The Red Pen Treatment

So currently, I am looking over the proofs for Choose Yr Future. In between being back at school and writing new things that is. Theoretically, it should have been finished over the summer. But of course, it isn’t just reading through. It’s more like a massacre with the slashing of the red pen taking out all that annoys it.

I’m not sure if it is the fact that it now looks like a book which makes it easier spot what needs to go but I definitely feel I’m reading it in a different way. As if I were a reader rather than a writer and that is definitely making me ruthless. I’ve been slashing out words like I’m lost in the forest and they are branches stopping me from returning to the sunlight.

If all this sounds like a miserable job, strangely it’s not. Maybe it is the closeness to  completion. Maybe it is satisfying to be able to look at your own work and go ‘yeah, that stinks’. I trust my judgement. There are no qualms. Not at this stage.

The big question is when will this be finished. Well, hopefully soon. There should be a cover soon too. There should be an end to all this slashing. But by the time that Shattered Reflections was published, I nearly knew it by heart, I had read it so many times. I’m not there yet. Nowhere near.

Projects, new and old.

I made the decision not to join NaNoWriMo because it didn’t really fit in with my schedule. I was editing at the start of the month and a new project didn’t seem feasible. Also, I thought that there was no way I’d manage the 50000 words. Editing Choose Yr Future was making me fed up and I thought I might have a break from writing when I’d got to a stage where I was happy to put Choose Yr Future to one side for a few months so that I can come back to it and be a bit objective.

Almost immediately I put it to one side, new ideas started to flow. I wrote a character description for one of the prompts for Chrys Fey’s 30 day writing challenge and then the words just wouldn’t stop. Now I have written 42000 words and wish I had focused myself a bit more to get to the 50000 deadline. Of course, this isn’t the finished thing, by any stretch. A good start has been made.

It hasn’t a name yet. That will come. Sometimes naturally. Choose Yr Future, I had to work at. I knew it had to be something to do with choice as that is an important theme. Long lists of possible names followed. At the minute, getting words on the page is much more pressing.

What I’m most impressed by is the fact I’ve written so much without really trying. I haven’t been able to sit for long hours although I have been grabbing whatever minutes I can to carry on.

Obviously this stage is much more fun than editing and I know that soon – probably at the turn of the year – I will have to return to Choose Yr Future and take it on to the next stage.

The perfect implications of an imperfect world.

The recent edit of Choose Yr Future has seen some chapters disappear, some change and some needing to be written. When I first started writing some of the details of my future world weren’t as clear as they are now so obviously there have been some pretty big changes. For me, this is the one enjoyable thing to come out of editing. Until you read through the whole of your work, you don’t always realise you have been sidetracked. Sometimes the sidetrack becomes the main road. Sometimes you have to find a way back to the path you actually want to follow. But at the end, the destination should be clear.

One of the things that became clear to me was that while I was concerned about gender and sexuality issues, I hadn’t realised that I was writing about class so much. My future society is very much a class based world with no social mobility at all, apart from the lucky ones who get to win talent shows of one type or another. The sort of thing that gives the impression of mobility when in fact the majority of people are stuck with in the same place as they ever were; the same place where their parents were stuck; the same place their children will be stuck.

Of course, a lot of people believe that class divisions no longer matter and that social mobility is easier than it has ever been. And maybe that is true to an extent. After all, in my suburban house, with my job in education, I’d have a nerve to still call myself working class (although there is no doubt that I still do). If I had children, they would be born into a middle class world. But when a recent study showed that elite surnames still dominate in universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and that underlying social status is more strongly inherited than height, there may be not as much cause to celebrate as you might think. Maybe there is more movement in the middle but as soon as you start to move to the extreme of either end, it becomes more and more difficult to move upwards at one end, less and less likely that you will lose your privilege at the other.

As I have mentioned in an earlier blog, I am currently reading Margaret Atwood’s In Other Worlds. She discusses her own dystopian world and also the way that she feels that dystopia and utopia are not really the opposites we take them as but ever present within each other. I hadn’t thought about it before but it makes sense that if you create a perfect world then there must be the implication of an imperfect one and vice versa. What about the perfect world implied in my dystopic one? My future humans are caught up with voting on everything, they have no spare time as the government controls their every waking hour with work, exercise, recreation, and so on. They have health plans that they must keep to, they have roles that are chosen for them. They have a place in which they must stay, a time to get married, a time to have children. So I suppose my ideal world would be one where people were able and allowed to think for themselves, where they were given the freedom to be themselves and where you could actually choose your future.




30 day writing challenge

As I have definitely finished the Eclectic Reader Challenge and I am not about to try and read another twelve books in the next 3 months, I thought I’d try and find a new blogging challenge.
I really wanted it to be a writing challenge. I’m still in the throws of editing Choose Yr Future and so I am not writing much new stuff. I must admit that this is starting to get on my nerves. Not that I want to start a new big project until Choose Yr Future is in a better state but I did want to be writing something.

I started by following some of the challenges on Readwave which is a great site for sharing writing and reading great stories. The challenges are fun and short and encourage you to write in different styles. The most recent story How To Murder Your Partner and Get Away With It made the staff picks section so that was pleasing.

Then I happened upon the 30 day writing challenge on Chrys Fey’s excellent website and it seemed perfect. Small challenges that give me something specific to think about and help flex your writing muscles a bit.

Here is the list of the challenges. First one to follow in the next couple of days.

