Editing is Just Like Moving Home

My recent house move has seen me sorting, packing, moving, unpacking and sorting once more, it has seen me happy, miserable, delighted, exhausted, on my knees, pulling my hair out, burying my head in my hands and, at one point, I thought I might go insane – think ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, a pair of pants and two pencils…

A bout of insanity

However, I survived – Yay!

What has this to do with writing? Well, as I rummaged through my possessions and clothing, deciding what should come with me and what should face either the dustbin or the charity shop, I decided this was a bit like editing.

It went something like this…

Moving Destination WIP Editing Result
Funky blouse, worn once to a party but a bit too bright for anything else. Charity shop Eccentric character put into novel just to liven things up, not really doing anything but just liked the look of them. Deleted completely
Beautiful dress, very elegant, bought for a wedding, again worn once but keeping it because there’s bound to be another wedding soon. Keep but with a deadline for wearing it or it goes. Taking up too much room. Descriptive writing, setting the scene but went off at a flowery tangent describing the countryside. A bit too drawn out and not moving story along. Cut the scene down. More concise writing, so it is more in keeping with the genre.
Plenty of t-shirts, of varying ages and wear, mostly black or white. Dustbin. Have definitely seen better days. Secondary characters – too many of them, some of them boring and not earning their keep on the page. Merged two of them into one. Heroine only needs one best-friend.
Favourite trousers but too tight, if only I could get back into them… Keep as inspiration. Pin a photo of them on the fridge in new house as a reminder and incentive. Have a great character that I really like but can’t quite get them to fit into WIP. Deleted but saved in a separate file for future WIP.
Skirt bought in a sale. A bit plain and not very exciting. Up-cycle! Jazz it up with some brightly coloured appliqué. Not enough dialogue or white space. Narrative just goes on and on. Characters given much more to say … Show and don’t tell. Their personalities are shining through better now.

Hard as it was to be ruthless with my packing, it was even harder being ruthless with my WIP but I do feel that both exercises were very worthwhile.  Now I’m in my new home, I just have to do it all again with the unpacking and, no doubt, do it all again with my WIP.

boxes

Would love to hear anyone else’s editing tips :-)

Thanks!

Sue

x

Introducing Miranda Dickinson’s Future Stars… Part Two!

futurestars

This was too much of a marvelous post to cover in one day, so here’s part two of Miranda Dickinson’s interview with her Future Stars!

Q4: Tell us about what you are currently working on?

Neal: My first novel, Dan Taylor Is Giving Up On Women – the story of a guy who thinks he’ll never find the right woman, and then falls for the wrong one – is currently scaling the north face of England’s slush-piles. My work in progress is called Occupied. It’s the story of Rebecca and James, a couple expecting their first baby against the backdrop of a gay sex scandal involving Rebecca’s dad, which draws both sides of the family into controversy. It’s about coming to terms with the fact that parents are people too.

 Emily: The story that I will be working on during Future Stars centres on a young girl named Belle and a young man named Kip. It’s set in 1999 so there has been a fair bit of research, as I was only eleven at the time this is set! The research itself has been so much fun; looking up popular TV shows, music, fashion trends, clubs and so on has been educational as well as nostalgic – I think at one point I refer to the HBO show Sex and the City as “a new American TV show”, which considering it finished in 2004 made me chuckle. Belle and Kip meet by chance over the phone in one of those old red telephone boxes (a case of crossed wires perhaps…?) one night in London’s West End and strike up a friendship that neither one of them will ever forget. There are lots of twists and turns and I’m hoping the centre of the story will touch people. I would love to go a bit more in to detail but fear that might give the game away and I would like the reveal to stay a secret in the book for as long as is possible.

Dominique: The main story I’m writing sounds a bit crazy when I’m trying to explain it, but it’s actually a really simple plot. I’m going to try and not reveal too much. It’s about a regular young woman living in London and her life gets turned upside down. What follows is a medieval fairy-tale of sorts, with a heavy dose of alternative universe, a splash of arrogant prince and a lot of the main character asking what the hell is going on. I’m also working on two other projects. One is a story featuring the Greek God Hermes, set in modern times now that the world has kind of forgotten about the Immortals. And I’ve recently gone back to a short story I started last summer. This one’s about a sea merchant/pirate’s journey to find a legendary treasure. Romance is the main theme in 90% of what I write, but I tend to include a heavy bit of drama, a fight or two, the odd death, lots of cliff hangers, something supernatural or just downright weird, and maybe some deep-rooted family issue just for good measure.

