Posts

Showing posts from July, 2013

How Could I have Written That?

Image
Nearing the end of  the redraft, sixth edit, polish - call it what you will, I am nearly at the end of it. What amazes me is the number of things I found to alter in what I  thought was a finished piece of work. I think it happens to all authors, because at my last local writers' group meeting, a mainstream published author said whenever she did a reading, she never read what was actually on the page, but made corrections while thinking How could I have Written That? You see it in most books these days - the odd glitch in grammar, spelling or even a missing word - or a word the computer thought you wanted but proves totally out of context! I suppose I should go through and look for redundant words, and check for passive constructions where I could make them active. I find passive constructions easy to slip into, easy on the eye and easy to execute, but these days they are frowned upon. I blame tv and film. They've accustomed people to fast moving action with few words of dia

Solidity of Specification

Image
I'm digging into the How To books again, so beware. These titles are from the reading list for a Creative Writing course, and the first, David Lodge's   The Art of Fiction, was a pleasant read but didn't teach me anything startlingly new. But then, it has been around for quite a while now. The book I'm looking at now is called The Road to Somewhere* ...and I flicked to a chapter on Characters. Here are a few nuggets: Characters are not just defined by what they do or say. The setting in which we find them may say a great deal about them. Hovel or palace? Yacht or rubber dinghy? Be careful about how you dress your character, as such things speak volumes, as do the cars they drive, the records they collect, where they shop. There's a phrase for this kind of thing - Solidity of specification. Ever heard of it? I hadn't either, but I already believe in what it's telling me. John drove his car to the shop  tells us little about the character John. Tristram dro

Hot days & Technology

Image
The warm weather continues and it is pretty wearing. I sympathise with people who have to work through the hot days and remember how awful it was to be trapped indoors in offices and libraries - and yet now I close the curtains against the sun, open windows on the shady side of the house and only go out on to the patio after five o'clock when the heat is deliciously warm without being overpowering. Now I know exactly why France closes down in the middle of the day and comes alive at night. We've had temperatures over 30 degrees Centigrade here in the north, and I think the big cities like London are reaching 34. Only Scotland comes up shady on every weather forecast. Today is the day I joined the ranks of those who have a smart Apple iphone in a smart red leather jacket. It isn't that I use a mobile phone very much at all, but Tim got hold of the bum bag I use when I take him for walks, and in it was the old Nokia phone. I carry it in case we get too tired and need dh t

Post Battle Sex

Image
I set out to watch The White Queen when the series began and lost interest after two episodes. Zips fastening gowns are so uncool in a medieval series. Zips have to be easy for the costume department, I understand that, but if they must use them instead of the authentic and quite erotic criss-cross lacing, then why don't they make sure the cameras don't catch the wretched things? Think of the love scenes involving laces they could do.... This last episode featured Richard of Gloucester, and I was curious. Always a Richard supporter, I think the casting director must have taken note of the facial reconstruction on Richard's skeleton done recently, because the actor portraying the character has a distinct resemblance to that model head. It's just a pity he lacks charisma. He gives very little to the camera, hasn't a distinctive voice, and his role is to stand by a lot of the time. He comes across as shy, earnest and a tad boring. But then, Gregory's novels al

Plot development

Image
Stephanie Cowell ( http://writinghistoricalnovels.com/2013/07/22/plot-development-when-writing-a-novel-by-stephanie-cowell/ ) remarks that she cannot follow the plot development of her story when she reads it on computer, but has to print it out and read it that way in order to see the plot pointers properly. I think I'm maybe the same way inclined. There is a miserly side to me that hates to print out a whole novel because of the printing costs - yet I know I'm niggling over nothing. It doesn't matter what it costs - it needs doing, and I'd spend the same amount or more on a bottle of wine or a new blouse without a second thought. Odd how some things cause a hitch in the gallop! But yes, to get back to the point - I've just had a couple of critiques returned that point out where I had duplicated lines and phrases, even who sentences. This is careless of me, and it has happened because I merged several versions of a chapter into one. I think I mentioned a day or t

Debut authors

Image
I don't know about you but I was intrigued to hear the J K Rowling had written a thriller and published it under a false name. How did the book fare, I wondered? Well, here are the closing comments of an article in the Guardian newspaper by Mark Lawson - "For the moment, we are left with an enjoyable, highly professional crime novel that has escaped from the aim its author had for it but taken on a massive new significance for readers. Many pseudonymous novels are intended to make a point: Doris Lessing, in 1984, submitted a manuscript under the name Jane Somers, its rejection by her regular publishers proving to her that the literary business defers to famous names. While Rowling does not seem to have tested her publishers by sending in a book under cover - now there would be a tense and interesting experiment - her experience with The Cuckoo's Calling does seem to show that unknown first time novelists are likely to get nice reviews but zero publicity and lo

Polishing to a shine

Image
Do you ever get yourself in a knot with all the drafts of your wip? I do. Early on in this game, I used to get myself in a panic, thinking I'd deleted the wrong version, but never actually did that. Now I take a more measured view.  Instead of spending time comparing one version with another, which I suspect is, 9 times out of 10, a waste of time, I look at the dates, check the word count and then force myself to delete the oldest, assuming that the newest draft is the best one. So far, I have not had cause to regret this. My oldest version of Capture a Queen dates from September 2010, when it had the title Treason until someone pointed out what Matho was doing wasn't exactly treason. It was a complete version. I finished Treason and then went straight on to volume 2, completed it and started volume 3. Alas, I did not finish that volume. I hit a difficult plot spot and decided I'd take a break from volume 3 and go back to volume 1 and read it over again. That was Ma

