Tag Archives: Emmeline and the Ice-God

Is This Progress? It Sure Don’t *Feel* Like Progress…

Emmeline in all her papery glory.

Emmeline in all her papery glory!

The other day, I did the writers’ equivalent of a workout, which basically amounts to running up and down the stairs every few minutes to grab the sheets of paper being spat out by a (groaning and overworked) printer. It took a while to print all of ‘Emmeline’, especially considering I did it in batches of 25 pages so as not to burn out the printer’s motor (later rising to 30 when impatience overwhelmed me), and there are 260 pages in total.

Two Hundred and Sixty Pages. Almost 75,000 words. Sometimes I worry that the book is still on the long side considering it’s upper Middle Grade (or 9-12, depending on how you like to refer to your children’s book age ranges), but I reckon worrying about making it the best I can is more important than worrying about word count. I hope the story is good enough to carry the reader through; I hope, after twelve edits, that the book is as lean and perfectly formed as I’m going to get it.

But just in case it isn’t, I’m going through it one more time. Hence, the printout.

It really is true that editing on paper is helpful, particularly if the past few editing runs have been on-screen. Your eye treats printed material differently to material on a computer screen, and if something appears new, you can fool yourself into reading it as though it actually was. Some writers like to mix things up with different fonts, different sizes or colours of lettering, on different passes of edits, but I find that a bit of a distraction (plus, as a font nerd, I tend to get more enthusiastic about the individual letters than the words they’re forming, which can be a bit of a hassle). Everyone has to find a system that works for them, I suppose. I find I like to do as many passes of edits on screen as possible before I print, mainly because I hate wasting paper and toner and so this way I feel like I’m giving the environment a fighting chance as well as trying to produce my best work. I’m not sure – because the various passes fade into memory, at this stage – how many times I’ve printed ‘Emmeline’ already, but I don’t like to think about it too much for fear of making my inner hippie weep. I guess that’s why we also have a shredder and a paper recycling bin, right? Gaia will forgive me. (I hope).

But it’s also true that, at this stage, when every tiny pore and cranny and wrinkle of this book is as familiar to me as the ones in my own face, that the idea of tackling it again holds very little appeal. I know that each edit is helpful (and, hopefully, it’ll spare me pain down the line), and that each edit will, with any luck, make my book more ‘saleable’, or whatever the marketing term is, and that – most importantly of all – each edit makes my book better, and closer to the dream I had when I started it, but still. I wrote it. I’ve edited it, over and over. Beginning another edit doesn’t really feel like progress – it feels like being stuck in the mire, like dying in a computer game and being dumped back at Level One to start again from scratch. My schedule has been off for the past few weeks (because life, you know?) and I’ve used that as an excuse not to begin the reading process. ‘I’ve got other things on my mind,’ I tell myself; ‘I can’t bring my best focus to this work, right now.’ There’s some truth in that, but I know I could knuckle down if I really tried. Next week, however, things should start to settle down again and my excuses will fizzle to an early death – and my handsome printout will still be sitting here on my desk, tapping its metaphorical nails, raising its impatient eyebrow at me and going ‘Well? Are we going to get this done, or what?’

We’ll get it done. I know myself well enough to know that when I start, I’ll bring an unrelenting focus to the task. It’s just getting up the motivation – and the courage – to begin which causes the problem. Every edit is one step closer to sending the book back to my agent. Every edit is one step closer to (maybe) getting the phonecall which says ‘There’s a publisher interested…’ Every edit is one step closer to seeing my book on a shelf, and holding it in my hands – if I’m lucky beyond all my deserving.

And all that is amazing, and a dream. It’s also scary as heck.

But I’ll get it done.

Just not today.

 

The Joy of Words

Well, last week had this in it.

Image: v8.en.memegenerator.net

Image: v8.en.memegenerator.net

For the unclickables among you, I’ll paraphrase the article I’ve linked to above: in essence, a new app is in development which allows people to read at speeds of up to 500 words per minute, mainly due to the fact that you don’t need to move your eyes at all. The app flashes the words in front of you, with one letter highlighted in red (apparently, just at the optimum point in the word for your brain to recognise and process it without even realising it’s doing so), and your eyes remain steady throughout. All you need to do is look at the red letter, and you read the word automatically.

