Saturday, March 27, 2010

Debi's Deafisms

Part 2 in an occasional series giving an insight into my muffled world.

Two for you today - to make up for my absence recently due to pressure of work.

Emma:  I'll talk to my next door neighbours, Sam and Alan.
Me:  Your next door neighbours have salmonella?

Ring at doorbell.  I open door to see 5 small children, aged 5-7.
Guliz (spokesperson):  Hello, Debi.  Sorry to disturb you.  We were wondering if you could possibly let us have one very small potato.
Me:  Oh.  Sure.  Just hang on there a minute.
Thinks:  potato prints?  Potato gun?  Sweet.
Me:  Here you go, guys.  The smallest potato I could find.
Children:  Sideways glances at each other.  Feet shuffling.  Obvious discomfort.
Me:  Is there a problem?
Guliz:  Um, well that's very kind of you, Debi.  Thank you.  Only what we wanted was a small container.
Marie-Lise:  Can I have the potato anyway?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Anyone else feel a draft in here?

I'm in the process of working through the first draft of Identity Flawed

I love this craft of reshaping and adding flesh to the bones of a story.
It's a time for crazy mood swings though.
One minute I'm thinking it's pretty damn good and might even be the best thing I've ever written.
The next I'm convinced it's crap and I'll never be able to write another publishable book again.

Anyway, Emma Darwin has posted recently about the importance of this stage and I thought I'd say how I approach it.  There as many different ways of writing as there are writers, but this is what works for me.

Draft 1.
This is where I'm chucking the story out.  I rarely plan ahead (though at some point in the writing I will probably have a vague idea of the story's trajectory) and I don't read back through until I've finished.  I let the story unfold as I write by placing my characters in situations and watching to see how they react and what happens as a result and where that leads onto next.  In this way, I find out what's happening at the same time as the protagonists - and the reader.  At some point, the story will grow wings and the characters will take me in unsuspected directions.  (I've blogged about this before here.)

As the story develops, inevitably adjustments will be need to be made in previous chapters to fit into what is revealed by later developments.  I usually write in longhand.  When I type up a chapter I print it out and mark the MS with any issues I know I'll have to return to later.  At the end of the 1st draft, I'll have a complete MS covered in scrawl relating to those issues and any others that come from feedback from my writers' group.

Draft 2.
This is just as crucial a stage in the crafting of a novel as the 1st draft and can't be skipped over.  I start by making the changes I was already aware of and then begin reading through to see how the whole thing hangs together.  I look for inconsistencies in character and plot.  Structural issues like unnecessary timeline distortions.  There may be scenes and even whole chapters which are superfluous and need to be deleted, where I was just writing to continue the flow.  If the section has no role in driving the narrative forwards it has to go.  There will also be sections that are vital to the plot but which I have skated over in my rush to splurge out the story.  I'll check that any sub plots are properly woven into the main narrative and that there are no irrelevant threads or characters.  I'll look out for POV shifts and any areas where I should be showing not telling (or the reverse!).

NB:  This stage is vital, whether you're submitting your MS to an existing agent (as I am) or pitching to a new one.  It's just as crucial if you're submitting the book for an editorial critique.  You should never let anyone see your MS until you have ensured you have made it as good as it possibly can be yourself.  Don't expect anyone to accept your novel because they can see it's a hidden gem.  If it's a gem, it needs to be so bright and sparkly they can't avoid noticing it.  

Even if you're submitting the MS for a critique, it makes sense to polish it as best you can before sending it to an editor, in order to get the best value from the feedback.  Ironically, the longest reports I've written have been for books with the greatest potential.  That's because it doesn't take many words to say things like 'You're using far too many adverbs throughout' or 'Stick to a linear chronological narrative whenever possible' or 'Watch out for confusing POV shifts' etc.

Draft 3.
Ah, the final stage.  This is the polish and is also essential.  With this last read through, I make sure I've always used the right word/phrase/image, that there's no clunky prose and that every word earns its keep.

And that's it.  You've completed a book.  It's no longer your WIP and it's time to launch it into the world.
Good luck!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Forward to the Festival

Less than a month to go to the Festival of Writing in York.
And, yes, I'm really excited about it.

Imagine - a whole weekend spent in the company of other writers, being surrounded by the full literary experience of talking about the crafting (and selling) of words.
I'm going to be the there for the full weekend.
On Friday, Emma Darwin and I are running the Self Edit Your Work for Market mini course.
Saturday morning, I'm running a workshop concentrating on how to deal with the thorny problem of handling POVs.
Then, on Saturday afternoon, I'll be doing an hour of 1-1 sessions, meeting with writers (who will have submitted writing in advance) and discussing their book.
Saturday night, there's a gala dinner.  (What to wear???)
Then on Sunday, I have another session of 1-1s.

In between, I'm going to have to decide whether to explore York, gatecrash some of the other workshops, hang out and chat with anyone around, or (and this is my fantasy) sit and work on my own WIP, inspired by the atmosphere.

Oh and there will be lots of people there I'm really looking forward to seeing.  Some I already know - either through my writers' group or because they've attended workshops I've run in the past.  Others I know through blogging or Facebook.  And I can't wait to put faces to authors whose books I have worked on but who I've never met in Real Life.

Bookings close on 25th March, so if you'd like to join us all, you'd better act fast.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Happy World Book Day!

Here's a way to celebrate this auspicious day ...

Buy a copy of 100 Stories for Haiti.


It contains stories by some wonderful authors, it was put together with awesome speed and efficiency, it's for a cause that cannot have failed to move you over these past weeks, it's a symbol of how writers and the internet can make a real difference and ...

... it's a book, and everyone should buy at least one of them there things today if they possibly can.


Monday, March 01, 2010

In Bed with Debi

Did that get your attention?

Probably not.  And definitely not, I suspect, when you hear the list of things I found in my bed when I woke up this morning:
  • A pair of swimming goggles
  • An unidentified green cotton pouchy thing
  • 11p in change
  • A (used) blood glucose test strip
But sadly no car keys.  They've been lost since Friday and replaced this morning at a cost of £130.  I can think of an awful lot of things I'd've preferred to spend that kind of money on ...