 Millie: Simply, it’s a young adult fiction following a group of teenagers as they try to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s written in first person from the perspective of a teenage girl. She becomes somewhat of the understated leader in her gang and makes the difficult decisions that arise on their journey. I’m trying to make it action-packed but also realistic, too.

 Emma: I have three main novels that I’m working on. Each is quite different from the other. One is about Rosaline, who can communicate with ghosts, sometimes at the most inopportune moments, and there’s a possibility I might like to make this into a series, but I’ll see when I’ve finished this one. Another is about a woman who has moved to L.A., running away from her problems at home, and on possibly one of the worst days of her life, a movie star spills hot coffee all over her and won’t leave well enough alone, especially when she has a past that she’d like to keep there. The third is about Gods and Goddesses of the Greek variety, only not the ones of myths and legends. This is the truth about them and how the vampire legend stemmed from them, too. The story centres on two of them to be precise and them helping someone who is more woven in their past, present and future than they realised or even knew.

 

Q5: What is your writing dream?

 Neal: I’d love to spend as much of my day as I can writing about all kinds of relationships, in a way that’s hopefully funny (and by that I mean it’s funny, and hopeful…). And it’d be even better if lots of people got to read it. I live in a world of my own half the time, it would be nice to have more people around to visit.

 Emily: I would be lying if I said my writing dream wasn’t to get published and get paid to do what I love to do all the time (although I am aware it is not always as glam as people think!). I cannot wait for the day when I see a book with my name on it in the Waterstones in Ealing, where I hail from. To have people read my stories and tell me they like them and / or could relate to the characters that I have created would be the most magical, rewarding thing and I hope with all my heart whether it is a product of Future Stars or something else, that this happens, and not just for me, but for all of us aspiring writers.

 Dominique: It’s a two-stage process. The first step is just completing a story to the best of my ability and knowing I’ve put everything I had to give in to it. Next is publishing. Which I realize is a massive goal to achieve, but I may as well aim high, right? I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t want my work to do well, but the overall dream would be to be able to pick up my book, my very own novel that I’ve put so much in to. That’s when the dream becomes a reality. If people respond well to it, then that’s fantastic. I would love for my written words to get under the skin of someone. Even just one person, and have them actually care about the journey of my characters and know that my little book is sitting proudly on their bookshelf.

 Millie: Ever since I was about ten years old I’ve always wanted to walk into a bookshop and see my name on one of the spines of the books there – to know that the words inside are my own, and the story written has stemmed from my own imagination.

Emma: The same as most writers really – to be published, to see my books on the shelf of a shop, to have people read and love what I’m writing and to have people be excited to see what I write next, like I do with my favourite writers. But what would completely make my writing dream is to have written a sentence that resonates with someone so much that they use it as a favourite quote.

 

Thank you Future Stars and Miranda!

Find out more about everything the Future Stars get up to, plus news about Miranda’s books and other courses and prizes here:

http://www.miranda-dickinson.com and http://www.coffeeandroses.blogspot.com

Introducing Miranda Dickinson’s Future Stars… Part One!

futurestars

Miranda Dickinson is already a star – writer of four bestselling novels, this year she’s launching a mentoring scheme, an online writing course and a short story competition (the New Rose Prize) … oh, and she’s also writing book 5. There was much excitement in Romaniac HQ when Miranda launched the Future Stars initiative – an amazing opportunity for aspiring authors to be mentored by Miranda for a whole year!

You can find out more about all of these on Miranda’s blog and website: 

newrose

http://www.miranda-dickinson.com 

http://www.coffeeandroses.blogspot.com

I know I wasn’t the only person eager to find out more about the chosen Future Stars, and how their year with Miranda was going, so I was delighted when Miranda agreed to bring her stars for a visit to the Romaniac blog (although it got VERY crowded and they completely cleared us out of cakes), so without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Miranda Dickinson and her Future Stars…

Vanessa x

Thank you Romaniacs for hosting my magnificent seven! I’m delighted to introduce you to my Future Stars:

Neal Doran

Emily Glenister

Dominique Hall

Millie McGarrick

Emma Warburton

together with Kate Rhead and Ritzi Cortez

Q1: How did you feel when you discovered you were one of the Future stars?

