Posts filed under Editing


In case you didn't know, I'm currently hosting Brighton Writers Retreat while our illustrious leader Sarah Lewis is off on maternity leave. 

I've been coming along to the retreat for about three years, after emailing Sarah (then, a complete stranger) with the words: "Where have you been all my life?" Since then I've been promoted from writer-in-the-corner to chief-heckler to washer-upper to second-in-command, and am now reverently holding the reins while Sarah battles gargantuan growth spurts and indulges in guiltless glorious baby-gazing. 

Brighton Writers Retreat holds a monthly procrastination-busting writing workshop, aptly named 'Stop F***ing About and Start Writing' where writers from all over the South Coast (and sometimes even further - we recently had a visitor from Canada) convene at The Writers Place to write their little fingers off. There is a never-ending supply of caffeine and biscuits, a fancy sandwich lunch, and plenty of support and inspiration from a roomful of talented scribes. The October session is fully booked, but the next retreat will be held on the 15th of November and booking is open NOW (so go do that thing).

And to tail off NaNoWriMo we're also holding an editing workshop on the 29th of November called 'what to do with a first draft'. During the session we'll be looking at redrafting, revising and how to break away from the 'shitty first draft'. Places are limited so get your name down ASAP to take part in the plot-storming awesomeness. The workshop includes lunch, refreshments, and all the encouragement you could ever need.

Duck yeah!

Wow, I have been lax. I'd like to say I've been absent because of an extremely prolific period of writing and creativity but I have to admit that most of the time I've been working and/or moaning about lack of sleep, loud toddlers, morning sickness and not having enough time to write. I have about 10 chapters to go on this edit, and then we'll see about honing my cover letter and synopsis, and printing and posting... Meep.

In the meantime, I was published in Pank Magazine's 'London Calling'  issue with my story, In the Duck Light. I also got interviewed about ducks, breasts and books - you can read my answers here.

So... yeah. Subs = zero. Writing = intermittent. Editing = slow. Baby = cooking. One of these four will take priority at some point, and though I have a sneaking suspicion it will be small, pink and smooshy, I'm hoping that some of the others will get a look in occasionally, too.

Posted on July 26, 2011 and filed under Editing, Interviews, Novel, Publications, Short Stories, Subs, Writing.

Need Fish Oil - STAT

I'm at that point in pregnancy where strangers eye me up to gauge whether I'm just fat or actually up the duff. Either way they look disapproving - even if they realise that I am growing a womb fruit, they probably assume I'm only about seventeen as ol' Babyface Monkey here still gets asked for ID at the age of twenty-seven. I'm kind of looking forward to the beached whale stage, if only because I can silence most people with a pregnant glare, groan or sigh, I get to eat like it's always Saturday on the Butterfield Diet and I can properly freak out my friend Jack by showing him Alien-esque protrusions when baby sticks an elbow out of my belly. Right now, I'm meant to blooming, but I am developing a waddle and my son insists on flashing my stomach to any and every passer by to tell them about his soon-to-be little brother or sister. Except sometimes he gets confused and tries to show them a boob instead. And once he said it was an egg. We're working on teaching him the logistics.

Oh... and 'baby brain' has hit with a vengeance. I spent a solid five minutes trying to unlock the front door to collect a package from the postman the other day, shouting apologies through the letterbox and desperately explaining that something was stuck, feeling like a douche. I was just about to go around the back, cursing the price of locksmiths when I noticed that I had actually been trying to repeatedly LOCK an already locked door. I put the cereal in the fridge yesterday morning. I've been convinced it is Tuesday for about five days - except for Tuesday, when I thought it was Monday.

A friend told me that if you don't have enough Omega-3 in your diet then the baby basically steals it from your brain. No shit. You eventually regain your original levels but it takes a long time - which probably explains the fuzzy-headed-doofusness of my brain since I had baby #1. I admit, I haven't been eating enough oily fish - or much fish at all for that matter, or walnuts or flaxseeds and whatever else has Omega-3 in it - and not to panic-buy shares in Omega-3 supplements or anything, but I thought it might be a good idea to get some in my fucking face as soon as humanly possible before this parasite destroys my brain. I really have been struggling to write and/or edit lately. My weekly short stories and flashes have dwindled to once-a-month. My editing has ground to a halt. I find writing a lot like exercise - the less you do, the less energy and stamina you have to kickstart yourself again, but as soon as you make an effort you can't get enough of the endorphins and crazy-writer-hormones (technical term) that make you want to do it all day and all night.

Let's leave that exercise analogy at the doorstep, however, because I certainly haven't been doing too much of that either... But today I DID do some editing. Four whole chapters in fact. Only about 8000 words and I still managed to get lost in my manuscript. And I don't mean lost as in 'swept away by the mesmeric prose', but more 'where the fuck was that red highlighted section telling me to do something important? Oh, look, that character swears a lot in this chapter. Hmm, maybe I should change her name to Hannah. La la la, that bartender has a really shitty expression on his face every time he looks at me - maybe it's because I only ordered a 65p lime soda instead of an expensive organic beer. Can't he see I'm pregnant? Oh, no, I've got a massive t-shirt on. He probably thinks I'm fat and is judging me because I just ordered chips. At least I didn't ask for extra cheese. Fuck him, I can drink lime sodas if I want to drink lime sodas. What? Oh, editing, right. Chapter four...'