Image: financialanalystwarrior.com

Image: financialanalystwarrior.com

Yeah. I’m with yonder sceptical dog.

The article I’ve linked to has a trial run of the app (called Spritz), and you can see what I’m talking about for yourself. You can also give it a go, and see how it makes you feel. For me, when I got to the 500 words per minute section, I have to admit the letters were zipping by so fast that I did miss a word or two every so often; my brain put together the sense of the sentence, all the same, but it actually felt like more work, to me, than ‘ordinary’ reading. It also made me feel like I’d just stepped off one of these:

Image: zuzutop.com

Image: zuzutop.com

More than that, though, it made me feel a bit sad. Has it come to this, that we’re living in a world where reading is seen as just another chore, something else to plough through at top speed so that we can get back to playing Candy Crush Saga?

I don’t know. Perhaps the app is intended for people who have to read long technical documents, or complicated legal rulings, or government papers, or something like that. I don’t deny the science behind it; certainly, it worked, exactly as it said it would. But it sucked every droplet of joy out of the act of reading, and I think that’s a retrograde step. There was no time to pause, to reflect, to luxuriate in a beautifully constructed sentence; there was no time to appreciate the skill with which the words were laced together. It was like sitting down before a gorgeous meal, prepared with love and care and painstaking effort, and just tipping the whole lot down your neck, oyster-fashion. Not only will you not enjoy the food, but you won’t enjoy the act of eating, either – the two are closely linked.

A lot like the joy of words, and the act of reading. Just in case you didn’t get the metaphor.

Then, I’m speaking as a person who reads quickly anyway, and who enjoys fluency with words. I’m aware that not everyone is like me, and perhaps this app will help some readers who find it hard to get through longer documents; if it’s useful to someone, then it’s to be welcomed, of course. But, to me, reading (for leisure, that is) should be a pleasant and immersive experience, taken at your own pace – whatever that pace may be. It should allow you time for thought and absorption, time to enjoy the words as well as the content.

Or, maybe it’s just my inner technophobe rising to the fore again.

Image: somedesignblog.com

Image: somedesignblog.com

Anyway.

As well as learning about Spritzing, last week was a word-filled one for me in other ways. I spent it glued to the computer going through ‘Emmeline’, making a concerted push to edit it, and repolish it, and finally reach a point where I can say: ‘Yes. This book is ready.’ It had already had five edits before I even began this process, but as late as Friday I was going through it and still seeing extraneous words, unclear descriptions, frankly stupid continuity errors and places where the dialogue could have been sharpened.

It just goes to show that an editor’s job is never done. However, a writer’s job is to get their work to a point where they can say they’ve done their best, and then let their words go. That, friends, is the challenge facing me this week.

Today is the day I start to submit ‘Emmeline.’

Quite. Image: athenna.com

Quite.
Image: athenna.com

I am proud of my work, and I don’t think it’s wrong to say so. I am happy with ‘Emmeline’, I am glad to have written it, I love my characters and I think the story is enjoyable. Now, we’ll see what the publishing industry thinks of it, and I’ll report back to you when I have more information.

If you never hear from me again, you’ll know what happened.

 

 

The Blog Tour Q&A

A hundred thousand welcomes!

This morning, I have the inestimable pleasure of taking part in a blog tour; the ever-wonderful and marvellously talented Susan Lanigan (whose novel, ‘White Feathers’, will be published later this year, book fans), has nominated me to carry on the Q&A torch. So, here I go.

Image: researchvoodoo.com

Image: researchvoodoo.com

Since I have nothing like as cool as an upcoming book to talk about, I’ll have to answer the questions based on my two most active WiPs; technically, I’m working on both of them at the moment. So, it’s not really breaking the rules. Right?

What am I working on?

The first of my current Works-in-Progress, ‘Eldritch’, is a book which I had thought was finished and done with several months ago. However, it would appear not. A very kind and generous agent-person, who shall remain nameless, gave me some wonderfully useful and constructive feedback on the book a while back which – unfortunately, in a way – necessitated the total deconstruction of the story and the story world, and its rebuilding almost from scratch. The characters stayed the same, and the basic plot, but everything else – narrative voice, motivation, stakes (i.e. what’s at risk if the heroes don’t succeed), structure and scope had to be reimagined.

