… when it’s your first piece of full-length fiction is that you have no bloody idea whatsoever what constitutes a darn good ‘edit’.
I’m not talking about those typos, or the grammar choices (she had not driven there before/she’d not driven there before/she had never driven there before/she didn’t drive there) or those extra spaces after each full stop. They’ll all come later in what I believe might be called a line edit.
Yes, I’ve read blogposts and books and websites on editing. But I don’t think it’s until you have a go at editing your own work, that you realise what editing can truly involve.
For example, I had characters having conversations with each other, in person, who were not even meant to have flown into the country yet 🙈🙄 I mean, who do these people think they are?
Because I did not write this story in chronological order, my timelines were somewhat lacking authenticity. I’d created the majority of my 80,000 words in chunks of prose depending on my mood at the time of typing and slotting them in later … (Lovely, and that scene .. can … go roundabout .. sort of … THERE). And because it took til December to reach a point where I felt I could type those two rites of passage words ‘THE END’ it’s only very recently that I’ve read the whole thing through in one go.
I called it the ‘pink pen’ edit for the benefit of MoW and my insta writing buddies. There was an embarrassing amount to change, I mean seriously. Who told me I could write?? They have such a lot to answer for! Whole paragraphs got chopped and scribbles of much better prose ribboned their way around the edges of the margins. I didn’t have plot holes. I had craters you needed a plane to fly over to have any hope of crossing before dark. Anyway, I struggled on through and actually pink-penned my way to the end.
I have, I hope, made my characters more mindful of their present state of affairs; their internal dialogue needed to be thoughtful, less amateur dramatics with badly made costumes while throwing their arms about on a small tight stage, hoping for audience participation. This isn’t me belittling amateur dramatics for the record. I was a member of three groups in my twenties and loved every theatrical minute of those times 🎭 – playing up to audiences who came for no more than a night of fun, watching people they know deliver their old favourites. “A Handbag???” I played the part of the drunken reporter from The Yorkshire Argus in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’ and I waved my arms around wildly on a small, tight stage hoping for audience participation – and got it!
Anyway, my point is, readers won’t pick up my book and say ‘oh look, it’s that nutty farmer’s wife. She’s written a novel, we’ve GOT to buy it, it’ll be sooo entertaining… darling? Darling? Where have you gone? You’ve got the purse!” (well maybe three of you might). I would like to think my potential readership will spot a book with an intriguing cover and title, a snappy blurb, a dramatic first paragraph and decide they want to know why Antonio is in one of Italy’s biggest prisons. They shouldn’t think about me when they read – I want them to disappear into the lives of Antonio, Martha and the others whose choices are dictating where the story goes.
Incorporating the pink pen edits back onto the laptop document has taken nearly a month. I nonchalantly assumed it would take a week but no-one warned me how painstaking that process is of keeping a finger on the ‘and’ you need to delete to make the sentence work, while finding which ‘and’ of the 186 on that page it is you’re trying to delete – Jesus and Mary and Joseph. And then there’s the spilling tea on the pages and hoping they’ll dry so you can still read the pink pen.
Not having a deadline (as no-one knows about this except you, MoW and me, and a handful of writerly friends) means there is no pressure. At one point when I was moving around the house like an author on a deadline with agent’s expectations hanging over me, my husband was eating crackers and cheese on his knee – no plate – and reminding me this was “meant to be fun?”. A hobby. He was right of course. All pressure I’d laid at my feet myself with that twinkle of devil suggesting I might not be able to do it. I’m permanently fighting my inner demons, wishing to prove to them that I can, but taking a few days off here and there to go watch a play in London or simply to tidy a room of clutter was all I needed to reset the default – my writing is a complete pleasure and meeting a need to be creative.
Today I have ten pages left of incorporating pink pen edits. It will have been a second read through and then I’m going to print the bugger off again (tiny font and double-sided and recycled paper) in order to check I’ve got the SAVE THE CAT 15-beats suggested within its brilliant pages … basically direction changes that link into our biological need to understand human behaviour (love all that stuff ☺️🥂).
But first, the royal we is tidying the kitchen as Mother is due at 11:30 for coffee. I’ve diabetes-friendly snacks on hand, a collection of Daily Telegraphs for dad, who won’t have stopped for days to read anything until those hours he can spend alone in his single bed in the back room while Mother languishes in her lace-covered double bed knobs and broomsticks bed at the front of the house with the bay window…..
Thousands of bubbles twanging their explosive power into the space above what’s left of the sugary ocean.
Encircling aluminium providing a wall of death for the evil conveyer of the trickster of all mixers.
Almost at the end now, the surviving bubbles shimmy across the bottom and sound like beads or grains of rice being moved on a tray.