 Neal: The news came at the end of what had been a pretty lousy week, and I’d been so busy with my proper job I hadn’t had a chance to do any writing in ages. It was such a boost. I was with my two boys at an indoor play centre when the announcement was made. They had to restrain me from overdoing it on the bouncy castle…

Emily:  I remember exactly where I was (not surprising given it was about three months ago). My boyfriend Harry and I had just woken up and I knew that this was the Saturday we would find out who had made it on to the Future Stars list. I’d prepared myself the night before that there was a high possibility it wasn’t going to be me so as not to be disappointed. On that Saturday morning, I picked up my phone saying to Harry, “I know I haven’t got it, but that’s ok because at least I’ve had the chance to be part of it,” etc. There was nothing at that point mentioned in Twitter so I checked my email, where there was an email waiting from Miranda sent in the wee hours of the morning saying I had won a place! I remember screaming, rugby tackling Harry to the ground and crying (all very dramatic, I know!). 2012 was definitely not “my year”, so to have something finally go my way so early on in 2013 was such a wonderful feeling and a huge weight off my shoulders. My tummy was in excited knots for the whole day as I bounced around Covent Garden and Soho drinking my body weight in celebratory champagne cocktails (any excuse)!

Dominique: I’m not even sure there’s a word to best describe my feelings. Especially since I didn’t even consider my winning a place to be a possibility when I entered. I think I may still be in some state of shock, it takes me a long time to process major life events. Maybe I could follow Peter Andre’s example and makeup a ridiculous word by cutting and pasting two together. “Overatic” (overwhelmed and ecstatic?) No, that’s terrible. I now feel the need to apologise for my appalling use of the English language!

Millie: Surprised, because I figured that there would be lots of entrants and the chance of me being accepted was really slim. I also felt proud though because I knew that I had to be doing something right to get this amazing opportunity.

Emma: It took a week for it to really sink in. It gave me a massive confidence boost that maybe one day my writing will be good enough to be on the shelves of a bookshop. In fact I imagine the feeling was probably the same as being offered a publishing deal!

 

Q2: What made you decide to enter the competition?

 Neal: Everything Future Stars offers seemed to be what I needed when I saw it – help with writing and advice on managing all the social media stuff that’s so important to writers these days. And Miranda seems so enthusiastic and positive, it sounded fun! Add to that she’s had, what, 78 best sellers in the past three years? The woman knows her stuff.

Emily: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember so anything on the internet which has the words “writing” and “competition” always catches my eye! Though admittedly, I’ve never entered one before and I think this has something to do with never quite following through with one story before – so many ideas come in to my head and I find myself moving on to another one before completing the other! What made me enter Future Stars with this particular story was that it was the first story I had stuck to without getting – for want of a better word – bored with it. I went through the whole storyline in my head and knew exactly what I wanted to happen. That’s never happened before so I thought it must be a pretty special one and I ought to do something with it!

Dominique: It was one of those ‘what have you got to lose?’ moments.

I heard about the contest a few days after it was first announced and downloaded the application form straight away. I then stared at said application form for a few days wondering how to answer the questions, until I finally decided to just be true to myself with my answers. I didn’t have anything to lose after all. I didn’t even tell anyone that I was entering, but that also had something to do with the fact that nobody knew how passionate I am about writing. Although I’ve been scribbling short stories since high school, before this contest I had never confessed to another soul how much writing means to me. Acknowledging this out loud was the very first thing Future Stars did for me.

 Millie: I had nothing to lose, so I thought “Why not?” Also, my mum played a big part in convincing me to send in the application. I knew it would be amazing if I got accepted despite the slim chance but I decided to take my own advice and go for it: because if you don’t even try you will never get anywhere.

 Emma: Being mentored by Miranda. My writing still needs a lot of work, so to have the chance to pick the brain of a published author I have read and admired is completely invaluable to me. Especially when you hit that dreaded wall in the middle of writing a novel and need that little shove to keep at it so that you get your first draft down.

 

Q3: What do you hope this year working with Miranda will bring?

