on the writing & reading trail

Archive for April, 2012

Edit diary update – getting there

Days 62-64 (April 28-30)

It’s hard to believe another week has rolled around.

Today – 30 April: Very focused on editing, and worked pretty well straight through 20 chapters. I’m hoping that means enough work had been done on earlier sweeps and not that I’m missing something now; not still too close to see the flaws. All changes were fairly superficial – of the tweaking variety. When I’m done, I guess that means the manuscript is ready for some wider opinions – beyond the Writer’s Group and my own. Hoping to finish and format by 5 May.

Pages are looking cleaner now

Over the lunch period I critiqued a draft short story in memoir form for a Group member. Aren’t other people’s lives fascinating? Usually we don’t get under the surface for casual friends unless through memoirs and the guesses we make from reading their fiction. More critiquing to come before our May meeting on Friday.

Weekend editing – 28-29 April: In fits and starts. Many interruptions. Cursory scan of two chapters only. Disappointed as it means I missed the April 30 Part One deadline for completion. Still it feels better to have a goal than not, and I don’t think I’ll be too far behind.

Weekend reading: Somehow I got distracted and read very little for a change. Am still with the Collins the keepers of truth. While still enjoying the writing if not the story, I admit to finding the visions of the industrialisation impacts somewhat repetitive. Am about four fifths through and I got the message quite a while back, unless something new crops up to prove it all needed to be said over and again.

Editing and reading

Day 61 (April 27)

Editing:  Going well. Almost done with the latest sweep of Part One of Book One. Tomorrow I move on to Part Two. Still trying to settle on titles for parts and books.

Reading:  Weekends seem to come round very quickly. That’s when major reading happens. I’m more than half-way half-way through the keepers of truth, and found the source of the title. Won’t spoil it for anyone – but what an impressive character duo. I love the scene where the meaning becomes obvious.

I’m also planning to revisit The Loop by  Nicholas Evans for some light relief – great yarn about the tensions between the protectors and hunters of wolves.

The other book I want to revisit, but with serious intent is An imperfect offering by James Orbinski. In the not so distant future I expect to start editing the second book of the family and friendship saga series I am working on, and want to be in tune with the awful realities of humanitarian aid work. Orbinski’s book among several others, is so compelling about the work of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and will I hope, help me to bring some authenticity to my own writing. In my Book Two, Freya, after experiencing disappointments and sadness in Australia, sets off as a volunteer with MSF to work in South Sudan.

For anyone who is interested in what happens to the ordinary people (many of whom become extraordinary) in a country during devastating climatic conditions combined with the upheavals and politics of war, I recommend any of the participating country sites for MSF. The one I most regularly follow is www.msf.org.au for contemporary issues. Many such issues are mirrored in what happened in the time-frame of my story, set in the late 1990s. Orbinski’s writing itself is easy and flowing. My difficulty is with the impact of the stories and the need to read in increments to take in the horrors. This is real life, and I guess that is why I can’t read manufactured horror stories.

Editing progresses

Days 58-60 (24-26 April)

26 April: The work went on apace. Ahead of schedule. Minor changes only – tightening sentences, deleting sentences, slight re-ordering of sentences within paragraphs, splitting very long paragraphs. Had an odd sense it was Monday. Public holiday yesterday took me out of phase.

Tranquil at this time

Missed usual bus by minutes and the next one was almost 30 minutes late due to a breakdown, so I had a really close encounter with the bus station and the cacophony of birds settling for the night – one star, crescent moon, pink fluff clouds turning to grey, then soft dark. That was OK.

25 April: Emotional and reflective Anzac Day. Afternoon walk with a friend. Only editing happened in thought but was productive.

Reflections from the bridge

24 April: Productive. Racing through the chapters.

Next edit sweep commenced – reading update

Day 57 (April 23)

Today: Managed to visit the prologue and four chapters of Part One and made lots of changes even though they’ve been worked over many times. However, I’ve decided those five segments are now cooked enough. Will see what tomorrow brings.

Weekend: I did no editing over the weekend as I promised myself and felt fresher for the fray today. So days 55 and 56 were spent reading, the inevitable shopping / cooking chores (that’s right I’m a reluctant housekeeper and all that goes with that), and mulling over a lifetime of photographs (I have a family photo-book project in mind). It will be fun selecting from and scanning long-ago pictures. I found so many forgotten memories; very nostalgic and story fodder for the future.

Reading: Michael Collins book, the keepers of truth is more vicious in parts than I expected from the blurbs and the first few pages. Not my usual fare, but I’ll stay the course, the writing is outstanding. I’m sure the Booker Prize judges will be pleased I agree with their opinions.