My advice would be go to bed on a glass of water instead!
This isn’t a post about battles between farming folk and city-dwellers.
Sorry if you were expecting one but as I find I have a foot squarely in both camps, I can see both sides of most arguments waged around subjects here.
I’ve been married to a farmer for 24 years and 4 months (do you think he’s planning something big for October) but I’ve never lost my yearn for city-life and exploring new places.
We know that Man of the Woods is happiest when surrounded by his trees and clods of dirt (some of which fall from his boots when he pops his legs up on the corner of the kitchen table after most meals.
He’s very specific about his food. I used to moan he was difficult because I couldn’t just rustle up a sandwich of my choosing and deliver it to the tractor. It had to be whatever his thing was at the time. His thing at the moment is “ten of my special biscuits sandwiched into 5 with peanut butter, no butter, thank you. And a coffee.”
Once I’ve made sure the ingredients are in the cupboard, it’s surprisingly easy to keep him happy so I’ve altered my view of him being awkward to predictable, and that’s quite refreshing to work with. Imagine having a husband who wanted a gourmet dish designed and prepared each day?!
It always amazes me that within minutes of turning a foot’s depth of soil over on a field which has been stubble all autumn and winter – ploughing – that seagulls appear from nowhere and swoop in for worms.
I mean, the coast is fifteen miles away. How can they smell, see, sense that a farmer has hitched up his plough rather than a drill or a sprayer? Do they send a scout out to roam the skies for brown fields?
Covent Garden last night. Walking towards Leicester Square; just that whole West End lights and buzz vibe. You can’t beat it in my book 💙
Luckily these days, MoW accepts (rather than let’s me go) that I adore being there and knows an occasionally ‘fix’ makes me happy, so no longer do we have the conversations where he would query the need to leave the village boundary and I would get defensive from the feeling of judgement or being restricted.
Does that make sense?
This was a roiboos tea in a cafe in the centre of Covent Garden, before we ‘women of the family’ garnered for a show to mark the 70th birthday of my mother in law.
I’d assumed for years that I knew Tina Turner. I was aware of someone called Ike being a ‘big name’ in music a long time ago and I’ve been vaguely aware of their union.
I was wrong.
All I knew was the facade which Anna Mae Bullock chose to portray to the world during the 80s onwards once she had finally split from Ike.
She’s been through the bloody lot. The crap that is racism and which was still ruling those times; domestic abuse from her husband of 16 head including regular beatings. She was ‘used to’ the way of life having been brought up by her father who commanded his way in the home via violence, which her mother walked out on but leaving Anna Mae with her father.
I did clap. Here and there. But not like most of the audience who saw it at face value.
I felt the expected vibe towards the end when she finally found love with a man sixteen years her junior, a white German to whom she is still married.
But the majority of the show I found incredibly disturbing. Five years ago I’d have watched it at face value also. But spending those weeks doing self esteem courses at the Women’s Aid refuge two years ago meant I no longer see things at face value.
I’ve been alongside, sat next to, women who have suffered physical abuse at the hands of their supposed protectors/husbands and seen the emotional damage those wounds still cause long after the bruises have gone.
I’ve never experienced physical abuse. Although it is only one of seven recognised forms of the domestic abuse umbrella … listed in the 2015 Coercive Control Law which was passed in the UK in December of that year. Makes for incredibly interesting reading if you are unfamiliar with what constitutes being assertive and breaking the law.
At the end of the show, I wasn’t so much elated for Tina Turner as sad for Anna Mae. The years spent hoping things would change, praying she would make it big because she needed to escape her ‘norm’ . The systems which were not in place then to help or recognise there was a problem. As her sunset years approach her, I hope she is still happy with the love of her life.
The romantic writer part of me is relieved she found Erwin.
The dark thriller writer part of me wants to finish Ike off in some grizzly way.
But for now, let’s just make do with a superb view of sunset over West Hampstead.
Do you think it’s spooky, strange or odd, in any way, that my previous post (typed in the night and posted only a couple hours ago) refers to my lack of activity on WordPress and then this morning I wake to this badge?!!
(No, because if you’d known where to look in your stats, you’d have known your next post would be your 500th 🙄).
Well I think there’s an air of irony about it which needs to be mentioned. Either that or should I be petrified that somebody’s watching me? 🤣
Quite a milestone – thanks for sharing in my wordpress journey 🥂
Thank you for the opportunity to connect Fandango with your word of the day challenge!
… rather like customers at a car boot sale, and my blog is that trestle table sagging in the middle, random items trying desperately to look interesting and all down to a pound because I’d rather not haul them back home again.