 Neal: In my Future Stars application I made all sorts of bold claims about using the year to finish my second novel, and either getting an agent for my first or going down the road of self-publishing. The scary thing now is that I’ve got to do it. And with seven of us in Future Stars, I think it’s going to be pretty cool being part of a gang, albeit a gang that chats about overcoming plot obstacles rather than one that shares shivs and gets into turf wars. At first, at least…

 Emily: I hope I actually finish my story! My main objective for this year and the Future Stars experience is to have a finished manuscript in my hand by the end of it. Even if nothing comes of it by way of being published, I will have finished a story right to the end for the first time and that will be really special for me. Also, I would like to build my confidence and persevere even when I’m not sure about something rather than just chucking it in at the first writer’s block hurdle – something that happens all too often!

Dominique: I know that I need to have more self-belief in my work and I’ve already started working on that. In my application form I said I needed help with structure, as it’s one of my weak areas. I’m an OCD planner so I have overall plot notes, character notes, individual chapter notes. I even have a map and fictional royal line drawn up for the main story I’m working on. I need to learn to maintain a solid structure throughout the plot. I also have a tendency to waffle (which I’m doing right now, I know) and include stuff that doesn’t need to be in the chapter. Miranda has also given me loads of helpful information about the industry too, which is brilliant because the whole professional writing world is really daunting and it helps to know I have a successful ‘insider’ to help with my queries.

Overall, I believe working with the ever positive Miranda will give me the drive I need to actually finish a manuscript and know that I put everything I had into it.

Millie: I hope to discover more about me and my writing, in terms of my strengths and bits I can improve on. I’m only young so I’m hoping that I can learn a lot from Miranda’s experience of publishing and writing.

Emma: I’m a serial starter. Or at least that’s what my husband keeps calling me, because I start something, get distracted easily (especially when a shiny new idea strolls into my head and I’m struggling on the current project my mind is on) and then take months to go back to finish it. So I’m hoping that working with Miranda will help me to focus (and that she’ll harass me) when I’m tempted to be distracted.

 Come back tomorrow to find out what the Future Stars are writing at the moment and what their writing dreams are… See you there!

Notebook Confessional

This is a confession of infidelity.

notebooksI have two shelves full of notebooks – and none of them are full. Some of them are completely empty. Yet I can’t walk past a stationery shop without looking for more … always seeking the elusive perfect notebook; The One that will end up containing the perfect stories, as if the notebook itself can produce words.

Each time I buy one, I think this is The One, the one I’ll love forever, the one I’ll keep writing in until the bitter end… but something always goes wrong. We fall out of love and before I know it, I’m back in Paperchase, flirting with a shiny new one.

It’s always been a problem – in school, I’d start every term in love with my beautiful exercise books, all covered in wrapping paper, or carefully decorated with cuttings from magazines … then someone would sit next to me with their books covered in something prettier, sparklier and mine would look dull in comparison, and I’d spend the rest of the term coveting the books next to me.

This year, I’m trying to stay faithful to one notebook at a time – well, maybe two; one small one for small bags and a bigger one for big bags. And maybe one for my desk at work and one for my desk at home. I wouldn’t want to get caught short when THE idea strikes, would I?

Now it’s time for my other Romaniacs to ‘fess up – are you one notebook women, faithful to the end? Or are you spending half your income each week on lovely notebooks and pens and paper and folders and more notebooks and… mmmm….

Vanessa x

NotebooksLaura: I have a secret stash. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours. Need a quick fix? Whatever colour, whatever size you want, I’ve got it. Clean, fresh, virginal pages, lying between exotic covers, waiting to be inked on. I have several on the go at once, but all for different reasons. I fill them to my satisfaction, home them, and then delight in the thrill of starting something new.

Celia: I was going to say that I’m not much of a one for notebooks but then I looked in my desk drawers! The one I use most is the fabulous big gold and dark green one that lives on a shelf right next to the desk. It was a present from my daughters, and last May I started writing down competition entries or anything writing-related that I was doing or had achieved. It’s such a pleasure writing in this book  with my Christmas pen – thick cream pages, decorated edges and clasps to keep it shut. The smaller green and gold one is my diet diary and it doesn’t have much in it. Sadly, this is not because I don’t eat much but because I’m  usually too busy eating and drinking to write in it. 