Invigorating work.

Image: superstock.com

Image: superstock.com

‘Eldritch’ is about a boy named Jeff who, on the day he turns thirteen, receives a strange gift from an uncle he’s never heard of before. But the gift is no ordinary one: it is a deeply powerful object, designed (or so Jeff is told) to test whether or not he has inherited the magic that runs in his family – but does his uncle have a larger and more sinister motive? (Spoiler alert: yes.)

My other Work-in-Progress is one that should be familiar to anyone who’s been hanging around here for any length of time. It’s going under the name ‘Emmeline and the Ice-God’, but that’s only a holding title, so so speak. It grew out of my NaNoWriMo project in November 2013 and was completed in January 2014. I have edited, polished and buffed this one several times, and it’s lurking at the corners of my mind, giving me no peace whatsoever. It’s my intention to start submitting it in earnest in (probably) March, if my nerve holds until then.

‘Emmeline’ is the story of an odd little girl who, when her parents are kidnapped, is sent immediately to live with strangers. On the way to her new life she meets an odd little boy with no name, calling himself ‘Thing’, who doesn’t know his own age or anything about his past. They become sort-of friends, despite Emmeline’s misgivings, and he helps her to escape from a dangerous situation. Before they’ve even caught their breaths after this scary encounter, however, Emmeline is abducted by a gang of strange and frightening men. Thing, with the help of a group of people calling themselves ‘The White Flower’, who seem to know a lot about Emmeline and her family, sets off after her… But who has taken her, and why?

And what is the secret of Thing’s past?

*cue dramatic music*

So, yeah. That’s where I’m at. Besides trying to prepare stuff for competitions and magazine submissions, and stuff. Never a dull moment.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well – it’s mine. Isn’t that enough? I write children’s books (or, at least, it’s my ambition to write children’s books, ones which are publishable and enjoyable and which will be read and loved), and they all have elements in common – a child protagonist in a world (usually) devoid of parental-figures, for whatever reason; an unsettling challenge or a frightening adventure; things are learned about oneself and the world along the way; friendship is put to the test; monsters are encountered and dealt with – and my books are no different from this tried-and-tested model.

I’d like to think my characters make my work different from other books in their genre, perhaps. I like to write dialogue, and I like to write with humour, and I hope that makes my work memorable. I’m interested in writing about children who are a bit strange, even eccentric, because those are the sort of books I loved to read as a kid.

In fact, I might as well come clean. Those are the sort of books I love to read now, too.

How does my writing process work?

Through panic, mainly. Panic, and my all-consuming fear of failure.

Things that work in my favour: I am good at imposing deadlines on myself, and meeting them, and I am a goal-oriented type. What that means in practice is I can’t let myself shut off of an evening unless I’ve made a particular word-count or hit a particular point in the text, or whatever. Not always a good thing, from a peace of mind point of view, but it’s good for the old self-motivation.

Usually, I plot things out to the nth degree – I didn’t with ‘Emmeline’, and it worked wonderfully, so I will try that again for my next project – and I like to have a sense of the characters before I begin, so I sometimes jot down biographies and motivations and the places in the plot where a certain character’s actions will intersect with another’s, and what effects that’s likely to have, and so on. I like to have an idea of how the book will end before I begin, but I don’t always manage that.

I tend to write careful, self-edited first drafts which are massively overlong. I then make at least two on-screen edits, looking for inconsistencies and errors and repetition (the ‘Find’ function in Word is my best friend), and when I’ve done this I let the work sit for a while. Then, it’s time to print and take the whole book apart with scribbled corrections, which I really enjoy. Then, after another period of percolation, I go over the book on the computer screen again, looking to cut words wherever possible; anything which isn’t utterly necessary is junked. Then it gets left to sit, again, and checked over once more (possibly in print) before the submission process begins.

So, that’s me.

I figure passing on the baton is part of this whole process, so – if she’s willing – I’d like to tag the fabulous E. R. Murray to answer these questions, too.

And finally – thank you, Susan, for considering me worthy of the Blog Tour Torch!