Goodness it’s been ages since I went to a car boot sale. Certainly not since the kids became teenagers. When they were smaller – both under ten and outside the rugby season – we would often drive to a nearby and regular car boot venue on a Sunday morning and become ecstatic as we snaked in-line towards the spaces in the car park (sheep field Monday to Saturday).
Man of the Woods would put the driver’s seat flat back in the truck and have a nap, and we’d promise to bring him a bacon buttie and coffee within an hour.
I’d give the kids a fiver each and they had free rein to buy whatever tat they liked. That freedom was a drug to them, but the tricky challenge was deciding if they should buy the first item they spotted and decided they couldn’t possibly live without, or risk losing it into the arms of another child while they continued their search for something ‘even better‘.
(Have a hand-painted scene by a backstreet artist on Skiathos which I watched him create in about fifteen minutes 😱)
I’ve been having a few Marie Kondo moments in the house recently and have practically re-stocked the local Sue Ryder shop with enormous amounts of clothing, shoes, games, books and … stuff. Like, why did I keep random wire shelving units… or wooden boxes… or candle sticks and I don’t mean a decent silver pair such as those in ‘Les Miserable’. Did you watch that? We did and loved it.
I was invited to watch the opera once, probably twenty years ago. I delighted in the opportunity to surround myself with intellectual people and accepted. I had absolutely no idea what was going on – during any of it. I recall the stage revealing a spiral walkway and a battle scene but my history lessons at school had been spent day-dreaming through the windows.
Here’s another history lesson.
I’m reading this novel by Jodi Piccoult – Small Great Things. I’d heard of it and seen the cover bandied about of course but had no idea what its conten might reveal. I can tell you, I’ve not been able to put it down!
Prejudice… is what it’s about, in one word.
Jodi has weaved the most believable characters into this contemporary tale. People trying so hard not to be racist, they are tripping over their political correctness time and time again.
The book is about seeing what humankind can do – has done – to each other.
Within sentences of meeting the white supremacist, I hated him with a passion. Yet even he and his world and what led him to his beliefs, has burrowed under my skin of intrigue. I just hope they can sort all this out amicably 😢. (Yeah, right … I doubt they are going to be buying each other shortbread any time soon.)
If you read my post some weeks back ‘Everyone’s Talking About Jamie’ you’ll recall I support all things equal, tolerance of different people. Perhaps I should add a small caveat here. Anyone who is hard-working at living their lives without attempting to disrupt others for their own gain.
Long term readers of my blog will know that following a year of counselling, I don’t tolerate bullying within my own walls – and that’s a middle class white family. Believe me when I say there’d been plenty of prejudice going on there to fill a small back street in Paris with old furniture. My mother’s living room is so jam packed with verbal judgements aimed at everyone, from the dentist, the woman in the flower shop, the dog breeder on the end of the phone that the air in there is stifling.
How’s my book coming along did I hear one of you ask? Aside from the fact I’ve not touched it for five days at the time of writing – and I’m going to blame Jodi and weekend antics for that – I’m two thirds of the way through incorporating the pink pen edits 💃🏼
This is taking considerably longer than anticipated as some pages, such as this one under my home-made soup, were practically re-written 🙈
I’ve also finished a brilliant read called ‘Save The Cat’ by Jessica Brody. This 15-beat method of plotting a novel makes more sense than putting your shoes on the correct feet. How I wish I’d discovered this book before I started this story!
Following a small tantrum I knuckled down and read to the end, furiously scribbling notes along the way of additions seriously needing to be made to my manuscript. So this will be the next edit. No-one said it was a quick job, and the last thing I want to do is submit to anywhere while I know it can be so much better.
(It’s 4 in the morning FFS. Why aren’t you asleep?)
Brain iron filings.
It’s what my head feels full of when I do that turning-over thing in the early hours in the dark, listening to Man of the Wood’s steady breathing. I debate about rejoining the pages of an unread-novel, or stew over ideas for the manuscript. I lick my lips with a dire need for a coffee with CoffeeMate; newly discovered and being consumed in copious amounts because it is soooo creamy.
(So now you’ve been down two and a half hours will you go back up to bed now? You know you’ll look like death all tomorrow otherwise…)
Thanks. But no, I’ve got a court case to read about. One where the white lawyer is going to be played by Julia Roberts in the forthcoming film adaptation. Viola Davis will be playing Ruth, the black labour and delivery nurse accused of the murder of a baby in her care. It’s going to be such a moving and important film of our time.
Hope you’re all having a good week. If you’ve read to the end, do leave a comment just so I know who is still reading this blog. I think the algorithms may dictate that because I’ve been far less active than I used to be, my blog is floating somewhere in oblivion. Three days ago, I had one visitor 🤣 seriously. Just the one!