on the writing & reading trail

Posts tagged ‘editing’

Editing – Future Hope

The chapter starts here

The chapter starts here


Since the beginning of the year I’ve been editing Book Three in the Long Shadows Series. It is titled Future Hope. For family reasons progress has been slow but I made a few leaps forward last week and am now working on Chapter Nine which takes place in Amsterdam.

As it is two years since the original writing for this chapter was done, it is no surprise that I made many changes – tightened the wording, eliminated repetition and found ways to show rather than tell.

Amsterdam is the international headquarters of the fictional aid organisation with which Freya, the protagonist has been volunteering – Global Emergency Medical Aid (GEMA).

Freya is back in Amsterdam, on a personal visit this time. She waits in Centraal Station to meet Hanne, a university academic and long-time friend of her most recent employer in Australia. Freya’s stay with Hanne leads to two apparently innocuous encounters that will have unexpected outcomes – for Freya, her family and two friends. Could Fate be on Freya’s side at last?

An extract

The following extract shows how the first encounter began:

Freya followed Hanne along a corridor to her office, impressed by the strings of qualifications under the names on the doors and their impressive titles.

When a distinguished white-haired man walking towards them stood aside so they could pass freely, Hanne stopped as well. “Freya, meet my Danish colleague, Professor Nils Bjornsen from Copenhagen. We’re collaborating on a paper about homelessness in both of our capital cities. I’ll miss him when we’re done.”

Feeling awkward because of the Professor’s frank gaze on her face, Freya lowered her eyes and gently withdrew her hand from his over-long clasp.

 Then he simply said, “Pleased to meet you,” and moved on.

Hanne called after him, “Cheers Nils, I’m off to show Freya round the campus.” To Freya she said, “You’ve made a conquest. He looks quite flustered.”

Freya passed off the moment, reluctant to admit uneasiness with his scrutiny.

A video

Amsterdam is a vibrant place. I hope you enjoy the video which shows how people get around the city and offers passing views of the canals. I visited briefly a few years ago and would love to return to explore more fully.



New editing task

Soft air and solitude

Soft air and solitude

New editing task

Today I seriously started editing the third book in The Long Shadows Series – (author Winfreda Donald).

Future Hope begins in Scotland, and it feels like home even though I haven’t lived there for a long time. The early chapters take Freya Prentiss from Edinburgh to Plockton in the northwest with a small side adventure on the way even though she is aching for solitude and an opportunity to come to terms with her recent horrifying experiences during the Sudanese famine.

Writers Group have already critiqued five chapters so I’ll incorporate their suggestions – and in parallel will move forward from Chapter six. I feel I’ve learned so much over the last year and am making a lot of changes – more showing – it’s still a challenge, but I recognise where it is needed now.

I’m on a slight high as Present Tense the second book of the series was launched on Smashwords yesterday. Will submit to Amazon over the weekend. Also, the first book Past Imperfect in both e-book and paperback format has been approved for library distribution locally. Stoked again.

Also working on getting some short stories shaped up for publication. Soon there won’t be enough hours in the days. But seriously I will take a break during the festive season although I expect the mind will churn away regardless.

Focus on editing and developing new blog

Great design by Justine Elliott

Great design by Justine Elliott

I’ve been distracted from editing tasks on the second book – Present tense. Having worked through the first part of the story, the focus is now on the African humanitarian aid activities. As it is some time since the draft was written I’m rechecking old notes, seeking more detail and fleshing out the characters. Interesting work and the reading is so compelling I can’t put the books down. More discipline is needed to stay on task.

At the moment, Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel by Alek Wek is drawing me in for the third or fourth time with the story of her early life in a town under siege and the family’s long and dangerous walks to and from a distant family village seeking safety from government soldiers, rebel armies and random violence. I am enjoying the detailed insights into the daily lives and philosophies of her own family.  The writing is so clear and straightforward – I recommend it to anyone with an interest in traditional Dinka tribal lifestyles which have been eroded so much by wars, and famines and political processes over long periods.

Edit diary, writing, critiquing, reading

It’s been a while since I was in this space – life got in the way – more technology glitches – family health issues – time consuming investigations of retirement living options – eventually postponed decisions again. We are just not ready.

So, uncertainties settled for the time being, I’m back to the business of preparing Past imperfect, the first novel in the Long shadows series, for publication. Following my final edit, the manuscript is with readers.

Feedback: Readers are providing helpful feedback and I am thankful that one awkward blooper was discovered – absolutely confirms the need for dispassionate eyes to assess a manuscript. In one of my rewrites, an important intention of the protagonist was erased. Thank you Sara for your time generosity and discerning eye.

