on the writing & reading trail

Archive for May, 2012

Short story and critique day

Day 17 (May 31)

Editing dropped off the program for today. I was focusing on the short story which took longer to complete than hoped. It turned out better than expected but would have benefited from a bit more cooking and another look, but I entered it anyway into a local competition with minutes to spare before close of business. Not to be recommended.

Tonight I caught up with finishing critiques of two chapters from group members for discussion at tomorrow’s meeting. One from a completed novel about a family’s experience of migration and the pain of leaving others behind contrasted with the highs and lows of fitting into a new environment. The other was from a work in progress that is exploring the impact of the unseen worlds of light and dark on the lives of everyday people.

I really enjoy critiquing but find looking at a chapter at a time at monthly intervals a bit dislocating. Some of us exchange larger chunks or even the whole work which is more satisfying through gaining a sense of continuity. And it is rewarding to see the end product gain clarity and strength with successive drafts.

Edit diary plus

Day 16 (May 30)

A mixed day with fingers tapping in every pie. Now that sounds odd but you know what I mean. No time to think of anything more appropriate.

Editing: Slow but useful work. Lots of highlighting to get back to. Maybe tomorrow? Family issues predominate for Freya, but both Scottish and Australian friendships become more important even though she tends to hold her worries to herself.

Anthology: A quick scan. A few minor changes. Handing over on Saturday.

Reading: Keeping on with Patchett and Yeldham stories. Books are set down wherever I was last and I pick up the nearest one whenever there are a few minutes.

Critiquing: Writers Group meeting coming up on Friday so a few chapters to critique. Worked on one today – a fictional recreation of the life of an Australian opera singer – fascinating. Takes me beyond my usual interests. I enjoy critiquing as it helps me to see my own writing more clearly and work on ways to improve the same kinds of issues. Strange, how it is harder to see flaws in one’s own work.

Short story: Have been having trouble getting a couple of short story ideas to work. Yesterday, decided to try a different topic altogether and found a shape for it today – deadline is tomorrow – I might make it. It is very closely based on an actual spooky experience of many years ago. Definitely not a winner, but good to work in another mental space for a while – feels very different from novel writing.

TV program last night: Watched an ABC program about the increasing ‘blackness’ in crime writing. Interesting and instructive but definitely not an  area I’d pursue for reading or writing. Real life can be black enough – why look for more? I hope for a backlash, but not optimistic. I notice some of the latest talent shows are becoming kinder and more constructive. Roll on a continuing pendulum swing in that direction I say.

Edit diary: family saga

Days 11-15 (May 25-29)

Worked each day on editing, anthology and of course reading. Extra family action lately. Missed my long walk on Sunday as walking companion has a heavy cold. Seem to be lots of colds and coughs around.

Editing: Is doing well. Lots of changes, some substantial. Have renumbered chapters through Parts Three and Four of the original magnum opus to become Book Two (Future hope) and have started the awkward task of time span changes. Some are a bit challenging as seasons are significant for plot and place at times, and although the story has not yet reached its time in Africa, I want the African content to coincide with some actual events (severe famine, tribal fighting and political unrest) even the main story is fictional. If it doesn’t quite work out I’ll find a way round it.

Worked through to chapter fifteen today. In the eighteen-month timeframe, Freya’s life has been stressful because of relationship matters and a busy work schedule. Her parents are finding it difficult to manage Gramma who is becoming quite difficult because of Alzheimers behavioural problems and are seeking Freya’s opinions about care options.

There is joy as her sister Ness gives birth to a daughter, Colleen.

While Alexander was on a short visit to his parents in Melbourne there was panic at home in Glasgow when his daughter Andrea experienced an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. He flew back without catching up as planned with his friend Tony Bolton in Newcastle.

Highlights for change

Anthology: Will hand final draft of text over at the weekend. One of our Writers Group members has produced a great draft cover.

Reading: Continuing with Ann Patchett’s Taft. I’m interested in how she transitions to the story of the deceased father’s story, the title character, at intervals. It took me a while to realise he was so significant. Each time he appears I find myself slightly off balance. Am trying to decide if that was intentional in the structure or if it is a personal reaction. I certainly lose the flow at these times, but am still fully involved in the story, although perhaps less so than in other Patchett novels. Started a Peter Yelland book on the bus on the way home. Reminds me of Neville Shute in lots of ways – I happily reread his novels still.

Edit progress – Present hope

Day 10 (May 24)

The day was shared between editing and anthology preparations and the inevitable reading.

Editing: Continues to be problematic. The timing changes required are turning out to be significant, spanning as they do important family times such as Christmas and New Year amidst a time of personal turmoil for Freya as she grapples with difficult choices about the future. How does she maintain private and public composure without compromising loyalty? Managed to flag where important text changes are needed and where Book One background is required. Will let my thinking incubate over following days. Probably won’t get to make those changes till next week.

Anthology: Decisions are needed for tomorrow’s meeting of the Writer’s Group. There is still much for me to learn about Smashwords formatting, but I made some progress. It is handover time for final vetting of content by all authors, then the format effort by our willing volunteer, before we are ready for the big step to submission. Adding photos was fun and partly successful – photos in, but unable to manipulate for consistent sizing from a number of different sources.

Reading: Started another Ann Patchett novel entitled Taft. Captivated already – so different from the others I’ve read. If only the print wasn’t so small.

Also a fair bit of extra family stuff – locally driving around, and interstate and international phone calls.

Edit diary – Book Two

Days 2-9 (May 16-23)

Cold mornings and nights for us, but sunny warmish days. Beautiful Queensland weather.

