on the writing & reading trail

Archive for April, 2012

Edit diary progress

Day 51 (April 17)

Saga editing: Late start because of accompanying a relative to a medical appointment – always delays. Continued focus from yesterday. I breezed through two chapters making only minor changes, then got badly stuck on the next two.

I immediately recognised the problem with both – they haven’t received any attention after the first draft which was written in haste with the intention of ‘getting it down’.  I’m wondering how many more are in the same state. So, handicapped by a nasty migraine and some dullness from having taken a couple of Panadol, I made do with identifying where the problems are with colour highlights and suggestions, but did not feel clear enough to tackle them in detail.

In the first awkward chapter I need to work on capturing the flavour of Freya’s friendship with Dora, a Dutchwoman undertaking a different nursing course from her own at Edinburgh University. Although clear in my thoughts, it does not leap from the page. Important to get right as the pair meet again in dramatic circumstances at the end of Book Two, and again in Book Three. I’m feeling a bit handicapped as I still haven’t found fitting working titles for any of the three books since deciding to carve up the whole saga.

Getting there

In the second problematic chapter the issues are similar – mainly the need to bring more energy to the interaction between two very different people. Back in Australia, Alexander’s new friend, Tony Bolton  (mentioned yesterday) becomes smitten with Halima, a Muslim girl, but is only vaguely aware of the magnitude of cultural difference. Heartache is ahead for him.

Will try one more chapter and then get out into the air before the rain returns in earnest. It was very heavy overnight. Later: The rain came and spoiled that idea.

Overall, progress today was better than expected. Maybe the end of April deadline for completing the work on both parts of Book One before a final sweep in May is within reach still if I can substantially reshape around two chapters per day.


Edit diary progress and more

Day 50 (April 16)

Saga editing: Another fruitful day, according to intention to focus first on progress in Part Two, I worked to the end of Chapter Nine, making similar changes as with weekend work – moving chapters, paragraphs and sentences around and tightening them. Have slight discomfort that the entry of a new character may seem abrupt – may change the beginning of that chapter.

Freya is working in Glasgow again and attends a hospital class reunion with her friend Kirsty from Aberdeen. She accepts a new work challenge and has a well-earned holiday on Menorca. Alexander catches up with his sister who has been backpacking in Europe, and makes a new Australian friend who will play a significant part in his future.

Around lunchtime I tackled that troublesome Part One chapter (now Chapter Seven), that sets the scene for upheaval for Freya. Deleted sizeable chunks and made other alterations to match. Next sweep should get it right.

Anthology:  Tabulated the stories by Writer’s Group members that I think are agreed for inclusion, wrote my bio, drafted an introduction, and collated copies of the stories I have on file (not complete). Will send to all by email for feedback and supply of outstanding stories. We need to manage the next part of the process online as several members will be absent from the next meeting. We have agreed a photograph for the cover, kindly supplied by the friend of one member.

Next steps need us to supply individual photographs, and enlist the kind offer of help from one of the husbands to undertake the prescribed formatting.

Short stories: Working on two at the moment – neither is gelling (is that grammatically correct?). First deadline is 15 May.


Reading: Continuing with Bel Canto. Still entranced.

Edit diary – Idle weekend

Days 48-49 (April 14-15)

Editing amounted to a languid approach to the beginning of Part Two of the family saga. Worked on four chapters and made superficial changes to slack sentences, restructured a few paragraphs, compacted a short chapter, deleted parts of it, then included the revision within an earlier chapter. All will need a good going over again. Unbeknown to each other, Freya is training as a midwife in Aberdeen while Alexander is living in Glasgow and teaching in a private school on the city outskirts. Both are struggling to recover from the mysterious changes to their expectations.

The reading I had in mind for the weekend did not happen. Instead I was captured by a book recommended by one of my sisters. I’d set it aside because of the small print, but once started, cannot put it out of mind. It is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I am entranced by its difference. Usually long stretches of detail and description do not entice, but this author’s touch is so light with delicious and unexpected diversions I don’t want to skip at all. Such a cast of characters, so distinctive I haven’t lost touch with one of them yet. If only I could get a large print edition I’d be in heaven, and wouldn’t need to ration it out because of tired eyes.