Writing: Am still working on front and back matter for the final submission – strangely more challenging than expected, but getting there. Until I press the publish button it is too hard to work on the host of other ideas that are calling my fingers to start new files to develop the short stories and memoir fragments that are clamouring.

Critiquing: Last Friday was Writers Group critiquing day, with a mixture of novel and memoir chapters, a short story and a writing exercise to discuss.  As usual we parted reluctantly from our session of laughter, serious comments and constructive criticisms, words of wisdom and mutual trust, with nourishing food for thought to improve our offerings.

Reading: The impulse to read fiction is curiously dampened when full-blown editing takes the stage but some still happens. My focus has been on social media and marketing ideas. I’ve mentioned it before, but the ProWriter course How to find readers and market your novel, devised by Joanna Penn and C J Lyons, is extremely helpful and I commend it to anyone preparing for e-publication. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/marketyourbook/.

However I did finish The secret life of bees by Sue Monk Kidd which was left behind by a family member who stayed recently – loved it. A Library Thing reviewer had this to say “The Secret Life of Bees is a coming of age story in the deep south in the early 1960’s. You will come to love each of the characters. Reading this book you will both laugh and cry. This book is about hope, empathy, and dignity across racial lines. I’m already to read it again!’

I am also reading The Forgotten garden by Kate Morton (only recently found her, and she’s an Aussie). If I’d discovered it earlier I might have found a way to adapt some of her seamless literary devices for backstory for use in Past imperfect. It is also interesting to find similar themes about compulsions that are driven by identity uncertainty, family secrets and family loyalties in her novel and mine. Find out about Kate at http://www.katemorton.com/

Next on the agenda: e-publication of Past imperfect – hopefully before the end of March.

Editing diary update

18 December

Editing: Continues. Nothing dramatic – just tightening – reducing word count – more ‘show’.

Below is another extract from Eyemouth on the east coast of Scotland (much later, now 1991, several years after Ness’s marriage) when the two sisters catch up. Ness is now settled after taking benefit from Freya’s health knowledge.

The coast was striking; wildflowers flourished, the yellow gorse cheered them, the sun shone. Occasional droves of yellow butterflies lifted Freya’s spirits. They stopped every now and again to sit beside the path or to lean on the fence posts along the cliff, to enjoy the views and to take photographs. There was no hurry.

They reached Eyemouth in the late afternoon. The second bed and breakfast cottage they tried had a vacancy. After wandering round the harbour, they relived Papa’s rescue by visiting the rocks where he’d been found, and spent time at the graves of the Dunbar grandparents. Freya had been the only family member at the funerals, just months apart last year.

Ness said, ‘You’re lucky Freya. You had a chance to get to know them properly, living here for so long. I barely remember their fiftieth anniversary; I was only four then, but they were lovely to Mama and me when we visited for a couple of days when you were living with Gramma, and they were so delighted to see Brad and me after the wedding. You told us to be prepared for their frailty that time but they looked fine to me. I don’t feel I really knew them. Still, it’s not the same as blood relations is it?

Freya deliberately stopped herself from following up her sister’s thinking. They were opportunities she would have gladly foregone, especially the time with Gramma and the separation from Alexander. The hurt would never go completely.

 Berwickshire coast

Berwickshire coast

Reading: Has been disappointing. Have read a couple of library books through without becoming truly engaged. Still haven’t found the bought one that was mislaid.

Critiquing: Our last meeting of the Writers Group was helpful to us all who submitted chapters or stories. I get a sense we are all making good progress – two people especially. One member is waiting on a publishing decision. Fingers crossed that it is the right time for her story with that publishing house.

Other: I’m gradually getting to know my new hybrid tablet/PC and after initial concern feel I made a good choice even though challenged by new learning on three fronts simultaneously – touch screen, Explorer 8 and Word 2013 beta version. Getting there – main problem is the smaller keyboard because I continue to work with normal PC and other laptop at home because I haven’t transferred all material yet. But the fingers are coping better each day.

Edit diary, reading

19 November

Arrived at the library before opening time. Returned a book I could not finish reading; interested in the subject in the broad, but found it too heavy on detail that got in the way of my vision of the characters and the surroundings. Will check my own work on the next sweep through to see if I’ve done the same. Probably not; more likely the reverse. While waiting, I found new colour to photograph. Don’t know the name of this wonderful red foliage but it looks well with the nearby jacaranda still in flower. Now there are both red and purple carpets, courtesy of our recent high winds and storms. No damage in our locality but much elsewhere.

Windblown carpet

Editing: Slow. Made quite a few changes, mostly chopping sentences where I’d already cut content. And the same old business of changing the order within both sentences and paragraphs as well as finding the passive sentences that an agent had mentioned were there. Didn’t change them all; kept some for variety, and deleted some. The following is a short extract from the prologue of Past imperfect.

