Believe it or not, since then I have been trying to find and hoping to have some time in my days and weeks to get on with the sequel to The Partnership but it’s been pretty difficult.
August was summer activities and ending a job and starting a new job.
September was getting too involved in my new work for what I was being paid for.
October was for unexpectedly having to find a new letting agent and tenant for an apartment I own in Scotland.
And most of November was filled with work, cleaning/tidying, and analysing how best to organise my time at home so that I could get some writing done.
The good thing is that in the last couple of weeks I have started up again with the sequel, The Collective. Kitty has also been helping - see above - but unfortunately he only knows how to press down the comma key.
I have also come to a few conclusions:
I should be (read: I want to be) aiming to write 1500 words a day. This is a gross over-expectation but I’m okay with that. It’s the aiming that’s important.
It’s best if I can work on my writing early in the day so that other tasks don’t go on forever and take up my whole day, leaving me too tired or with no time to write. (Today is a good example of that - I washed two windows, mended the zip on my winter coat, wrote a few Tumblr posts, and I plan to write a job application next. Will I get to my writing today? Probably not but I have hope.)
Anyway, so here goes again.
Stats so far:
Draft of prologue done, 1938 words.
Chapter One started, so far 1825 words but I need to re-write it.
I was so positive and hopeful on 13 June that I would start writing the sequel to The Partnership.
For whatever reasons, it took until y e s t e r d a y to finally begin. I forced myself not to judge what I typed, knowing fine well I will re-read and edit it many times to come, and continued with some more today.
I have written the first draft of the prologue to The Collective and it currently stands at 1714 words and 6 pages.
I am very happy to have started, and to have continued this journey I am on.
The old adage is true—writing is rewriting. But it takes a kind of courage to confront your own awfulness (and you will be awful) and realize that, if you sleep on it, you can come back and bang at the thing some more, and it will be less awful. And then you sleep again, and bang even more, and you have something middling. Then you sleep some more, and bang, and you get something that is actually coherent. Hopefully when you are done you have a piece that reasonably approximates the music in your head. And some day, having done that for years, perhaps you will get something that is even better than the music in your head. Becoming a better writer means becoming a re-writer. But that first phase is so awful that most people don’t want any part.
And it is so true. It resonates so much for me because this was exactly what it was like to work on and edit The Partnership. I went away and came back to my writing so many times, each time shifting and altering it to gradually mould it into - hopefully - something that people will want to read and live themselves.
Becoming a better writer means becoming a re-writer.
A few days ago I prepared a new manuscript document on my laptop - several sparkly, fresh, blank pages ready for me to make my mark.
And so, I should be ready to start on book two - the sequel - The Collective. I have rough notes for each chapter. I know in my head what the arch of the story looks like, almost as though I’m fast-forwarding a film in my mind. I know the continuation of the last book and the developments in this book. I have the blank document ready and the will to find time.
“B l a n k D o c u m e n t”
I stare at the computer screen and instantly think of something else to do. I remember there’s washing up to do, or I realise it’s time for bed.
I think there’s something innately fearful for writers about starting something - “What if it’s shit? Utter tripe? The words will stare back at me, judging me for writing something so lame.”
But, of course, I’ve been here before. I know I can do this. I know it’s not important what I write at first - so long as I do write.
I read a really great quote on Tumblr recently about how writers aren’t just ‘writers’. Writers have to be rewriters. (I need to re-find that quote - does anyone know which one I mean?)
The quote hit home because it’s wholly true. The first thing we write isn’t set in stone. No one forces us to keep it. It’s not inked into the skin on our forehead for everyone to read. Our talent lies in seeing the weakness, the flaws, in our writing and then rewriting it.
With this in mind, I can begin The Collective safe in the knowledge that my work won’t really begin until I have something to rewrite.
And with this sense of safety, I plan to arbitrarily throw words onto the page without ceremony - no “I can’t write unless I know I have at least two hours of solitude” etc. I want to be able to at one point write only a few words in a ten minute spurt and then on another occasion get caught up in a four hour word purge stint, and of course every other constellation in between.
Apologies for the lack of my presence here over the past two months (how time flies!). To those of you who have stuck with me, thank you, and to those I’ve lost…well, I hope they come back eventually ;-)
I’ve not managed to do any work on my writing for a long while (I feel like a broken record player saying this over and over again), something which I really hope I can rectify soon. I know for myself this is a terrible excuse but ‘life’ just got in the way - there just seemed to be other more important things to do that took my time up rather than working on The Partnership or it’s sequel, The Collective.
A few friends are reading The Partnership for me and I’m awaiting their thoughts - I know there’ll be more editing to do. One friend in particular, who has experience of editing first drafts for publishers, wrote to me yesterday to ask if it would be okay if she edited four chapters to show me the kind of work I need to do. (I told her I’d be honoured). She is also planning on typing up some general and more specific thoughts, and is currently making notes as she reads it for the second time.
