Quiet revolution

When I’ve finished a manuscript, and I’ve given it a whole-piece read through/revision, I’m very particular about what happens next. I set it aside and I’ll read a book. Or maybe two. Possibly even a third.

Then, when I’ve felt enough time has passed, I’ll take my recently finished manuscript, format it for eBook and email it to my Kindle. Then I read it all over again and that Kindle read-through usually throws up a lot of things. Maybe misplaced punctuation, maybe typos, maybe examples of horrible, inarticulate writing, and maybe even timeline/logical errors in the story. I photograph all the things that need revision, and make the necessary changes (usually the next day).

Then I send the updated manuscript off to my editor. She splits the manuscript up into evenly-spaced sections. A 100k-word manuscript will get split into ten sections, and she usually sends me a section a day for review, and this is where I talk about the quiet revolution.

Anyone who regularly uses Track Changes in Word knows that the floating bar moves around. You can’t leave the cursor on ‘Accept change and continue’ and just keep hitting the mouse button because the ‘Accept change and continue’ button moves around the place. You might end up adding a comment which wasn’t your intention. Or doing something else which also wasn’t your intention.

What I’ve done, to get over the floating ‘Accept change and continue’ button is to create a keyboard shortcut for the ‘Accept change and continue’ function. I’ve mapped the shortcut to CTL-A. This means that when I’m reviewing post-editor changes, I use CTL-A, CTL-Z, and CTL-S , and I don’t need to muck about with moving the cursor at all.

This has improved (and speeded up) my post-editor review process so much, I am finding it difficult to believe I hadn’t done this last year.

Anyway, if you haven’t already fallen on this happy upgrade, grab this change with both hands. It’ll revolutionise your (writing) life.

How much pain?

One of the early things I spend time trying to figure out, when I commence a new project, is how much to put my protagonist through. How many experiences? How much pain? How many events? At what point does it become enough? Where does it become too much? Where does credibility/believability begin – and end? If you’re familiar with the main plot device in the Tempest series you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I’m currently working on Book Four in the series. Book Four is, in a truly contradictory style, the easiest and the most difficult of all four books to plan out. The reason for this is Book Four is the Tempest Origins story. How much pain do you put your protag through in an origins story? That’s where my head is at right now.

My planning spreadsheet has mapped out significant events from the protagonists childhood. And early adulthood (twenty-six counts as early adulthood, right?). And I’m about to take this big spanner from beside me, and throw it into the works.

But how many times do I throw this spanner into the works? How many times do I do this thing to the protag? This is the question I’m trying to answer.

Editing tip/iceberg

I’ll begin by confessing that I’m a serial editor. Tinkering with text just happens. I can’t leave it alone. I don’t believe I’m ever truly happy with the way something reads, though I can get close to it (through continuous tinkering). The trouble is continuous tinkering with a paragraph (or even with just a sentence) can quickly lead to a whole chapter rewrite. And then I’ll hit the page up button and start to tinker with the way the previous chapter ended. Then that whole chapter gets edited. Then page up. And thus* it goes.

So, I’ve begun doing things a little differently and I don’t know if my editor will agree, but I think this new way of working has improved the finished product of my writing.

I convert the work in progress to Kindle format and email it to my Kindle (well, der). Then, every evening when I am able to move the dogs around and they allow me to climb into bed, I read a chapter or two. I photograph what I don’t like (whether it’s a typo or a clumsy word or an inarticulate phrase). Only reading a chapter or two (about 1,600 words) a night is, I find, the key to success.

And then the next morning, after dogwalks and breakfast etc, I fire up the manuscript and make the changes. As I make those alterations, I see how those updates to the manuscript can reshape a piece, a chapter, a couple of paragraphs, or even just a sentence. And I allow myself to make those changes before saving the update and cracking on with the actual writing.

The interesting thing is, when I re-read the whole piece after going through this new process, I don’t have that same strong compulsion to tinker. It seems to be that I make my changes and then I’m done.

Re the serial editing: it’s early days yet, but we shall see what we shall see. But re the writing style: this method is a definite improvement.

*Anyone else think we don’t use the word ‘thus’ enough this days? Just me? OK then.