Glasgow – mid-October, 1970: – Rushes of energy rippled through the girl’s body like it sometimes did at home when a storm was building. There, it was always safe under the house or in one of the rooms. Puzzled at feeling scared like this inside her grandmother’s flat, she tightened her fingers around her father’s hand and half-stepped sideways to sense comfort from her mother’s soft wool coat.

The old lady was almost spitting, her face contorted, ‘No . . . No, I won’t go with you. I’ve told you before I’m not interested in traipsing about. Certainly not to that godless place.’

The girl cringed inside, but showed no expression, as the grandmother’s dark eyes bored into her. Fretting at the dissension she wondered if the reaction was stronger because today’s visit was her choice?

She wanted, . . . needed, to see where her mother had lived as a small child; to claim some insight into her mother’s life before it had been swallowed by the depressions. Mother’s memory of those years was vague, and grandmother would only say, ‘It’s all best forgotten.’

The older brother and younger sister were fidgeting, standing by the door, ready to leave. They didn’t mind if grandmother stayed home or went with them but their sister let her breath out gently, and felt her father’s hand relax around hers as he ushered her towards the door. Mrs Brown, the housekeeper was holding it open for them.

Outside, life in the grey city hummed under a lowering sky. Happed up people huddled and hurried along streets and cobbled paths that were greased and dark with the smirr of morning rain. It could turn into an anything kind of day but hadn’t yet made up its mind; to sun, or stay with rain, or sleet, or maybe even drop some early snow.


Spent a lot of time rejigging the short synopsis (300 words) and playing with the idea of the elevator pitch. No short synopsis can embody the complexity of a family saga with a couple of sub-plots, but I did the best I could to show the over-riding conflicts for the two major characters. Next task will be to work on the longer synopsis.

Reading: Found another Dorothy Kroomson book, goodnight, beautiful. Now there’s an author who seamlessly does detail, both physical and emotional and I never want to stray. I’ve only started the story but it is powerful, about complicated personal and family matters. You can find out more about Dorothy at http://www.dorothykoomson.co.uk/before-the-rose-petal-beach-a-special-free-ebook-prequel-available/ I’m predicting that many people will be hooked if they take a look at this website.

Also started a book about brain health but may not keep going. It seems a bit out of date and I’ll jettison it if I don’t find any new material in the next couple of chapters. I can get updates on old information in later publications for sure. My fault, should have checked publication date.

Critiquing: It’s almost time to be pulling a chapter together for our next meeting, and to have the chapters piling in. I always enjoy this time of the month to travel far afield, literally and metaphorically. My chapter will still be with Alexander, in Kruger National Park on his solo flying survey, when he stumbles (can you do that in an aircraft?) on what may be an illegal elephant cull.


Editing, writing, reading

November 10

Editing: It’s back to the drawing board. Amazingly the agent I approached viewed my sample chapters straight away, but the answer was negative – not interested – but might consider again if I undertake a lot of work. The suggestions were helpful and I’ll rework the novel again with some of them strongly in mind, and think some more about others. Am leaving that till next week.

Writing: I’m working on two short stories for our next anthology – there needs to be a twist. That is a challenge, but an item I read in a weekend supplement last week and an internet story I stumbled on have provided inspiration for family oriented tales – that is not a surprise for me. One focuses on the early stage of life, the other on the later stage – this isn’t new either – in one theme of our Ten Minute Tales anthology the same beginning and life end matters found their way to the top of consciousness. Is that what being the eldest of seven does?

Reading: Mainly focused on books the library will want to have back on the shelves again soon. Would love to keep Caleb’s crossing by Geraldine Brooks a while longer, to savour it. Denise Leith’s book What remains is another I will dip into several times before returning. Am also reading a local author Paula Watson’s YA story Shadows (about love, nightmares, angels, war) since hearing her speak about it at a local Author talk run by Redlands Libraries – had to wait a while for it as I was well down the ‘request’ list. Very clearly and well written; I’m enjoying the read even though fantasy type writing is not a preferred genre.

There are some books piling up that I couldn’t resist buying as well and I’m thinking of reviewing some indie titles on Smashwords or through Library Thing. Should keep me out of mischief. Won’t slow down the new writing though as reading is an evening activity.

Colleagues: Nene, a member of our Writers Group is busy working on her novel on advice from an e-publisher. I wish her well. Keep up with progress on her blog at nenedavieswrites.weebly.com Another member is also on the brink of submitting a novel for consideration as well. It’s a big step to let go. Thoughts are with her as she makes that decision.

The jacaranda are still magnificent.

Purple beauty against a stormy sky

Tag Cloud