Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Folking Editing!

Oh dear, I think I just won the prize for the worst pun in a blog title, ever!*

I've started editing novel 2 - actually cutting, re-arranging and typing words rather than making pretty collages with index cards and post-it notes - and so far so...okay actually. I've done about 5%. That doesn't sound like much but opening up YWriter for the first time since I wrote 'The End' was a bit scary. In my mind novel 2 was a big old mess that was going to need some serious surgery to make it into an actual book but I've edited the first couple of chapters now and... it's not the horrific mess I thought it was. In fact, there are even a few bits (paragraphs, words) that aren't that bad (and other bits that make me go "urgh, you call that writing?" but let's not go there).

Anyway, it's going okay - apart from the fact I kind of promised my agent I'd get the novel to her in time for the Frankfurt Book Fair which is on 15th October. That's just over 2 months away! Considering it took me 7 months to edit novel 1 I've got my work cut out for me (and no one to blame but myself).

It's times like this when I really wish I didn't have a day job but I'm going to try and buy myself a few more valuable hours by booking 7 to 10 days of holiday in August, go away somewhere, and edit my heart out (or gaze out of the window, go for a walk or watch TV just like I would at home...)

I'm not freaking out yet (plenty of time for that mid-September!).

*The reason for the 'folking' editing considering it's not actually going that badly...I'm off to the Cambridge Folk Festival this weekend! I checked the weather and wasn't too gutted to read that it might rain. Why? Because I'll get the wear these, the best wellies in the world, ever!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Editing with index cards and post-it notes

I've started editing novel 2.

Actually that's not strictly true. I've been editing it since I finished the first draft two weeks ago but in a tricking-my-brain into thinking 'no I'm not' kind of way.

What do I mean?

Basically I gave myself permission to do NOTHING to novel 2 for two weeks. "Two weeks off," I told myself, "you don't have to write, you don't have to edit, you don't have to read a 'how to' book. You can just watch episode after episode of Prison Break if you like. Or read someone else's book. Or sleep for hours. Or do some exercise to try and work off your writer's arse."

Actually I did all of those things but somehow, by giving my brain permission not to do any work on novel 2, my brain rebelled (those who know me well know that the best way to get me to do something is to tell me not to!). Anyway, so my brain rebelled and started interrupting my TV watching/reading/sleeping/exercising and began whispering (sometimes shouting) little ideas for how novel 2 could be improved.

I wrote the ideas down, in a notebook specially designated as the Rewrite Notebook, and over the last fifteen days I've accrued 31 pages of rewrite notes, each one numbered and labelled with the name of the character the rewrite involves. Seeing them all written down like that, in a higgle-de-piggle-de fashion was a bit daunting. How the hell was I going to work them all into the novel in a way that made sense?

Today I got out my index cards. I'd bought them to help me plan novel 2 but I'm not much of a plotter, more of a 'I know the beginning, I know the end and I've got no idea what happens in the middle' type of writer. But my index card purchase wasn't a waste. What I did was select 3 different colours. Pink for Character A (written in the first person), blue for Character B (written in the first person) and yellow for Characters C and D (written in the third person). I then went through all the chapters in novel 2 (currently 55!), selected the appropriate colour for the character(s) narrating that chapter and wrote down a summary of the scenes and the setting within that chapter.

I ended up with this (arranged in rows of ten, from left to right, on my floor):

I then got out my Rewrite Notebook and wrote each rewrite note onto a coloured post-it note (again, colour-coded to the character it involved) and tried to work out which chapter would
need to be rewritten to incorporate that edit.

And ended up with this:

It's messy, it's not fixed in stone (some of the rewrite notes may have to be moved to a different chapter) but suddenly my 31 pages of notes don't look quite so daunting. They look manageable, like I can pick up, for example, chapter 2 (2nd from left, top row), work through the post-its attached to until they're incorporated into the rewrite, and then move onto the note attached to chapter 3.

I'm sure it's not going to be as simple as that (editing never is!) and although I've already been through the editing process once with novel 1 this is a completely different book with a very different structure so it's not as though I can just apply what I learnt from editing Heaven to this novel and be done with it (which is just as well because I've completely forgotten how I went about editing that book!).

I'm not sure if this technique will help anyone else trying to pull a shitty first draft into shape but I thought I'd throw it out there, just in case...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Unpublished novel competition (women only)

Just heard about this in one of my writing forums. I haven't checked it out so don't know anything more about it than this but it does sound legit:

The Virginia prize for fiction

To celebrate 20 years of success as a small independent publishing house based in Richmond-upon-Thames, Aurora metro is launching a new competition to encourage and promote new writing by women.

The prize is open to any woman over 18 who has written an unpublished novel in English. The shortlist will be compiled in October 2009 and the £1000 prize will be awarded in November as part of Richmond's 'Book Now!' Literary Festival. The winning entry will be published by Aurora Metro Press in the following year.

For more information about the Virginia Prize, contact Aidan Jenkins on 020 3261 0000 or email


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

More silliness!

This is what an extract of book 1 would look like if it was animated by really rubbish animators then voiced by really wooden actors!

Fun to make though (apart from when I tried to publish it, it crashed and then I had to start all over again...)

In other news I've started a new notebook (I love me a new notebook). I've called this one "Book 2 Rewrite" and I've been scribbling down all the rewrite notes I've secreted in various places including my phone, 2 other notebooks, scraps of paper and in the comments section of YWriter.

I love this stage of writing a novel - working out how to restructure the book, how to make it stronger, how to make the characters more rounded, how to up the tension/emotion, even making myself grin with new ideas for funny bits.