Introducing Book Two: I’ve found a working title – Present hope. Part One commences with Freya arriving in Australia with her new husband Reg Prentiss. Uneasy with the materialistic orientation of his family and becoming embroiled in her sister’s emotional issues, Freya’s long-time strategy of workaholism helps to divert her energies. When her Gramma’s health deterioration becomes evident after the death of her steadying friend Mrs Atkinson, Freya’s disquiet about her tense relationship with Gramma surfaces again and a visit to her on the Sunshine Coast revives unsettling memories of Alexander, her first love; memories she’d vowed to subdue for always.

Editing: Progress is patchy after a flying start. Chapters one to five needed only minor tweaks to connect with essential background from Book One, following the separation of the large volume into three parts. Other changes to that stage were also relatively minor. It felt like the groundwork was being well laid for the rest of this book and the third one also.

Feeling a false sense of security I took more time out than usual over a few days for social activities and general reading and a bit of unaccustomed TV watching. And I had a lingering three-day migraine that left me a bit woolly-headed. That is another tale – I discovered I’d been inadvertently eating nitrite containing food.

Manuscript in transition

Reaching chapter Six changed my perception about minor tweaks. The question became, how to include reference to issues from Book One (Past Imperfect which I’m thinking of e-publishing, unless I can find another publisher) to recreate the context without too much repeat of the circumstances? A real challenge! And another unexpected hurdle to keep in mind right through the rest of the editing – a need to monitor the impact of date changes I had made in Book One. I’m hoping I’ll recognise the earliest point where the need for such changes ends. Could work that way as there are substantial gaps of of time between some parts of the narrative.

That awareness took me back to Chapter One – major anomaly noted – just for timing. So I’ll have to revisit the first five chapters with a different mind-set; to maintain a credible forward timeline. And a very clear perception that the characters will need to be rounded out more in subsequent chapters for a stand-alone situation – can’t rely on back-story from Past Imperfect for any reader who taps into the second book first.

Still feeling a bit challenged with Chapter Six I decided to move on to Chapter Seven and back-track when I was feeling clearer of mind, only to discover the same issues there. I remember, years ago, inadvertently reading books out of order in a series by Jessica Stirling, about a family of sisters, and being intrigued by the passing back-story references. Because I was interested enough in the saga I tracked down the earlier books to fill the gaps. Maybe I’ll take a look at them again to refresh on how she managed that so skilfully.

Reading: Most recent book of note was another by Anne Patchett – Run. A wonderfully complex story with interesting conflicted characters who will stay awhile in consciousness. What a talented writer.

Anthology: Have also worked each day for a short time on our Writer’s Group Anthology. Interesting. All of us are learning new things all the time about format requirements etc. Will be helpful when I am ready to e-publish for myself. We’re still working on matters of including consistency with photographs and producing a book cover even though a friend provided a wonderful photograph to use.

Edit diary – Book Two

Day 1 (May 15)

Yes, it happened in the late afternoon today. Book Two editing is on its way. The middle  two parts of the original long document were separated and transferred to their own file. Haven’t found the title yet, but expect it to have the word ‘present’ included as a follow on from Book One’s new title Past Imperfect. Book Three is almost certain to be ‘future’ oriented.

The mid-part of the day was for short story work. I tidied up a short 600-word one titled Unintended consequences and prepared it for posting this evening as a competition entry. Not a startling story, just a little insight into care and appreciation across generations. Over lunch I read the last few pages of a Delinsky novel set in a small community reluctantly accepting change – light and frivolous – a break from the heavy humanitarian aid resources I spend much time on.

Back where progress happens

Early morning effort was devoted to finding appropriate places in our draft anthology for new material received yesterday. Little else to do before sending to all seven authors for final checking before our formatting volunteer gets to work on it. Library was wonderfully peaceful today.

Edit diary update Plus

Days 66 – 75 (May 2-11)

After today: Sometime next week I’ll delve into the next editing sweep of Book Two. No firm title yet but possibly Present tense. Will start counting down the days again from Monday

Today: Wonderful chat over coffee with a writer friend. We’ve both finished editing of novels and have set them aside for now. Short stories are in sights for both of us. While driving to meet her I had a workable idea for a short story that I feel committed to and I think there is time to write and shape it before the submission date.

Recent days: Fiddling with short stories. Completed one and half finished another. They are just OK, probably not worth submitting. I might try to rework one of them; the other will probably fit as a longer story or as part of a novel.

Reading: Raced through a couple of ordinary novels. Large print was great. Before that I did finish the Collins book the keepers of truth and was pleased I did. Most of it turned out as I predicted but there were two twists I didn’t forsee.

May 2-7: Finished editing Book One and found a title that gelled – came out of nowhere – feels exactly right – Past Imperfect; it resonates on several levels for more than one character. That book is set aside for the moment. Will seek feedback soon.

Reflections from the bridge

Other: Usual long walk in the park last Sunday with another writer friend who is preparing to launch her fifth novel in September.

Edit diary – good progress

Day 65 (May 1)

Yesterday rolled in a new week. Today it is a new month. Here in south-east Queensland we are cooling towards our winter – it will be milder than many around the world.

Editing:  A quick scroll through both parts of Book One picked up all the highlighted areas that still need attention. Most are minor – like checking a date, or naming a street. They won’t take long. I’m getting through the more substantial changes needed in ten chapters of Part One and four chapters of Part Two. As only two of those are problematic, 5th May still seems possible for completion. Fingers crossed.

Critiquing: Worked on a chapter for one Writer’s Group member for Friday’s meeting. Like me, her work improves with each revision.

Reading: I’m tiring of the Collins novel and am tempted to go to the last chapter to find out if the ending turns out as I expect. Will see how it grabs me tonight before I decide.

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