I’ve immediately put other Patchett books on library request, ready to be beguiled again.

Edit diary update

Day 47 (April 13)

Saga editing: Feeling quite elated today. Made a lot of progress this morning. Moved three chapters from existing Part Two to Part One. I can remember the logic of the earlier decision but new arrangement makes more sense with structural changes. Now Freya and Alexander’s time of expectations is separated clearly from the time of adjustment to new circumstances.

The die is cast for three books now. Book One ends where Freya has committed to a new and different life from the one she envisaged, and a return to Australia, hoping to combine career and family life. I need to find a new working title – brainstorming has not delivered an acceptable alternative yet.

Today I mapped out ideas to make the ending of Book One and the beginning of Book Two stronger, especially the beginning of Book Two as the underpinnings need to be incorporated so that it can stand alone. Similar work will be needed for the end / beginning, for Book Two / Book Three.

Next week it will be full steam ahead, aiming to meet the deadline (end April) for completing editing of Book One, to be ready for a final sweep and sending out for reader opinions (end May).

Love my books

It will be a weekend for reading more than anything else with two books to finish, one to scan, and twitter samplers galore to explore.


Edit diary and short story ideas

Day 46 (April 12)

Editing: Really tuned in today: got straight to work on early new material and original beginning chapters. Improved wording for several sentences and changed sentence order in a number of paragraphs (something I seem to need to do quite often). Flitted between settings in the Glasshouse Mountains, Glasgow in the 1940s and 1980s, and Eyemouth on the east coast of Scotland, south of Edinburgh.

It soon became clear that scene re-ordering was also a priority which led on to a new quick scan. Because of today’s mind-set and work completed, it became quite clear that long chapters should be divided, making it possible to avoid awkward transitional details if I can find the right ‘foreshadow’ words.

In long-hand I worked out a new scene order and where chapter divisions should come in, and re-numbered chapters for the whole of Part One. Also became fairly convinced I’ll bring in two (maybe three) chapters from existing Part Two to Part One.

Many changes

And that notion led on to other possible options – structural type options. Now I’m thinking further consolidation may work through designating three or four parts within existing Part One. A quick sift through current Part Two suggests a similar increase in the number of Parts could be helpful for readers, but rather than division of chapters, a possible merging of some very short ones.

Will ponder these options as I continue, but suspect that’s how it will go.

Short stories: Will continue working on ideas. New ones keep popping into mind. First deadline is mid-May, so plenty of time. Breaking the day by working on something different for an hour or so around lunch-time, seems to keep thinking fresh.

Edit diary and reading reflections

Day 45 (April 11)

A short day is planned with a long walk in the offing in the afternoon.

Editing: Stayed with the saga editing task till lunchtime and a while beyond. Still grappling, but getting clearer. Jettisoned several large chunks of text because it seemed they were light on substance even though they made some contribution to character profiles. Next sweep will determine if their absence matters.

Occasional glances out of the library window showed overcast skies and a question mark about the walk, then light rain and now sunshine. Who knows what it will be like a couple of hours from now. Hoping to get that walk. It always helps to clear my thinking.

The walk happened; the rain and clouds had gone.

Relaxation: Tonight is no-go for writing, it is Good Wife night on TV.

My reading revolves around titles requested because they’ve been recommended by friends or reviewers, or have won or been short-listed for awards, or appeal from the library shelves when I’m on my way to the bus and looking for something to read en route. A very motley lot. In the last day or so:

  • I returned Farundell to the library – a first novel by L R Fredericks. Set in the Oxfordshire countryside, an interesting patchwork of characters provide insights into English bohemian lifestyle after the First World War. Although well written, the story didn’t quite grip me although I persevered to the end. The dreams and out-of-body journeys resonated, but seemed repetitive latterly. An unusual plot device, the persistent references to The Pymander, an enigmatic book; the Mind of God, felt overly contrived for my comfort, with perhaps an undue recurrence of the sexual encounters, certainly lustful by one of the participants and questionably claiming ‘love’ for the other. The ending felt inevitable and satisfying.