Image: friday-ad.co.uk

Image: friday-ad.co.uk

 

 

 

The Coldness of the Mind

Last night, I had a dream in which the whole world was iced over. I looked out my front door and a creeping, crackling pattern, like grasping pale fingers, was coming right for me. It had spread its way across the green, where there were no children playing, and made me feel like an ant crawling across the face of an iceberg. I slammed the front door shut, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the grey-blue ice, hard as steel, wormed its way in around the hinges and through any gap it could find.

It wasn’t a pleasant dream.

I’ve been thinking about ice a lot lately (due, of course, to the setting of ‘Emmeline’), and that’s probably why my mind went to a cold, dark place when I was lost in dreams. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that ice – at least, the sort of ice we get here, the dark insidious kind, the kind which no footwear can outsmart – is one of my biggest fears. This winter, however, my little island has been battered by Atlantic storms instead of Arctic vortexes, which is equally dreadful; most of the south of Ireland is underwater at the moment.

Flooding on Wandesford Quay in Cork City. Photo by Darragh McSweeney. Image sourced: rte.ie

Flooding on Wandesford Quay in Cork City. Photo by Darragh McSweeney.
Image sourced: rte.ie

So many people have lost everything – businesses, homes, property – and so many of them can’t purchase insurance, due to where they live being prone to flooding. Sometimes I don’t understand the world. Surely people who live in places like that need more help, rather than less?

Am I the crazy one? Wait – don’t answer that.

I have been out of sorts this week. My head is distracted, my thoughts are ragged, my energy levels are through the floor. ‘Emmeline’ is sitting beside me, not-so-neatly printed and annotated, from last week’s editing sessions; I have three or four small changes to make before I’ll be ready to leave it to percolate for a while. Then, once I’ve checked it again post-percolation, it will be ready to send out into the world. I hope to get to those final edits today, and then it’ll be on to the next thing.

Oh, and I may not have mentioned this before, but – last week on Twitter I noticed an author excitedly promoting their newly published book which not only had the same title as one I had been planning, but took as its central plot motif something which I had come up with in the middle of last year, and which I was quite excited about. This, surely, has to be something nobody’s ever thought of before, I told myself at the time. This is interesting and unusual and could turn out to be something great! Little did I know that the other author was probably doing their final edits on their book at that stage. So, that was another of those bittersweet moments where you realise you’re having good ideas, but just not quickly enough. Of course I’ll be interested to read this other book when it’s published, and I wish its author well. However, I really hope this ‘idea duplication’ thing stops happening to me, one of these years.

Anyway. My mind feels gripped with a cold hand this week. I hope it relaxes its hold soon, because I have a lot of work to get to. I have another idea I want to flesh out, and I want to revisit ‘Eldritch’ and try to do a rewrite, and I need to start picking up with my submissions to competitions and magazines, because I’ve completely let that slide over the past few months.

I think I need a calendar, and an action plan, and someone to tell me to pace myself… Or maybe just a holiday.

Dragon boat racing in Hong Kong - rowing to the beat of a drum sounds like just the ticket! Image: dailymail.co.uk

Dragon boat racing in Hong Kong – rowing to the beat of a drum sounds like just the ticket!
Image: dailymail.co.uk

Have a good Thursday, one and all.

Line by Line

As a girl, one of the eternal truths I learned (along with ‘other people care a lot less than you’d imagine about your life,’ and ‘tears are very rarely worth it’) was ‘If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well – and, that usually means it’s going to take forever and drive you ’round the twist.’

Well, quite.

You’ll be pleased, perhaps, to know that editing continues apace on ‘Emmeline.’ It’s, at once, the most dreary and the most exciting thing imaginable. It’s great to feel the book taking shape under my hands, and it almost feels cathartic to slash and burn my way through stupid sentences and pointless description and continuity errors that would be embarrassing if anyone else had a chance to read them, and I’m really enjoying the act of indulging my inner pedant.

But, as well as that, it’s hard. It’s hard work. There’s no way around it.

Image: cutestpaw.com

Image: cutestpaw.com

One of the most useful things that editing on paper does is it forces you to read your work as though it was already a book. I know that sounds a bit ‘out there,’ and perhaps it is, but that’s how it works for me, at least. Reading on-screen feels a little informal; it makes my brain think I’m reading a Work-in-Progress, where errors don’t really matter too much. When I’m reading on a screen, my work is in a permanent ‘holding area’ where nothing needs to be finalised or corrected because, on some level, you’re always thinking: ‘there’ll be another draft after this. If I miss something, no big deal.’