1. Start a piece with: “Once upon a time…”
2.  Open a book at random and pick a line. Use that line as the beginning of your piece and continue writing from where it leaves off. Pen the first thoughts that come to mind and don’t revise it.
3.  If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go? Use vivid details and prose to describe the experience you would like to have.
4.  Create a character off the top of your head and write a short history about him/her.
5.   Write about a dream or nightmare that you’ve had. Turn it into a short-short story.
6.   Start a piece with: “I am standing at my kitchen window…” (Be creative! Make the piece fit a specific genre such as mystery, horror, romance, etc.)
7.   What is your favorite season? Use vivid details and even include memories you have of that season.
8.   Pick the title of one of your favorite songs and write a piece about it. Give the lyrics meaning by creating a story for it.
9.  You’re sitting in a coffee shop when you look up and see _______. Write a fictional piece about what would happen if you saw a celebrity in a coffee shop. (Humorous/suspenseful)
10.  Find something that you wrote a long time ago (published or unpublished) and rewrite the beginning. Give it a different tone.
11.   Write a short nonfiction piece about your first job.
12. Turn someone you know and love into a character. Write about them. Give them a fictional life.
13.   Describe your dream home as if you are living in it now.
14.   Recreate the sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Expand it into a paragraph or two if you are so moved.
15.   Write about a memory from your childhood. Good or bad. Give it new life and  insight.
16.   The next time you are eating, write about the food on your plate or in your bowl. Describe every  portion. And as you are eating, write about all the tastes on your tongue.
17.   What is your favorite holiday? Write a short-short about a character experiencing that holiday and everything you associate with it.
18.   Think of your favorite book growing up. Use the title as inspiration for your next piece. What do you imagine when you read that title? Write a poem or a paragraph.
19.   What were you like as a child? Describe little you as you would a character in a book.
20.   What is your sun sign? (Gemini, Virgo) Use your sign as inspiration for a character  (protagonist or antagonist) or setting (world or made-up town).
21.   Go outside. Sit on the porch, in the garden, or at the beach, and write about nature.
22.   Create a past life for yourself. Who were you? What did you do?
23.   Write a journal entry for your favorite fictional character.
24.   If you went on a road trip or cruise, describe the experience you would like to have and places you’d like to see.
25.   Theme: Water (Write anything that comes to mind involving water.)
26.   What do you imagine the future will be like? Write a short science fiction piece.
27.  What is your favorite fairy tale? Give it a new ending.
28.    What are you like now? Describe yourself as if you were a character in one of your books.
29.   End a piece with: “But that wasn’t the end.”
30.   Write a letter to your muse. (Dear Muse,)


The Editing Balancing Act

Editing of Choose Yr Future is going well. Well, I think it is. Well, it’s going anyway. I seem to be adding as much as I am subtracting which is a little annoying as the main aim in editing was removing flabby, unnecessary detail (at 144000 words, I was hoping to trim it down a bit. Which I am doing but who can tell whether what is added now will be deemed excess weight next time.

This is the balancing act of editing well. Taking the garden shears to your prose can be extremely satisfying and I have been groaning inwardly at some of the more flowery sentences. But even as I’m wielding, I wonder am I taking it too far. Perhaps it will die, unable to sprout anew. So I find myself adding new shoots here and there. To balance it out, you know.

This is the part of editing that is difficult – how do you know that you are making the right choices. Of course, nothing is deleted permanently. I studiously keep every copy. When I go through the printed out pages and make alterations, sometimes by the time I go to make those changes on the computer, I have changed my mind again. Either to leave it as it was or do something different again.

A lot of these changes sort themselves out. This will not be the last edit by any means. And then there will be beta readers and professional editors and hopefully eventually something publishable will emerge. It’s a long road but at least I am making progress along it.




The Best Laid Plans…

At the beginning of the summer I posted that I was going to have a busy and productive month or so, writing and job hunting. I guess I should have known better than to make my plans public as the fates felt compelled to conspire. Just about 24 hours later, my husband announced that he had a lot of holiday to take and he thought it would be good to take it now while I was off. I knew immediately that I would not get much done.

So instead of long peaceful hours at the computer, we had trips to see family in Newcastle, trips to see friends in Aberdeenshire, brewery trips and jaunts off to see bands (Brendan Benson in Manchester was particularly good.) We went to the cinema and the pub a lot. We caught up with some of the films that I’d recorded on the freeview box. And I barely read or wrote anything.

Not that it wasn’t good, you understand. Often my husband works long hours and weekends so it was good to have him all to myself. I don’t want to sound like I didn’t enjoy myself. But I am used to having the summer to myself and being able to get on with whatever I want to do.

Still, he is back at work now and I have sorted the structure for Choose Yr Future and I can see what I still need to do and what needs to be removed. It is funny how storylines sometimes take on a life of their own. Now I need to do some serious pruning. I’m looking forward to getting my head down and getting out the red pen.

Keeping it small

I’ve never been very good at writing short stories. The smallness of the idea never seems to last. Choose your future started life as a fairly simple idea about a woman having a melt down in a supermarket because she couldn’t cope with the perfection of the genetically modified tomatoes. Once I started to write it though, it very quickly grew to the current 60000 words of a novel. The universe very quickly expanded outwards – like universes tend to do, I suppose. Because it is set in the future, I suppose there are details and ideas that I wouldn’t have to deal with if this was set in the normal reality of everyday life and this is pushing up the word count.

Now I am concerned that I have too many ideas. I’m already thinking that my first edit will be a drastic one, hacking away all the ideas and characters that do not work or are unnecessary. At the minute though, I am willing to let it expand. It might sound ridiculous  that I would let it grow to untold size in order to crop it at some point in the future. All I can say is I cannot tell at the minute which branches it will be that are culled and which will be allowed to stay. I have to let it sprout with absolute freedom. Only when I have seen the whole will I know about the various parts.