Catherine: I’ve never really had to buy notebooks because since I was young my family and friends have brought them for me. My problem lies with not being able to get rid of any of them. When you’ve spent your life jotting in notepads, when you look through them you think there’s gold in that there notepad. And that one. And that one. Shame I’ve never found time to go through them all. 

notebook[Stands up and takes deep breath] Hello, my name is Sue and I’m a notebook junky – [smiles at the nods, hellos and encouraging clapping from others in the group] I’ve been addicted to notebooks for many, many years. I can’t get enough of them. Any shape, size, colour, I love them all. Sometimes, I go into stationery shops to admire them, to stroke them, to hold them in my hands, to flick through the untouched virgin paper, to breathe in the smell of newness. The urge to claim it as mine and hand over the last pennies in my purse can be overwhelming. Oh God, just talking about it and words like Paperchase, WH Smith, Waterstones race through my mind. [rushes out of meeting to stroke current favourite]

 Jan: I confess I’d be sitting right beside Sue at that ‘notebook junky’ group. Mr B often tuts and rolls his eyes when I veer off to purr at the stationery when out shopping. I dread to think how many notebooks share our flat with us; big ones, tiny ones, bright ones, patterned ones, you name it… If we Romaniacs lined them all up side by side, I reckon we could fill the floor here at HQ.  Our very own notebook carpet. There’s a thought…

Debbie: I give up with notepads. Like the others, I have piles of them but interestingly the only ones I use are of the ‘value’ or ‘homebrand’ variety. Following an Arvon writing course I did invest in a couple of moleskin ones which come out if I’m attending a writing course or any RNA events but otherwise, the trouble I seem to have with notebooks is that most of them are gifted ones and far too beautiful to write in!

About five years ago, a friend gave me a beautiful silk notebook. The cover is a rich, reddish-brown, almost the colour of polished copper, with a ‘framed’ panel of sinuous, vertical meandering flowers and acanthus leaves embossed in the middle of the front outer cover. And for the five years since acquiring it, it has lived on top of my piano alongside my metronome. It stays there, gathering dust, each parchment page as virginal and empty as when it was hand bound.  It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend, that I realised why…

Apparently, her sister has a gift for writing poetry and in an attempt to encourage and inspire ‘F’ bought her a luxurious notebook for her ideas and notes. After a few weeks, she discovered her sister hadn’t used it and when asked, her sister told her it was because it was “too lovely to write in…” Following lengthy discussions with her sibling and others, F concluded that her sister didn’t feel she was ‘worthy’ of the notebook. It was as if somehow, it was ‘too good’ and too beautiful for her to write in; that her writing did not measure up to the paper.

I smiled at my friends conclusion. It struck a chord. Perhaps it’s a trait of the ‘wannabe’ writer who hasn’t quite made it that I feel ‘unworthy?’ but I could see some truth in her words. And I still struggle to ruin a perfect blank page or beautiful silk cover with my scribbled musings. So for now my collection of notebooks sit forlornly in my study and look beautiful, gathering dust, until one day…

Lucie: I think it comes with the job! I don’t think any writer would be without at least one trusty notebook – or several hundred in Sue’s case :-) – to jot down their musings. I have a few notebooks. Mainly I have a purple one that goes in my bag for when I am out and about, one on my desk which isn’t as pretty and a few stored in my desk that are all half written in. I don’t think I’ve ever filled a notebook. I’ve always been teased away by another before getting quite to the end. I do find it hard to go into places like WHSmith, Paperchase and Staples and not be drawn straight to the stationery section. 

Come to think of it, I think I’m due a new one…..

You googled WHAT?

When researching a storyline it’s not uncommon to google something peculiar and not in keeping with your day to day life. Baby Number Two is my current WIP and from the title you can already imagine there will be some interesting google searches during its completion. What really fascinates me though (’cause I’m a bit sad like that) is what search terms lead people to The Romaniacs blog. There are of course the sensible ones, but you don’t want to hear about them. I thought I’d share the Top 10 random search terms that have brought people here:

1) Robert Pattinson body hair

Erm… we haven’t stolen it, honest!

2) Young sperm

This was a cleanish search term. Just to let you know – mention sperm on your blog and you get extra hits as a result.

3) What the world needs is a group hug

I’m inclined to agree and I’m very glad when someone was looking for a group hug they found us.

4) This girl said we are kindred souls

One of The Romaniacs? They are so fickle.

5) Sainsburys singles night

I’m itching to add apostrophes. I do want to know more about this. Do they have an allocated time when you all meet in the pizza aisle?