It's just the actual doing it I'm not so keen on.

Oooh I know...I think I'll read some of my 'how to edit' books and then I'll get my blank index cards out, have yellow for character 1, blue for character 2 and pink for characters 3 & 4, then write each scene on the appropriate card, lay them out on the floor to look at the balance of characters and scenes, maybe write down the level of tension on each card to check that it increases as the book progresses and then...um...look at them a bit more...

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The 1st draft of novel 2 is FINISHED!!!!

Apologies in advance for any typos in this post - I've just drunk the best part of a bottle of champagne so am typing this post very carefully... ;)

This weekend I resolved to finish novel 2. My self-imposed 6 month deadline to reach the end of the first draft whooshed past several weeks ago and I promised myself I'd get it done within 7 months - and not one day over.

Tomorrow, July 6th 2009, is exactly seven month since I wrote the first word of novel 2 and I'm done - I've finished the first draft!!

On Friday, fellow Novel Racer Helen posted on Facebook that she was intending on completing the first draft on her novel by the end of today and, just like 2007 when I raced L-Plate author to finish book 1, there was a real feeling of camaraderie as we updated our statuses over the course of the weekend to reflect how many words we'd written and how many we still had left to write.

Helen finished first (at about 6pm today) but I was determined to reach 'The End' in time to enjoy the bottle of chilled champagne I'd bought from M&S earlier today. I wrote on my sofa with the TV burbling along in the background then moved to my balcony and continued to type in silence, the sun making me squint until it finally set and I shivered, too determined to finish my final scene to go in and get a jumper.

And finish I did. At about 9.25pm. Total words written today: 5,612! Total number of words in 1st draft of novel 2: 97,134 (so much for thinking it would be 90k!)

I'm not ashamed to admit that I jumped up and down in my hallway a fair bit and may even have punched the air!

There's a fair (okay a LOT) of editing to do for this novel but I'll worry about that another today. Tonight it's all about "Yeahhhhhh I DID IT!!!", and another glass of champagne *clink*

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A post in which I present you with a rubbish trailer...

...for novel 1.

I should, and have been, writing novel 2 (a whisper away from 90,000 words now but it's definitely going to be longer than I planned!) but I just took a break to have a play with Xtra Normal, the online software Karen and Lane have already had a play with, to make a little trailer for Book 1.

It's rubbish (the trailer, not the book - hopefully), and you don't get to customise your characters, but making it amused me for an hour!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


Thank you all for your lovely comments about my book cover and for supporting the idea that I sign one and give it away in a competition. I'll definitely be doing that! Sorry I didn't reply to the comments but I'm desperately trying to get book 2 finished.

Nearly...nearly..nearly there...

(and then I can start moaning about the edits! ;))

p.p.s. I also need to blog about the SAF and Novel Racer meets I've been to recently. God I'm rubbish.

My cousin the magician!

A little while ago I received two emails...

The first was from the assistant at my literary agency, asking if I could please supply her with a 8x10" black and white head or head and shoulders shot of me so they could hang it on their newly created 'author hall of fame' wall.

The second was from PR at my publishers, asking if I had any photos that they could use for publicity purposes (and possibly put at the back of my novel).

Both requests made my heart flitter-flutter.

Flitter-flutter with FEAR.

a) All the photos I have involve me looking a bit dorky/sweaty/scruff on holiday and
b) I HATE having my photo taken!

So I put off replying to the emails for a while and did what any serious author would do and wrote my novel surfed facebook. During one of my surfing sessions I discovered something on one of my cousin's pages that made me go "Ooooh" very loudly. The source of my Ooohs were these photos:

I had no idea that Jacqui was such a talented photographer! Over time an idea started to form in my head...if Jacqui could take such gorgeous photos of the kids then maybe, just maybe she could take a halfway decent photo of me? Okay so I'm at least 30 years older than these children and I've got a faceful of blemishes and lines whereas they've got lovely flawless skin but, well, it wouldn't hurt to ask would it?

Ask I did - and to my delight she said yes, she'd take some shots of me!

So earlier this week, after hours of shovelling on the make-up and wrestling with velcro rollers and a curling tong I turned up at her house (quaking ever so slightly). It was early evening and Jacqui said we'd be able to get some good light (and scenery) at the common at her house so off we trooped, catching up as we walked.

I was still a bit nervous as Jacqui asked me to sit on a bench and hold a big circular light-reflecting disk thing (I'm no good at the terminology!) while she checked the light but she soon put me at ease and started clicking away. We changed locations a few times, laughing at the fact we could only take sitting down photos because I'm so much taller than her! The session was over before I knew it and I made my way back home, hoping against hope that at least one of the photos would be usable!

Yesterday evening I receiving a series of emails from Jacqui containing photo attachments...of me! I felt a bit sick as I clicked them open, telling myself it wasn't the end of the world if there wasn't a usable photo for my book/PR, I'd just invest in a sturdy paper bag and do a 'bete de jour'.

But God...Jacqui is INCREDIBLE! She's a magician not a photographer! Hell, sod that, she's a bloody miracle worker! Look what she created with her camera (and a bit of photoshop):

I couldn't be more pleased (or shocked!).

If you live in Worcestershire (or even further afield, am sure Jacqui would travel for the right price) and would like some gorgeous photos of your kids, or even some half-decent photos of yourself please do get in touch with her (Jacqui Elliot-Williams: photographer.jacqui@yahoo.co.uk). She's an absolute sweetheart and very talented with it.