I couldn’t be happier. I feel like it’s in the hands of a professional! I’m looking forward to reading her notes, and the edited chapters, but I can foresee myself having to do a lot more work on the book when I do. Oh well, I know it will only make The Partnership better and stronger. The only downside is that I had been hoping, and wanting, to be able to send my manuscript to agents/publishers this year and I’m not sure if that is achievable.
In the meantime, however, I think it’s important for me to start on the sequel because if the first book is successful then I need the second to follow quickly behind!
I realise I have been somewhat AWOL on here for a while - has it been two weeks, or more? - sorry about that. I’ve been ploughing through The Partnership, using the delete button rather a lot, and I haven’t really had much to say about the process.
However, I can now say that I have finished my umpteenth read-through edit of my manuscript and in doing so I have managed to shave off 22 pages. It sounds like a lot, however I only got rid of approximately 2930 words. They were mostly widows and orphans which cut useless lines and reduced page length.
I’m happy. What with all the editing I’ve done in the last two months I think it’s in even better shape.
The plan now is to get some more beta-readers to give me their thoughts. Whilst I’m waiting for their responses, I will start composing my query letter for Literary Agents and hopefully begin on the sequel(s).
I had gotten through 60 pages (of 425) of this current read-through edit of The Partnership when I came across two problems.
The first was that Microsoft Word had somehow reversed or straightened 23 out of the 3379 apostrophes in the manuscript. I know the exact figures because I had to search through them all to rectify the errors.
The second was that I realised that my characters were blushing excessively. I guess I hadn’t noticed before because of all the deep breathing they were enduring.
I’m glad I spotted this one early on so that I can keep an eye on it as I continue reading ;-)
I think I’m ready to embark on hopefully my last big read-through edit of The Partnership.
This edit will address:
the changes I’ve made since the last big edit;
the way in which I have described the characters’ appearance, and more specifically the skin colour;
the semi-repetition of the same idea in some sentences;
the widows and orphans;
This could be it. The final edit. And then I have three more beta-readers ready to read it and give me their thoughts. (Yes, Kate, you’re one!). I will also ask my last beta-reader to re-read it to check the changes I’ve made.
I hope they won’t throw up more issues to edit…
And then, then, I’ll get on to acquiring an agent!
Since I finished editing my male voice, I have been working through some other issues which came to my attention. These have included:
The American-English spelling of words ending in ‘-ward’ (for example; toward, forward, onward instead of towards, forwards, onwards, etc).
More American English-isms, for example; to talk with instead of to talk to, in line instead of queue, aside from instead of apart from, and others found here.
Whether it’s necessary to use ‘and’ before ‘so’ as a conjunction in a sentence.
The over-use of the same word when other synonyms are available, for example; nodded (bobbed/dipped/bowed etc) and talked* (spoke/conversed/discussed etc)
With these having been addressed, I thought I was ready to do another read-through edit of the entire thing, where I check:
the changes I’ve made;
the way in which I have described the character’s appearance, and more specifically the skin colour;
the widows and orphans;
the semi-repetition of the same idea in some sentences;
and the various ways I have expressed the intake of air into the lungs.
Now, for the last point, I mean expressions like:
sucked in a breath
took a deep breath
And so on…
When I did a search for these types of expressions to see exactly how much of a problem it was, at first I didn’t find anything ‘wrong’. I had only used 'exhaled' seven times; ’sucked’ and ‘inhaled’ nine times each; ’gasped’ thirteen times; and ‘deep breath’ twenty-seven times.
Then I searched for ‘breath’ (which picked up all the verb forms).
It came up with ninety five hits.
Even taking away two uses of ‘breath-taking’ and one ‘breathless’, as well as the twenty seven uses of ‘deep breath’ - that’s still a lot of ‘breathing’, ‘breaths’, ‘breath’, ‘breathe’, and ‘breathed’.
I’m amazed my characters aren’t hyperventilating.
So, anyway, I need to work through these ninety five to see if I can reduce them - and by at least half - before I do my read-through edit.
(*Edit: I just realised that I haven’t yet looked into the use of the word ‘talk’ - which has 102 hits. ‘Spoke’ came up 31 times, ‘speak’ 39, ‘discuss’ 31, and ‘chat’ 27. Some of those ‘talk’ forms need to be changed.)
This is rather useful, especially the last link (my highlight). In it, it states:
In many stories, the color of a character’s skin will only be described when the character doesn’t have a fair complexion. This typically happens because the writer is white and subconsciously thinks of xir own skin color as the default and everyone else’s as the outliers. Even JK Rowling, whose books frequently focus on tolerance and equality, is guilty of this.
The solution is simple - just describe everyone’s complexion, and all will be well.
Whereas I don’t think I am guilty of this, I want to check my manuscript in case I am and I don’t realise it.