6) grange hill sausage

I don’t even know what to say about this. Just why? And what?

7) is your name yasmin chat up line

I don’t think it was The Romaniacs they were after. Unless… anyone been putting on a husky voice to fund their writing endeavours?

8) should i get spanx or m & s underwear

Good question. Doubt we helped with the answer. Personally, I have M & S suck it all in pants.

9) subliminal messages to get someone to marry you

Hmm… this has to be a girl asking this, right? In which case, boys don’t do subliminal. Make it obvious or it won’t work. Take them shopping and gasp at gorgeous diamond rings when you pass window displays. That should do the trick.

10) just ate big bag of cadbury buttons !!

You are my kind of person. This is exactly the kind of behaviour The Romaniacs encourage.

Of course, I have skipped over some search terms, but judging by the majority, we could set up an agony aunt column answering all the questions that arrive here. Although each answer would involve reading a good book.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to look up on the computer? And what strange search terms have you discovered on your blog/website? Any questions that google hasn’t helped with and you want The Romaniacs to tackle?

Your Agony Aunt, Catherine x

The Perfect Life List

I sat down this morning to write a list of ideas for my upcoming blog and was a few lines in when inspiration struck – I didn’t NEED this list, because I could write a blog ABOUT lists and how fabulous and essential they are. Brilliant! And I can even relate it to writing because so many of my lists are about writing!

I LOVE lists. I do, I really do. I always start the day with at least one list, and nothing beats the satisfaction of ticking things off that list. I don’t wait until New Year to write lists of resolutions – I tend to do this on a monthly basis, a never-ending list of things I’m convinced will result in a perfect life if only I could put a tick next to them all…

I don’t think it’s just me – everyone loves a good list, don’t they? A love ingrained from a very early age, I realized, as my five year old made me sit down with her the other day to help with the spelling on her Christmas list – she’d seen something on an advert on TV and just had to write it down immediately (it was a Barbie Puppy Play Park in case Santa is reading this, and she’s been a very good girl this year so definitely must be on the good list).

This week, and it’s only Wednesday as I write this, I have written the following lists:(apologies in advance for the mention of the C word. I can’t help myself – ONLY 15 WEEKS TO GO!)

List of short story competitions

List of short story ideas

List of chapter ideas for new book

Daily lists of scenes I want to write

List of potential titles for new book

List of blog ideas

Daily work lists for the day-job

Weekly task list for the day-job

List of things to buy in lunch-hour at day-job

Food shopping lists

Menu plan for the week

List of children’s school activities I need to pay for/complete forms for

Christmas present lists (sorry)

Everything I want to buy for Autumn/Winter lists

List of new books I want to buy

List of ingredients for recipes

List of chores to be done in house (long)

List of chores to be done in garden (longer)

List of exercise I WILL do this week (short)

Lists of very expensive things I would buy if rich

List of very expensive places I would go if rich

I think maybe I have a problem. But I definitely work better if I have lists. Take food shopping for example – send me shopping without a list, I’ll spend twice as much money and come back with nothing edible. It’s the same for writing. I’m not a huge planner – I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in a book when I start writing. I know my characters, how the book starts and how it ends. In between I write a lot of lists, lists that change regularly as I go along. Some are abandoned, some are expanded, some are ruthlessly cut. I start with a vague, unnumbered list of what might happen, then a less vague list of chapter numbers and what might happen. The first lists might only have a dozen chapter ideas – the rest of it tends to spring from the characters’ actions. But I always go back and update my lists because if I didn’t, my poor characters would just wander around, getting lost and being generally useless.

Do you know, reading this back through, I sound like I should be quite organised, don’t I? Almost… efficient. Hmmm… not sure where the lists are going wrong for me. Maybe it’s the lack of things actually ticked off those lists that’s the problem?

Still, never mind – can’t stop. Lists to write, stories to finish.

Vanessa x

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

You’ve just finished your novel and all you have to do now is just go through it and just find those words that you just slip in all the time without even noticing.

We all have our comfort words or phrases that we can’t help using, but it’s wheedling them out and finding a suitable replacement that can be tricky at times. Even for novels that have been through the edits process and made it to publication can be guilty of repetition – think of a particularly current erotic trilogy where eye rolling and lip biting seem to happen all the time.