Also finished a couple of other books. First Battlelines by Tony Abbott, which I enjoyed – it reminded me of frustrations when working in the Commonwealth Government about the complexities of the federal system and the buck-passing between Canberra and the states and the impossibility of achieving better than a compromise that didn’t really serve the needs of the nation. I wouldn’t have missed that experience although it was tough to deal with, during eight over-worked years that included elections and the breaking up and merging of departments will all the possibly unwarranted costs of that and the resulting overlap of responsibilities that were seldom sorted out amidst the volume of other priorities. Oh, and the onerous burden of managing poor performers who should never have been selected!

The other book is titled In search of my father: Dementia is no match for a daughter’s determination by Helena Popovic. It would be of interest to many beginning to cope with family members with dementia. I read parts of it and scanned the rest with a view to discovering new material as I’ve read much on the topic in recent years because of experience with two elderly relatives with Alzheimer’s Disease and another with a brain tumour. I didn’t find anything new, but the book provides many examples and explanations about recent research that helps to ward off both mental and physical deterioration. Developments around neuroplasticity are well outlined.

Edit diary – still last chapter

Day 54 (April 20)

Spent the morning still with the last chapter and the last few paragraphs. Because it is now the end of Book One without immediate follow-on to the rest of the story, the changes are not right yet. Ideas are incubating but haven’t quite surfaced. I will get there. Played truant in the afternoon and I think I’ll do the same this weekend as I’m feeling a trifle stale. And there are all those lovely books on the shelf to delve into.

I finished Bel Canto which ended exactly how it needed to. A magnificent book.

My next is by Michael Collins, the keepers of truth. Only pages in, I’m hooked already. Sadly, it’s another challenge to my poor eyes because of small print. Ah well! I know it will be worth the effort.

E-readers are a boon for older folk because of font size changes.

Till next week.

Edit diary – last chapter

Day 53 (April 19)

Saga editing: It’s true. I am on the last chapter of Part Two with only a few paragraphs to visit. I made lots of small changes today and flagged areas that need more substantial work.

It feels good to be close to done, but if I scroll back there are many yellow and grey highlights to show where the new words and ideas will fit. In general I’ve noted what is needed. And there is one whole scene I’ve avoided because it needs me to be truly focussed when I revisit research undertaken some months ago; about the interaction between flight instructor and student when there are problems with stalls. Jenny is having a bad day but Alexander is patient. There is a lot to be found on the internet but what I think I need seems to be spread over a number of sites.

When I get it done it will need an expert eye to make sure I’ve not made a mess of it.

Anthology: I found some of the misplaced stories and discovered I must have deleted a few early ones before the anthology idea morphed into something practical. No doubt the writers will have the originals.

In summary, a very satisfactory day. Will feel justified to spend the evening reading – sadly almost done with Bel Canto. I will miss all those wonderful errant characters. Maybe that’s not quite true as I think they will stay with me for quite a while.

Edit diary – getting there & Anthology progress

Day 52 (April 18)

Saga editing: Worked three chapters that have had a fair bit of attention before, as a result of Writer’s Group input and my own additional changes, but still found a lot to improve on.

Raises a couple of interesting questions: When will I be satisfied? And then what happens when more expert opinion than our Group garners, provides feedback? It could go on forever even for Book One, and there are two more books to go through the process, and there are two other novels itching to be written, and my mind keeps straying towards them as well as some short stories between times.

However, I enjoyed today’s delving. In Glasgow, Alexander married Catriona and she was soon pregnant. That chapter needed some expansion to explain Catriona’s reluctance to involve her family initially. Alexander’s parents in Melbourne are trying to encourage an early trip to Australia to meet the new family member and are happy he has recovered from the unhappiness over Freya.

In need of change

In another chapter: Meantime Freya picks up her sister from Edinburgh Airport. Ness is seeking advice and solace from Freya about her slowness in starting a family. On an overnight hiking trip along the coast south of the city, from St Abbs to Eyemouth, the sisters pool information and memories that fill in a few of the gaps in their family history, even as they accept much is unlikely ever to be uncovered.

Although I’d already acted on substantial feedback from Group colleagues, I made many more changes, some quite significant. At this time Freya believes she will remain single and childless.

For attention tomorrow

Anthology: Also managed to compile more of the stories for our proposed e-anthology of Ten Minute Tales. Looks like I culled my email inbox a bit too soon as I don’t seem to have copies of all the submissions. In the meantime I took a unilateral decision to format the ones I have into Times New Roman font and to develop a draft presentation layout for comment; at least there’ll be a starting point for change suggestions. Will check USB tonight to see if I can find a few of the missing ones. Attendance at our May meeting will be a little thin as a couple of members are away; one for sad compassionate circumstances, another for a joyous family occasion. Life is like that. And who knows what might happen in between?


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