In this work I recognised glitches that are apparent through the editing of my own first novel – maybe I can fix some of mine. I would certainly have a look at this author’s next novel in the planned series. And maybe I’ll find it more compelling.

A number of the reviews gave ratings of five out of five – maybe three for me. A detailed review can be found on the librarything.com website, with author details available at http://www.lrfredericks.com/books/farundell/more-about-farundell

  • I’m also reading a second novel, the last blue mile, by Kim Ponders that explores a young woman’s journey through Air Force Academy. I am three-quarters through but still not sure I will finish it. Readable, but lacking verve, it feels like a catalogue of things that happened, rather than experienced. Each time I felt a momentous change was in the offing, there was a let-down. Even the death of a trainee glider pilot felt low-key. Maybe that’s part of the culture that passed me by. I’ve read on hoping to feel part of the drama. Maybe the story would be of more interest to young people making up their minds about life in the military or air force; to understand the unappealing slog that happens before what they really hoped for, begins for them.

Even though this book hasn’t excited me, I have a notion I’ll try to have a look at Ponder’s first novel titled, The art of uncontrolled flight. I’ll check if it is in the library.

 An interesting author with an interesting history. Could be worth a look at the You Tube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeKBDR-0pyM, or author details at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Ponders.

  • In the last week I also revisited The last darkness by Campbell Armstrong, not for the story which I found unappealing each of the times I read it before, but for his writing style which is riveting. I’ve met and worked with a few eccentric characters along the way and related to Lou Perlman the Jewish detective who both relished and despaired about his work in the harsh realities of Glasgow crime. This is one of three or four of the Glasgow stories, details at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell_Armstrong.

 My favourite of all from Armstrong is the memoir All that really matters, published in 2000. It is on my ‘read again’ list.

  •  Another oddity for me is that I watch Taggart each Saturday night although I dislike Glasgow’s violence and wickedness on constant show. The characters are the attraction again, especially another eccentric in Taggart himself.

For both Armstrong and Taggart there are other forces at work that don’t fit rationally. Maybe part of the attraction is the city itself, where I lived and worked at times in the latter part of the 1900s. After the initial culture shock to a young Aussie, it found a place in my affections, and it was my father’s birthplace. Whenever I visit the UK, a few days in Glasgow feels essential, and never seems to be long enough.

Saga edit continues – grappling

Day 44 (April 10)

Saga editing: I’m still grappling with the unruly beginnings of Part One. The big structural change is much harder to deal with than I expected. My recent efforts don’t gel. The ideas and the content are the same as they were previously, but the relocation continues to be awkward. Re-reading shows more anomalies and gaps. So some more new writing is needed and consistency in the ordering of events is a challenge. Solution may lie in replacing one long chapter with three or four shorter ones. And contrary to all the good advice of the writing books and course presenters I’m thinking that a little dose of telling instead of showing might help. Some progress but still grappling after lunch break. Will take a turn at short story ideas  for a while.

Short story ideas:  I’ve pulled out two settings to work on, a main character and a trigger incident for each, around which to fabricate a fiction. Possibilities feel endless but I’ve found no firm direction. Next challenge is designated length – 1,500 words and 600 words feel too short for both so the trick is to narrow down the possibilities. Or maybe these ideas that I’ve become attached to belong somewhere else. I’ll have a go at both and see what happens.

And now there is a third competition in the offing – 3,000 words. Should I divert attention from editing for any of all of these entries? Results of two others are still to come. I’m appreciative about having made two recent longlists, and a highly commended last year, but it would be encouraging to get onto a shortlist.

Outcomes:  Not satisfied with where I got to, but know the disarray for both editing and new stories is clearer at the end of the day than it was at the beginning.

It is good to be back at the library after four days away. There is always a loss of momentum after an interruption to routine, but it will be better tomorrow.  And I want to raid my bookshelf at home tonight. Something niggles that there is help from a volume I haven’t visited for a long time. Can’t remember the author name or title of the book, but I’ll recognise it.


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