At Romaniac HQ we were discussing our comfort words/phrases and thought we would share them with you.

Would love to know what yours are :-)

Laura:

It’s amazing how these words creep unnoticed into the manuscript. I was aware of previous criminal over use of ‘back’, ‘here’ and ‘although’, and managed to limit them in Follow Me, however, I’ve developed a habit for ‘could’, ‘only’, ‘besides’, ‘thought’ and ‘look’.

My characters have glanced, glowered, gazed, scowled and stared, but mostly they looked. There was a ‘look’ on every page. Sometimes two. My worst example: Four. Yes. Four looks on one page. That’s asking for eye-strain. I spent two days finding alternatives for my word crimes, but sometimes a look is just that. A look.

Sue:

I’m a devil for using the word ‘just’, I can’t believe how many times I threw it in there! Most of the time it wasn’t needed. Another one of my crimes, not so much a word but a description. My poor hero spent an inordinate amount of time winking and looking amused. I swear, in my current WIP my heroine is never going to notice the amused look on the hero’s face again. Nor are his eyes going to smile, alone or otherwise and as for my heroine experiencing another frisson, well, it just isn’t going to happen. Ever.

Oh no, I’ve done it here – put the word ‘just’ in – old habits die hard :-(

Vanessa:

I’m a looker too… Well, not me but my characters – looking, glancing and gazing at each other all day long, I’m amazed they manage to do anything else. And like Sue, I have favourite, over-used mannerisms for my characters – one character in my latest chews her lip so much I don’t see how she can have any lips left. The previous book had a nail biter who must have ended up with bloody stumps at the end of her wrists she chewed so much in the first draft…

But my worst crime – and I’d like to point out that this was a long time ago and I’m VERY careful to avoid this now – is the eyes with lives of their own. In a very early draft of a very early MS, now hidden away in a drawer, I have characters that roll their eyes at other characters, clumsy characters who drop their eyes all over the place and one particularly gruesome scene where someone caressed someone else – WITH HIS EYES. Imagine the mess, the pain…

Catherine:

STILL she JUST doesn’t know what to do about THAT NOW – I thought I’d throw my overused words into a sentence. I’m also bad at throwing in unneeded directional words like BACK, UP, DOWN. I’m also a terror for clustering together repeat words (spot the mistake) in a paragraph. I look (that one’s for you girls) at individual lines and sometimes neglect to notice that I have three uses of DOOR in a few lines.

Jan:

THOUGHT, PONDERED, WONDERED, MUSED – honestly, some of my characters could have circumnavigated the globe they’ve spent THAT much time WONDERING. Or was it WANDERING? As for repetition, well, they’ve ducked, dived, gulped, frowned and  giggled their way through many a scene. And as for the word JUST, well, let’s JUST say, like Sue, I’m JUST a complete sucker for it… 

Celia: My big problem is with ‘that’. The times that I use that are way too many, I know that I shouldn’t, but it’s the word that I like best of all and that’s a fact. I think I’m getting over that hurdle now though, there are lots of other words that I could use instead, and I know that it’s just a matter of time before all those thats are a thing of the past. Was that ok, chaps?

Oh, and my other one is ‘as’. As in ‘As he walked into the room’, or ‘She bit her lip as he tied her to the bed post.’ But that’s another book.

And finally – not a word really but I get semi-colon frenzy. I’ve had to cull most of them recently but the sign in  the picture needs one desperately. ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Goodbye is the hardest word…

Haven’t I been here before? At the finishing line? In fact – I recall blogging some months ago and beginning with the words I’VE FINISHED! But of course, that was just the first draft, the first lap around the track. But this time, I really, really, really have finished.

Well, sort of. For now, at least…

Just need to press send…

In a minute. Maybe I’ll just read it through one more time…

From about the third draft onwards, as I read through the final chapter, I’m always convinced that this is it – my book is finished, as perfect as it can be, ready to send out to the world. And then I leave it a while, and come back to it, and realize it’s not finished at all, there are still things I can do to improve and polish, words to be tweaked, sentences made shinier.

But at least three times now, I’ve celebrated reaching The End on twitter, and each time I can’t imagine making any more changes, so I send it out there – first to my fabulous agent and to the lovely readers at the RNA, and it comes back with detailed notes about areas that need developing, expanding, cutting, and so I go back and polish and tweak and make it shinier.

But this time, I’m 99% sure I really have finished.

But I really wish I hadn’t. Not because I love editing that much (although I DO love editing) – but because I hate saying goodbye. We’ve all read books we don’t want to end – because we love the characters, because we’ve spent so much time in that fictional world it’s become almost real. We’ve raced through, transfixed by every word and then slow down towards the end, stretching it out, unable to face the last page. And this is even more true in the books we write – we have lived with these characters for a year or more, spending as much time with them as our real-life families and friends; we have guided them through highs and lows and we have loved them. It’s very hard to close the door on them and send them on their way – however hard editing can get, no one really wants the end to be the end.

We want reaching the end to be the beginning.

But anyway – enough prevaricating.

It really is time to press send.

It really is time to say goodbye…

NWS Deadline – The Final Push

Say the word ‘August’ to anyone on the New Writers’ Scheme and you tend to get one of three reactions, for which I’ve translated into plain English.

(a)  The small smile, hanging somewhere between pride and satisfaction, together with an acknowledging nod of the head.

Translation : ‘Oh yes! I’ve already sent mine off. Go Me!’

(b)  The grimace and rolling of eyes.

Translation : ‘Thank God, I’m nearly there, just got to tweak and then send it.’

(c)  The death look, all colour drains from face and a small eek escapes their tremulous mouth.

Translation : ‘ *#$* why did you go and bring that up? I am having murderous thoughts about you now. I’m never going to get it finished.’

If you’re reading this sitting back, smiling at the monitor, then well done, give yourself a pat on the back. Although I do fall in this category, I have to admit, mine was a rewrite of last year’s submission which I had been working on since September. After a particularly long wait and a second read, I got both reports back last month.

If you are grimacing and rolling your eyes as you read this (if eye rolling and reading are possible at the same time – how many of you just tried it?) then keep tapping away at the keyboard, the end is in sight, you’re nearly there.

Equally if you now want to punch the monitor and are cursing me for mentioning that blasted deadline whilst wondering why the hell you signed up for this in the first place, then I am sorry. However, as self-appointed cheerleader, I’m with you to the bitter sweet end. Come on, you can do it!

Sue x

Writing to Plan – Penny Hike, Map or GPS?

As I’ve been planning my new novel this last week or so, I couldn’t help wondering how others approach this phase of the writing process.

When I hear writers say that they ‘write into the mist’ I can’t help but admire them, it’s something that I could never do. To me that would be like going on a ‘Penny Hike’ where every time you get to a junction, you flip a coin to see which way to go. Others I know like to plan in detail, they plot and plot until they have every scene in every order and know exactly where they are going.  They plan their writing journey with the precision of a GPS navigation system. Sadly, I’m not that organised.   I’m probably somewhere in between.  I do like to plan and I like to gather together scenes that I think may fit into my novel along the way but not in huge detail.  I have a pretty good idea where it’s all going but am prepared to take a detour now and again.  I see it rather like planning a journey with an Ordinance Survey Map, knowing that you are starting at ‘A’ and going to end up at ‘B’ – albeit eventually.

Having said that, I do like to have a good handle on the time-line and it’s something that evolves as I write.  A bit like a travel journal.  I like to know the month my novel starts, if possible the week and the day.  I also like these days to be a true reflection of days in real life.  For example, if my heroine works at the Post Office, I can’t have her going into work on a Bank Holiday Monday, so I like to get the calendar out and check.   I’m not entirely sure every reader or, indeed, any reader would go and check themselves but it would be just my luck that someone reading it will know that date – maybe it was their birthday or wedding anniversary – but they will know that it was a Bank Holiday and, therefore, the Post Office was shut.

To help navigate this calendar minefield, when I wrote my last manuscript I devised a timeline. I simply got several sheets of A4 paper and wrote out my own calendar.  Then I put a circle round the days when key events in my novel happened, together with a couple of words to indicate what that key event was.  That way when I wrote something like, ‘It had been ten days since she had heard from him’, I know that it is definitely ten days, not nine, not eleven, but ten exactly.  I have a thing about continuity and this is how I keep it going.  Also, it can give a quick overview of key events so if anyone comes back to me and queries something, I can instantly refer to it.

My timeline – covered about six months

I’d love to know how everyone does their planning.

Do you Penny Hike, take a map or get the GPS out?

Sue