Usually, when I come to write this blog, I refer to the notebook in which I’ve been doing my ‘morning pages’ in the form of a sort of writing journal. Imagine my horror when I opened the notebook today to find that the last entry was on 19th November! So I’m going to have to rely on my very poor memory (ironic, given that this is one of the themes in the novel I’m writing at the moment!)
The reason I’ve neglected the morning writing is that I’ve been completely caught up with working on the novel. I’m nearly there with my first draft, which is a wonderful feeling. At the moment, not only am I finding it easy to motivate myself to work on the book, but I actually resent time spent away from it, even time spent sleeping! I’ve been going to bed wishing the night would hurry up and pass so I can get up and start again. I wish I didn’t need sleep – if only I could just plug myself in to a wall socket to recharge!
Since my last post, I don’t think there’s been a single day where I haven’t done at least some rewriting or editing, (more of this in a moment) even though these last two weeks have included a three day trip to London and a book signing as well as the usual teaching and preparation, tutorials (and reading work for them) and domestic annoyances like having to get the car serviced etc.
The London trip was fun, and included talking to a book group who’d recently read The Secrets We Left Behind. They plied me with wine and cheese and we had a lovely chats about my books, and lots of other books as well.
I did a book signing at WH Smith on Saturday, the highlight of which was meeting lovely fellow author Samantha Priestly who kindly popped in to say hello and to buy a copy of The Things We Never Said. Book signings are strange occasions – you get little flurries of interest, then quite long periods where no-one approaches you (except to ask where they can find the gardening books…) So, it was lovely to see you, Sam – and I hope you like the book!
Hawk-eyed readers will notice copies of another little book on the signing table – this is the Watch and Wait anthology that I’ve mentioned before on this blog. I’m one of 20 authors who have gifted stories to this anthology, which is published by Cybermouse books and is being sold in support of the Lymphoma Association. A few of us will be back at WH Smith, Fargate, Sheffield S1 on 13 December, promoting and signing this anthology.
So, back to what’s happening with the novel. The story is almost completely in place now. I still need to make a decision regarding what happens to one character in the final chapters, but I’m hoping the answer will come to me as I work through editing / redrafting the rest of the novel.
It might be helpful to some of you for me to outline the way I approach this. First, I print out the whole draft and read through it with a pen in my hand. I said I wasn’t going to do any close editing at this point, but if I spot something, I find it impossible to ignore it, so I’ll underline typos, repetitions, dodgy punctuation etc. But I’m mostly looking for inconsistencies in plot or character, clumsy phrasing, repeated ideas, and sections that feel too ‘told’ rather than shown. Similarly, there may be places where I’ve ‘shown’ too much, and If this happens, I could find myself deleting a whole page and replacing it with a paragraph.
I’ll mark the text wherever I find problems, sometimes suggesting alternative phrasing, but sometimes just making a note in the margin. It might be something like: ‘add more depth here’ or ‘rework this paragraph to show her feelings’; or it might be simply ‘show!’ or ‘trim’. Sometimes, it’s just a question mark – which means, what the hell are you getting at here?
When I’ve finished making my notes, I then go back to the screen and work through from page 1 making all the changes that are fairly easy and don’t need thinking about too much. At the same time, I make a ‘to do’ list, where I note the page number and what needs doing. Things on the list could be anything from ‘rework this paragraph’ to ‘add in a scene to show xyz’. These small changes can be worked on at any time when I have a spare half-hour, but bigger changes on the to-do list mean I need to set aside a block of time, so I can get myself right back into the story and the characters.
At the moment, I’m about halfway through making the ‘to do’ list. I’m hoping I’ll be able to start working through the things on it by this weekend. But whether I do or not, I’m still loving it. If only writing was like this all the time!
I have told my agent and my editor that I will deliver this draft on 5 January. There, now I’ve told you lot as well, so it has to happen!
In other news:
I was delighted to hear that The Things We Never Said has been nominated for the Impac Dublin literary award
which means that one or more libraries has deemed the book to be of literary merit (a number of libraries in major cities worldwide are invited to nominate up to three books for the award) I’m on a long – very, very long- longlist, and when I look at my fellow nominees, I just feel enormously chuffed to be on the same list as such distinguished authors.
New Amazon reviews:
Only a couple this week – a five-star for The Things We Never Said, and a three star for The Secrets We Left Behind.
Also, I had a lovely email from the Italian translator of The Secrets We Left Behind, saying how much she’d enjoyed reading the book, and was looking forward to translating it into Italian.
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