Spaniel chat

Hello. This blogpost (we don’t believe that’s a word) is a collaborative effort. It is being written by us four spaniels (stop doing that, Chewie). We are doing this to tell you what life is like while the human with the hairy face (daddy) taps and tuts and taps some more.

Life is hard here. We are forced to endure periods of time when he ignores us (stop doing that, Chewie). It isn’t fair that he taps and tuts and taps some more almost non-stop (CHEWIE!) from when he starts until when he finishes. We would tell you when that is but we can’t tell the time, sorry.

He does stop for lunch, which is good. And he does make sure we get our lunch, which is how it should be (Pugsley, stop trying to eat Mavis’ face). But five days a week he sits and taps and tuts and taps some more and he only takes us out into the garden twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. Yes, he does take us all for a big walk around the village before he starts tapping, tutting, and tapping some more. And he does take us all for a big walk around the village after he has finished tapping, tutting, and tapping.

(Mavis, have you farted again?)

And he talks to us which is lovely but he doesn’t give us enough treats which is not lovely. He tells us things. Things about what he’s tapping, tutting, and tapping some more about. He tells us people’s names. And he tells us what they’re doing. There’s this one person called Kim Mi-cha who sounds like she needs a dog in her life. Her first name is Mi-cha and her family name is Kim and none of us dogs here can understand why it’s that way round but it’s probably not important.

There’s this other person who kissed this other person (you know what I mean) and then hurt them and we don’t understand that because we’re only dogs but we do like kissing and we don’t do hurting, except for Robyn when she sits on you because she’s a very heavy girldog even if she is an actual princess.

Anyway, that’s the news from here from us four. We would love to have some choklit but daddy says we can’t have any because it’s bad for us and then he eats it all and that just seems unfair. He says he’s nearly finished tapping and tutting and tapping some more on this book, whatever a book is. But he also says he’s planning to do more tapping and tutting and tapping on another book when this one’s finished and all we want to do is play and sleep and eat. If you could tell daddy that, we would all be very grateful. Thank you (stop doing that, Chewie).

The spaniels

Storming in!

I’m very pleased to be able to let you know that Storm has finally arrived. The second book in the Tempest series is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

Or you can get it from your favourite bookshop (just order it with Storm’s ISBN (978-1738440900) or ask the assistant to search the catalogue on my name because that ISBN just trips off the tongue, eh?

You can find the series details on Amazon here. Or you can read the series details on this website right here.

Difficult passage

I’m working on Chapter 36 in the third novel in the Tempest series. The last third of the previous chapter has a rapid build to an ‘Oh My God!’ climax. That chapter leaves the reader on a cliff-hanger.

For precisely those two reasons, the writing of Chapter 36 delivers a series of changes:

  1. There’s a change of narrator, which necessitates
  2. A change of voice. And that means
  3. A change of style, because this narrator isn’t just a different person, she has
  4. A different perspective of the world, and in turn this gives her
  5. Contrasting values which means
  6. She moves through life at a different pace and
  7. Sees everything through a distinctive lens, her world’s-eye-view is wholly different.

I have been working on Chapter 36 (fluctuates between 1,200 – 1,400 words) for five hours. I’m finally at the point where I think it’s right. But I want a second opinion. I need to know whether the voice change, the pace change, the different view, have been successful.

However, I know I can’t share it with anyone, to ask for their views, because of what occurs in the preceding chapter. And to make Chapter 35 relevant, they’d have to have read Chapter 34. And so on, back to Chapter 1.

This is today’s writing dilemma. This is today’s difficult passage.

Challenge!

This sounds really simple, but a lot of challenges sound (or look) really simple when they’re thrown down. But here it is.

If I write 5,000 words a week, 48 weeks a year (because, in this challenge, I’m allowing myself four weeks holiday a year), I would be able to produce two 100,000-word novels a year.

The unuttered part of the challenge is what will I write about, in those two novels a year? I’m going to give myself the next week to get my head around that.

Video nasty

In my quest to produce a video ‘commercial’ for Tempest, I discovered it’s possible to save a whizzy PowerPoint deck as a video file. So that’s what I did. Actually… it’s not whizzy at all, but as an experiment it’s a first run at something I want to take further. Let me know what you think: