Tag Archives: printing your manuscript

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

 

 

The Waiting Game

I have a pile of paper on my desk which is almost two inches tall. It’s neatly stacked and clearly laid out; it is double-spaced and indented for new paragraphs and dialogue; each chapter has its own new page. It is 254 pages of hard work and mental toil, and it is mine.

It looks a lot like this! Image: hopeloverun.blogspot.com

It looks a lot like this!
Image: hopeloverun.blogspot.com

‘Tider’ lives!

Yesterday, I did my ‘last’ edits (I say ‘last’, but of course I don’t mean it – I’m sure I’ll have filleted the whole thing and sewn it back together again before the year is out.) The book is now at a stage where I’m happy to leave it to one side for a few weeks, hopefully allowing me to come back to it with fresher eyes and a more acute editing brain. The entire ending has been restructured, which involved working back through the whole book in order to shift the plot around slightly, just enough to make room for a new dénouement, and almost 10,000 words have been sliced out of the MS in the process. It’s now at about 76,000 words, which is still a little on the long side, but it’s a whole lot better than it was.

Also, recall if you will that the word count for ‘Tider’, in its first incarnation, was 150,000. I think that deserves some sort of editing award, or something.

 

Annnnd the Oscar for most copious editing goes to.... Image: homespunscrap.blogspot.com

Annnnd the Oscar for most copious editing goes to….
Image: homespunscrap.blogspot.com

I have a huge amount of words in my Offcuts file, too – something in the region of 60,000 for this book alone. Many of my favourite scenes, including whole chunks of lovely, lovely dialogue which were funny and sweet and so wonderful to write have ended up on the metaphorical cutting room floor. Entire characters have fallen. As plotlines shifted, huge swathes of the book became redundant and could not be salvaged. I have to admit I find this merciless cutting a little bit easier now than I have done in the past, but it’s still not a lot of fun to realise, after you’ve been grappling with a beloved paragraph for a few hours, that it’s just not going to fit any more and needs to be retired to the scrap-heap.

Printing the MS has a few benefits. Mainly, it’s easier to read from paper than it is from a screen, and reading from a printed page makes you feel like it’s a ‘real book’; I’m still of the generation, I guess, who feels that when something’s down on paper it’s legitimised and made official. However, the most important benefit to printing, for me, is the fact that it serves to move me forward in the writing process. That might sound strange, because I now intend to leave the printout alone for as long as I can before continuing with the work, but what I mean is this: if I left ‘Tider’ on-screen, I could literally spend the rest of my life just tweaking and fiddling with it. When it’s on a computer screen, and saved in a file, it’s an amorphous, unfinished thing, malleable and never-ending; it’s all too easy to allow yourself to keep waiting for it to reach a certain, undefinable point before printing it. ‘I’ll just fix this bit… oh, and that bit… and maybe I’ll rewrite this paragraph… and, you know, perhaps I’ll just fidget with this character for a while…’ This sort of procrastination could go on forever, unless you pick a point and just print the thing, and so that’s what I’ve done. Now, finally, I can – with any luck – come to the final stage in the whole process, and get it ready to query.

Having said all that, my brain is still clanging with things I want to fix and change. Every few minutes I think of something else that needs to be altered. ‘This reaction here is unrealistic’, or ‘surely if event A has just happened, event B would unfold a bit more like this…’ – but I’m trying to quiet that inner voice, just for now. I’m certain those observations will occur to me as I read through the printed MS in a fortnight or three weeks, or however long I can force myself to leave it. Printing the book and then trying to come back to it with the eyes of a reader, instead of a writer, is a vital thing; it’s so hard to get a feel for the story overall when you’re stuck right in the middle of it. Getting a broad view is important in order to work out whether the story makes sense, has a logical progression to it and – most vitally – is interesting.

This is not the look I'm going for. Image: igniteimagery.deviantart.com

This is not the look I’m going for.
Image: igniteimagery.deviantart.com

So. While I’m waiting for ‘Tider’ to settle in my brain, my plan is to work on short stories for a little while. There are a few competitions I’d like to enter, including The Walking on Thin Ice Short Story Contest, which I can’t recommend any more highly, and I’m looking forward to changing ‘format’ for a while. Breaking away from writing a long-form novel and getting stuck back into short stories will, I hope, help me to forget about ‘Tider’ for the minute as well as enjoy the process of creating something new.

It’s all action over here this Thursday! Hope your day is going well. It’s almost the weekend, folks… hang in there.