letters, the synopsis and manuscript formatting.  It is interspersed with advice from Publishers, Agents, PR consultants, and even a Reader for Conville and Walsh who chillingly refers to himself as The Gatekeeper.  I fully recommmed this guide to anybody who is serious about getting published.  The ISBN is 978-1-4081-2895-4. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

And then...

A happy resolution!  Jess is back, we've found her, and our world has turned again.  Despair has turned to elation.  Searching has turned to fussing and stroking.  Worry has turned to relief.  Flash, bang, no warning, barely a chance to draw breath.  That's life, and life is the greatest drama of all!

So it's situation normal and we can get back to the process of writing.  I'm working on chapter 5 right now.  My end of February deadline is out of the window.  Reality bites back.  The new deadline is the beginning of May. 

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Missing Cat

A terrible thing happened yesterday afternoon.  We took our cat, a beautiful black Burmese, to the local vets for some innoculations and to be micro-chipped, so if she was ever lost she could be traced back to us.  It was all going so well.  She behaved herself in the vets, she didn't make a fuss.  And then as I was taking her back to the car tragedy struck.  The front of the carry cage came loose and she bolted along the road and into somebody's garden.

We spent the afternoon searching.  We printed 'Missing' posters.  We went from house to house in the immediate vicinity, talking to the neighbours, calling her name, rattling bags of her favourite treats.  We were out doing the same thing this morning.  People in the neighbourhood have been really kind.  They've spoken to one another, they've passed on our details, they've given us hope of finding her.  One gentleman phoned us this lunch time.  He had a cat in his garden matching her description.  But when we got there she had moved on.  So close.  Such hope and expectation.

I know this is a blog about the process of writing, and i know i promised to keep it that way, but what i wanted to share from this experience is how suddenly the world can turn.  One second i was happy and proud carrying her back to the car.  The very next second she was streaking away down the road.  The last i saw of her.

Tragedy happens in a heartbeat.  There is no warning, no build up of tension.  It grabs you and it holds onto you until there is a resolution.  You can't take a break or step outside of its sphere.  It fills your entire world.  We are in its grip right now and the world won't turn again until we find her.  For now we will jump at the phantoms that open and shut the cat flap, we will dash for the phone everytime it rings, and we will dream at night that we have found her.

I hope by my next post that we will have a happy resolution.

Her name is Jess.