Need. Fish. Oil. STAT.

Posted on June 8, 2011 and filed under Editing, Novel, Random, Send help.

How to Edit Half a Novel in 2.5 Days

I've been struggling. I hadn't edited or worked on my novel, or submitted any short stories for 6 weeks. So I did what anyone would do. I set a deadline. I decided I want this novel finished, polished and sent out on its merry little way by October this year. Why October? Well, my novel-writing deadlines are becoming something of a tradition - you see, this is the second time I've raced to finish a book before I have a baby. I'm pregnant  - I wouldn't necessarily cite it as an ideal way to get your book written, but it seems to work for me. My first novel was finished a few weeks before I gave birth to my son - and this one was started a few weeks after he was born. So womb-fruit #2 is due at the end of October - and I needed a way to get back into my editing shoes, before my feet get all swollen and I can only wear flip flops. So, I went away last week to a writing retreat in Devon called Retreats for You. It's run by the wonderful journalist and writer, Deborah, and her lovely husband Bob, and is pretty close to perfect.


I went with the aim of doing as much editing of my novel as humanly possible, as I had almost half of the current draft left to do. From the moment I arrived I was plied with tea, flapjacks and welcoming chat, and settled into my little room to work... And that's what I did - (almost) procrastination-free - for the next two and a half days - I wrote, edited, stopped occasionally to eat the most amazing home-cooked food (and unfortunately had to decline the free-flowing wine), sat by the enormous fireplace and slept like a coma patient.

And due to the magic of quiet Devon countryside, good company, excellent food, endless tea, an affectionate dog, the lack of a duracell-bunny toddler, and one glorious nap, I managed to edit over 35,000 words in that time and finished the draft (I'm calling this the 4th draft, which means hopefully the next one will be the final, agent-worthy product).

One more sweep to go. I think. There are at least two chapters that still need some serious work, and some general niggles to iron out throughout, but the desperate hope is that the next draft will be quicker and easier than the last few have been. Much like my hopes for my next birth...

So - won't you raise a glass for me? For babies and finished drafts - because I can't drink for another year or so...

Posted on April 20, 2011 and filed under Editing, Projects, Writing.

Ooh! Shiny things!

I'm a bit of a multitasking freak. I find it hard to sit still. Idle hands and all that. I work while I eat, I read while I bathe, I knit while I watch TV. I usually have 2 or 3 books half-read around the house at any one time. I have 2 novels to edit, 3 more and a screenplay to write, and no less than 40 short stories and flashes written, subbed or in need of editing. I had a sudden urge to look at my first novel again this weekend - a sort of sick curiosity to remind me why I'd shelved it, and how much better my second was. I was actually pleasantly surprised. It still needs an apocalyptic razing to the ground and a gentle rebuild (which isn't going to happen unless I get paid serious amounts of money to do so by some bizarre, sadistic benefactor), but you know, it ain't half bad. It led me to browse through the hundreds of unfinished stories I have in my documents folder - some worth persevering with, some good for a self-loathing laugh, some to be dissected and cherry-picked for other projects. I felt guilty for ignoring the novel editing, but it was good to be looking at some different words for a change...

I know: attack of the ooh-look-at-the-shiny-thing syndrome. I would LOVE to be writing the screenplay right now. Or rather, completing the frankly insane and fascinating research I need to do before I start writing. I would LOVE to be starting the new novel, getting that whooshing seratonin rush in the early fuck-like-rabbits stage of the author-book relationship. I would LOVE to be working on the other two books I have simmering on the back hob of my mind - genre novels, a whole other world from the 'literary' fiction I'm writing now. No vampires, werewolves or zombies - just good old fashioned sci fi and fantasy - because holy mother of Asimov, it's damn fun to write.

It's not that I think having several projects isn't a good idea - I tend to leave my shorts and flashes as fodder for my edited-out brain, when I really need a break and some fresh ink - it's just that I know I have a tendency to jump on the next shiny thing and am trying to be VERY cautious when I feel that itch a'coming. I am ITCHY. I have been staring at this novel for nearly 3 years now. (Though, the first took me 6, so I suppose I've halved my writing time and doubled my productivity, right?!) I'm still invested, I'm still passionate, it's just really frickin' hard at the moment.

Right now, I'm on page 90 of 271 - thoroughly stuck re-writing a pretty pivotal scene. It's almost like I just want to stop doing nasty things to my protagonist. He's been through a lot and he's about to go through worse. "I'm really, really sorry, dude, but it's my job." Actually, since I haven't sold this book yet, what I'm doing is for pleasure. I'm hurting this man of my own volition. I am a sick little puppy, aren't I?

Here's where someone steps in and reminds me about the imaginary nature of fiction, please.

While trying to convince my lazy self I need a break from this, need to top up my sanity levels slightly, I know deep down in my procrastinating soul that what I REALLY need to do is keep going - to stop glancing furtively at those other projects, staple myself to the chair and set up some sort of caffeine IV. Oh, and write. And edit. And make it good.

What I want to know from you is: Do you work on several projects simultaneously? How do you keep your focus? And where can I get shiny-thing blinkers?

Posted on January 30, 2011 and filed under Editing, Novel, Projects, Send help, Writing.