Printing out your work and going through it with a pen makes you realise – this is a big deal. Printing makes it more permanent. Printing means investment, of time and effort and money, and that fools you into taking it more seriously. Printing something reminds you that there is an end-game in sight; this is what you’re aiming for. You’re shooting for a day when your words will be down on paper, permanently, like the ‘ever-fixéd mark’.

Even if – as it does for me, right now – it feels so far away that it’ll never be a reality, you have to keep heading for that permanence. You have to keep believing that every tweak, every removed comma, every excised sentence, every smoothed-over paragraph, every cliché bopped on the head is bringing you closer to that goal.

Image: picturesof.net

Image: picturesof.net

Editing requires hard work. Writing the book requires hard work, of course, but somehow editing takes a different sort of effort. Writing the book can feel a bit like freewheeling – you feel a certain wild joy as you put something together for the first time, and as you watch an idea that you’ve nurtured and grown finally take shape. Getting to the end takes huge effort, and sometimes – when you’ve struggled over the line – you feel like the work of bringing forth the idea is done.

Except it isn’t. It’s only beginning.

Just like you can’t bake a lump of dough whole if you’re trying to make perfectly shaped cookies, or thinly-rolled pastry, you can’t deliver a freshly slapped-together book to a reader and expect them to be able to digest it. The ingredients are all there, present and correct and in the appropriate quantities, but it’s just not right. It needs shaping and refining and – crucially – it needs the unnecessary bits trimmed away. ‘Emmeline’ was full of errors in its first draft – the character wearing a dress in one scene, and trousers in another; Thing’s eyes were green in one chapter and brown in another (this is so common as to be embarrassing); characters were short and stumpy in one chapter and tall and willowy in another – and that sort of thing is bound to cause dyspepsia when it’s read. It’s depressing to read other books where the idea is there – the ingredients are all used, and used well – but the finishing hasn’t been done to quite the right extent. It makes me more determined to make my own work as sleek as possible, as well-formed as I can, before it is sent anywhere. I don’t always succeed – I am, needless to say, still learning the ropes – but it’s something to aim for.

Luckily, as I’ve read further and further into ‘Emmeline’ (I’m now just over halfway through, again), I’m spotting fewer and fewer basic errors. I’ve stopped mixing up eye colour and appearances, and Emmeline’s clothing has decided what it wants to be. This means that I can pay even closer attention to the plot, in particular those parts where my eye skips or my brain turns off, because those are the parts which need the most work. If you find yourself skimming over any part of your writing, then it’s vital to force yourself to go back over it in forensic detail. Perhaps you’ve tried to patch over a major plot hole in such an awkward way that you don’t want to deal with it, or perhaps it’s just that your story sags at that point, becoming turgid. Either way, it can’t be allowed to remain unchecked. It’s as difficult a thing as anything I’ve ever done, this ‘forcing myself’ to go back over my own work when something in me really doesn’t want to – it makes me feel like I have a stroppy teenager in my brain, refusing to clean up their room.

But just as a teenager can be coaxed, so can your brain. Changing up your working environment always helps me; something as simple as burning a nicely scented candle or making a cup of coffee can work wonders. Reminding yourself how great it’ll feel when the work is done is also a help, sometimes. Taking a break and getting some fresh air is also vital.

But the most vital bit of all is never giving up. Hitting ‘print,’ taking up the pen, turning on the critical brain, and understanding that, with every correction, you’re bringing yourself one step closer to your goal is the most important thing you can do – and not just once, but day after day after day until you’re done.

So, like I said. At once the most exciting, and the most dreary thing imaginable. But, like anything that’s important, it’s absolutely worth it.

Image: menaulhead.wordpress.com Artist: Kevin Spear, 2009; kevinspear.com

Image: menaulhead.wordpress.com
Artist: Kevin Spear, 2009; kevinspear.com

 

 

Friday Befrazzlement

This morning’s missive comes to you from a person who has been trying to put together a flash fiction piece for the past three hours, and who is starting to foam a little at the mouth.