Emotional Journeys

Image
The Emotional Journey should have a beginning, middle and end, too. Remember the Action storyline is about what happens, and the Emotional Journey is how those actions affect your main characters . Well, we all knew that, didn't we? There isn't a lot to say about that without going into examples. But  I should remind myself that emotional journeys have rises and falls, highs and lows, in just the same way as the  Action Journey, and should be true to its own logic all the way from A-Z We could think about emotional words instead. Adverbs come in for a lot of stick these days. They are the words that often modify the action a verb takes. They describe a character's feelings, or how a dialogue tag is delivered, and my critique partners put a red line through them almost every time I use one. 'You don't mean that,' he said sarcastically.  I have a certain fondness for adverbs and often confuse them with adjectives. Adverbs are quick and easy and, well used, c

Conflict in fiction

Image
Act Two makes up the bulk of the story. This is the Action Story. It is here that the hero tries to solve the problem, save the maiden, complete his journey, whatever. The problem itself may shift or change as the story progresses. Little stays static in real life, and we can use that in fiction. Problems metamorphose into larger problems, or twist and become different problems. This is where the tension must rise as the problem is faced and overcome in a series of mini climax up to the ultimate climax which resolves everything. It is in Act Two that the story events, even if they're changing, need to be linked to each other. Think cause and effect - there always has to be a link, even if we know random acts take place in real life. Good Fiction rarely depends on luck. There has to be internal logic and structure. Each plot-point must rise out of the previous point. After each climax there will be a small lull and then the tension begins to rise again. Remember that if you ha

Plot and Structure

Image
Spent a most uncomfortable night with Tim after his surgery, (he was so comfortable he left little of the bed for me!) so did a fair bit of reading about plot and scene structure. This book said straight out that it is not enough to have great characters and a compelling problem. I also need a strong inner logic to my story - a step-by-step ordering of events that makes sense and feels satisfying to a reader. I'm finding as I go through this last edit that my story is not always logical - at least, not as logical as I thought it was. It's hard for crit partners to detect this fault, for they read chapters at a time and rarely get to see the whole thing. But agents and editors spot it immediately, and there's many a near miss because of lack of structure. So, there has to be a compelling story, well written and with engaging characters. Plot and structure have had the least attention with me - so far. perhaps now is the time to concentrate on that side of things. A basic

Eating Green Strawberries

Image
We are having a running battle with our six month old puppy who, crafty and cunning as he is, persists in eating green strawberries. Apart from the fact that they will probably give him an upset tum, we want the strawberries to ripen so we can eat them with our breakfast cereal every day. As fast as we tell him No! he gobbles another one. The funny thing is I don't remember anything like this with the Dalmatian bitch I owned many years ago. Perhaps males are just more trouble? He is due at the vet's for the big C op tomorrow, which may calm him down but I'm not banking on it. I'll feel guilty as hell afterwards when he looks at me as if to say What did I do that was so wrong? I have reading stacking up on me at the moment. I completed Goddard's excellent  Out of the Sun  late last night, and have Write a Blockbuster and Book Proposals awaiting my attention. I don't suppose they'll say anything startling and new, but I live in hope, and refreshing th

Red eyes and sneezing

Image
I know I've been waxing lyrical about the abundance of wild flowers this year, but now I'm beginning to think it's all too much.  Took a delightful walk in good company yesterday by the river bank in Corbridge and began sneezing on the way back. Sneezed all the way home in the car, and got a fright when I looked in the mirror and saw the whites of my eyes had swelled up around the iris and turned a sort of bloodshot yellow. Last night was not comfortable at all, even with the introduction of a glass of red wine. This morning most of the swelling has gone but my right eye is still red and itchy. I took Tim for his early morning gallop on the field behind the house clutching a big white hanky to my nose, much to the amusement of kids going by to get to school. So, today will be an indoor day, with much work on the re-editing. DH has gone up the street to buy me some face masks from the hardware store! I suggested that a trip to the chemist to ask if there is a preparation

High concept indeed - Les Revenants

Image
High concept seems to be the name of the game these days, but it is so difficult to think of something that has not been done before. I've finally caught up with a couple of episodes of The Returned , or Les Revenants , a series running on Channel Four at the moment. Talk about odd? This is odd. For a start it is all in French with subtitles in English, but I quite like that because then I can read and follow the story. So many modern productions have "real" soundtracks that make following conversations difficult. So the story concerns a young girl, Camille, who was killed in a coach crash. The story opens with her neatly climbing over the dam wall four years later and walking down the road. She's going home. She's very noisy for a ghost. Her footfalls and heavy breathing echo on the lonely mountain road, and when she gets home, she walks straight into the kitchen and raids the fridge. Her mother, torn between horror and wonder, can barely speak. How about that

Creative Writing courses

Image
A friend of mine has recently signed up for a creative writing course, and shared her book list, which I plan to work through if I can get hold of the books. Half of me thinks these courses are A Good Thing, and the other half sniffs and asks How Can Good Writing Be Taught? (It might be because the course are darned expensive, which gives me an excuse not to partake.) However, I see on Twitter this morning that a debut author has been snapped up with lots of zero numbers trailing the important one. The author is a lecturer on  - you've guessed it - a Creative Writing course. "The Fire Sermon is set in a world without technology. 400 years in the future after a nuclear apocalypse. All humans now have a twin, with one, the Alpha, being physically perfect and the other, the Omega, having a mutation. A state of division exists between the two, with rebellious Omegas forced to live on blighted land, but although they live apart, when one dies, the other dies, too. The book foll