So, here’s the deal. I have to create a story between 140 and 160 words, based around a picture prompt and a word prompt, and I feel like the proverbial camel going through the eye of the needle. My brain has a story in it, but it would take an entire novel to tell it properly, so getting it down to a teeny-tiny tale is proving (almost) too much for me. I am definitely feeling the Friday frazzle, and I have an idea that today is going to be a challenge.

My head is tired. My shoulder aches. My eyes are blurred. Writing is a hazardous endeavour, don’t you know?

Image: skybackpacking.com

Almost *exactly* like this… Image: skybackpacking.com

So, it’s been a busy few days for me. This past week, I edited ‘Emmeline’ on-screen. I thought things had gone pretty well; I’d managed to take a huge chunk out of my wordcount, bringing it down to a far more reasonable level. The book had seemed reasonably strong, and I felt I had a good, stable base to build draft 2 upon.

However, then I also started the process wherein I print out my work, in order to take a pen to it and slash it into ribbons. As before, I have been amazed by the difference between looking at a text on a computer screen and seeing it, in the flesh, in front of you; errors that I just didn’t see when I was writing the book, and even during the first editing go-round, leapt out from the printed page. I found myself drawing lines through whole paragraphs of carefully-worded text, excising them without a twinge of conscience – but it’s so much easier to do that than hit the ‘Delete’ button. Watching your hard work disappear into oblivion before your very eyes is a lot more difficult than just scribbling over your printed text. At least your words still exist, after a fashion, beneath the scribble, but when you hit ‘delete’, well. They’re gone forever.

The short of it is this. Draft 1 was all right, but not as strong as I’d thought. Draft 2 has, hopefully, started to spot all the stupid mistakes and the mindless repetition and the poor word choices and the clunky dialogue and the idiotic descriptions, and here’s hoping Draft 3 doesn’t see me putting them all back in again.

The process has been excruciatingly, painfully slow, though – I’ve only got as far as page 53 – and I hope this means that I’m doing a good job. I just want this book (complete with a shiny new name, which I’m keeping under wraps for now) ready for querying as soon as humanly possible, so that I can move on to my next project, which is already butting at the back of my brain. Such is the never-ending conveyor belt of life, isn’t it – just as you’re trying to finish one job to the best of your ability, along comes something else which needs your urgent attention. Oy vey.

Anyway.

Today, I need to take care of some writerly stuff, but also lots of non-writerly stuff, such as taking myself off for a long draught of fresh air, and doing some stretches, and remembering what life is like outside of my office. I may even bake some cookies, like the crazy renegade I am.

In the meantime, here is that piece of flash fiction, written in tandem with this blog post (finally):

Statue of the Republic, with the Court of Honor and Grand Basin (1890s) Image: illinoisstatesociety.typepad.com

Statue of the Republic, with the Court of Honor and Grand Basin (1890s)
Image: illinoisstatesociety.typepad.com

The image (above) had to be combined with the idea of ‘Destiny’. Tough, isn’t it?

So, of course, I decided I’d write about something really complicated.

The Stonecarver’s Boy

At his birth, his mother wept.

‘A daughter would have been wiser,’ frowned the doula, taking him away.

His training began immediately. He grew within the workshop, chisel in hand, prodigious and alone. From a distance, his mother watched.

In time, the Emperor took a wife.

‘Let it be his masterpiece,’ came the order.

His mother tried to warn him; once, she even passed beside his workbench, so close she could feel his warmth, but her dropped note was swept away.

The finished statue was fit for a goddess. On its raising day, The Imperial Guard came for its maker, and – willingly, unknowingly – he went.

‘You will never better this,’ decreed the Emperor. The blade fell quickly – there was no time for anguish. He never knew his fate was sealed from the day he was born, like all stonecarvers’ boys.

The Empress’ statue was anchored with its maker’s blood; a fitting memorial stone.

 **

Happy Friday, and happy weekend.

I am a warrior! Image: cutestpaw.com

I am a warrior!
Image: cutestpaw.com

 

 

Editing. What Larks!

So, yesterday I spent most of the day picking my way through ‘Emmeline’ with a fine-tooth comb, searching for inconsistencies and errors and repetition (boy, do I repeat myself, a lot), misplaced punctuation, frankly stupid conversations between characters (there were a few), scenes which were more ‘filler’ than ‘vital’ – there were a few of these, too, probably because the book began life as a NaNoWriMo project – and clumsy description. I’ve realised when I’m writing under pressure that I can be a huge fan of the old dangling modifier, and that my powers of description go out the window. Stupid metaphors and ridiculous similes abound, and I remind myself of Bambi on the frozen lake, skidding around doing my best to write something right, and succeeding only in ending up on my behind.

Image: myglassesandme.co.uk

Image: myglassesandme.co.uk

I didn’t get through the whole book, of course. Between Friday’s efforts and yesterday’s, I’m probably just over halfway, now. I’ve trimmed over 5,000 words from the total wordcount, which means the book is still far too long – but it’s an improving situation.

Image; aplusadminservices.com

Image; aplusadminservices.com

Strangely, I’ve discovered that the bits of the book which I thought would give the most trouble actually turned out to be the smoothest, and the parts I thought I’d be able to gloss over are the ones which have caused me the most eyebrow-raising difficulty. It’s funny how your memory works; I remembered certain parts of the book as being particularly thorny and challenging, and so I figured editing those bits would be a major hassle. Perhaps, however, the harder the scene is to write, the easier the edit – at least, that’s how it seems so far. Lots of ‘Emmeline’ just flowed out of my brain and onto the page, which felt great at the time, but it means that, on re-reading it, I’m left a bit stumped by my plot choices, or word choices, or character motivations. Nothing so far has been a deal-breaker, or a book-destroyer, and I’m hoping it carries on that way, but I’m a bit bemused by my own memory nonetheless.

One of my major fears with this book was that the central third – the ‘sagging middle’ – would be too flabby and over-written and unnecessarily long. So far, I’m finding that it’s not as bad as I thought. That’s not to say whole chunks of text haven’t been excised – with plenty more lining up for their turn under the scalpel – but the plot moves along faster than I remembered, which is good. At this point in the book both Emmeline and Thing are on their own, separate, quests, and – when writing it – this was difficult. I was constantly switching between their viewpoints, writing one section in Emmeline’s world and another in Thing’s, trying to keep a certain balance between them and always thinking of ways in which their journeys could be linked or even contrasted, and – to me – it seemed to go on forever.

Luckily, however, it doesn’t really read that way. It seems that the harder a scene, or even an entire section, is to write the longer and more turgid it feels in your memory. This can be a surprise, come editing time.

I’ve also realised that I always, always write linearly. I know there are writers who write scenes separately from the parts that come before and after them, much like a filmmaker puts a movie together; a scene from the book’s opening can be written right at the end, and perhaps the author will write the middle third first, perhaps in an attempt to ensure it doesn’t get overblown and out of control. I admire this sort of technique, but it just struck me the other day that I have never used it myself.

Image: mathgoodies.com

Image: mathgoodies.com

The above isn’t a map of my writing process, but it could easily be. I don’t think I could function writing a scene from the end of a book before the beginning – my brain just isn’t flexible enough for that. I also edit the same way – from the beginning, straight through to the end. Once a square, always a square, I guess.

I’m beginning to wonder, though, if I should shake things up a bit and start editing non-linearly. Perhaps it would make things easier to see if I’m reading sections out of sequence, and it might make the book seem fresher and more surprising if I edited backwards, or from the middle out, or something like that. Anything which makes mistakes and excess and injudicious word choice stand out more clearly is a good thing when you’re hovering over your work with your editing hat on. Sometimes, other writers read their sentences backwards to check for spelling mistakes – as your eye is less inclined to see what it wants to see when the sentence is out of order – and so it makes sense that shaking things up when it comes to your editing habits can bring benefits. So, I think at least one of my runs of edits, this time, will be a non-linear one – and let’s hope I don’t end up like this in the process:

Image: menagerieofminds.wordpress.com

Image: menagerieofminds.wordpress.com

I also hope I’ll be able to bring the wordcount down to where it should be without causing myself, or the book, too much pain. Soon, it will be time to start printing out whole chunks of text and going at them with a pen, a process I always enjoy – I guess there’s a hint of a masochist in me, somewhere.

Stay tuned for updates from the editing coal face, and the results of my non-linear experiment (that sounds pleasingly scientific! *polishes spectacles*) – and, with any luck, the good news that ‘Emmeline’ is ready for querying, just as soon as possible.