Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Re-Writes - Stage Three

Dear Work In Progress,

We've been together for nine months and I feel I can be open with you. So I just wanted to say:
Yes, that's right, you've driven me insane with your constant demands for attention. If writing you wasn't hard enough work you want me to pamper you until you sparkle.

In this second stage I've given you:
  • Love - Yes, I love the story. Thus, I love you WIP.
  • Va va voom - Those lovely characters we started out with, well now they have PERSONALITY. 
  • POW factor - So another POV and we have more POW.
  • Magic fairy dust - I have gone to great lengths for you, dear WIP.
So, a review of what have you given me:
  • Blah, Blah, Blah - Sometimes this is what you greet me with and it is not welcome.
  • My Bad Habits - You just keep bringing them up.
  • A tea addiction- I've never drunk so much of the stuff and did you make me one cup?
  • LOL - I have spontaneous moments of this - IN PUBLIC. Fair enough to laugh when you are reading a book. Not so much when you are writing one in your head.

Oh, this mixed web of joy and doom.

It appears I have pulled my hair out!

So I'm leaving you. It's premature but it's for the best. Don't worry though, it's only for a week in Dorset. I thought we might be through by now but it turns out I really do want to make you sparkle, so we need to spend more time together.

I will miss you WIP. I will try not to think of you constantly, I know you won't worry about me.



Friday, June 24, 2011

A little treat! #fridayflash

So I'm busy ignoring my blog and twitter (as much as possible) to get on with my edits for my NWS submission. So I thought I would do something I rarely do and share some writing with you! This was my entry for the Orange Fiction Grazia Competition for a first chapter. The opening chapter was written by Kate Mosse and I've italicized and bolded this so you know which bit I'm on about. The brief was The Deadline and you had to complete the chapter. I've no idea what I'll ever do with this as it's darker than I usually write, I have no idea where I'll take it (and I normally at least know where I'm going when I start writing) and the opening paragraph doesn't belong to me. So I thought I'd share in the absence of my usual blog posts. I will go and hide in a shell now.

The Deadline

She stood looking up at the house. At the blank grey walls, the shuttered windows with empty boxes on the concrete sills, the stern front door. The house said nothing about what it was or what took place inside, it was unassuming and nondescript and uninviting.  She'd come here several times before, but never got the courage to go in.  Now, there was no choice. The deadline was today, no last chance of a reprieve or change of heart. If she was going to do it, it had to be now.  She shivered, chill from the sudden drop in temperature now the light was fading, or from excitement or from fear, she didn't know.  Also, the sense of possibility that, by pressing this suburban doorbell, her life could - would - alter for good. But still she lingered on the unwashed step, picking at a thread of wool come loose from her glove, caught between the girl she was and the woman she might be. A deadline she never thought she would face…
Get. Out. NOW.
            The words echoed in her mind. Here, in their place of origin, they were almost palpable. The experts seemed to agree that going into the house would represent moving forward. If only they really knew what had gone on here.  
Detachment was how she existed. It worked; for the most part. If she kept up the fa├žade, no one would see the person she really was. It was out of choice. The need for control they so readily attached to this place.
She rang the door bell. She wanted to double-check that no one was in. She knew the tenants – her tenants – had been served their notice and would have vacated. No one would be in to answer the door. Still, she wasn’t brave enough to feel into the warmth of her pocket and retrieve the keys.
She moved away from the front door and towards the garden she had never seen. This could be classed as progress. The tightly trimmed Leylandii trees, the neat borders, the sun-scorched lawn. She followed the gravel pathway along the side of the property. She may not know the outer limits of the place but the inside was so familiar she could easily trace her way to the room she wanted to see. It was clear out here why he had selected this house. Not unduly overlooked by nearby neighbours, the sounds of the nearby motorway drowning out any noise. Isolation.
The familiar odour was strong as she got closer. It didn’t surprise her that the basement window was not visible. It was covered by a rudimentary box fashioned together with wooden boards. She’d never known exactly what the stench was but somehow the rotting compost told her she was home.
Knowing she was all alone, Jemima dared to take off the gloves that she only ever removed in private. Slowly, she threaded her fingers into the dewy mulch. She took handfuls and raised the smell to her nostrils. The aroma took her back into the room.
The compost was not fresh. The gardener who she had employed, but never met, had been given strict instructions. To mow the lawn, to dig up weeds and keep the paths clear but he must never tend to the rose bushes. It was her misplaced attempt at rebellion. She did not wish to continue her controller’s obsession.
Every week, a single stem rose would be left in her basement room to flourish and wilt. He would explain to her the perfection of the folding petals. Then tell her that nothing stayed perfect as he compared it to the rotten roses that remained. Whenever she found an imperfect petal she would press it into her hidey-hole. It was an attempt to prove him wrong. That you could start out in the world with imperfections.
She let the compost drop back into its container. She felt dirty. This was why she didn’t want to come here. Just the smell had taken her back to being eight-years-old all over again. She used the compost as a punch bag. The top layer was hardened from neglect and it did not yield to her angry efforts. So she grabbed at handfuls of the earth-like substance. Piece by piece, she hurled chunks at the bland, grey walls.
She wanted it to stick. She wanted the world to know what this place really was. Furiously, she worked at the mound. Shouted. Screamed. Cried. And still the dirt refused to cling to the wall. So she stopped. What was the point? In a few hours she would sign this place away. Its destruction would make way for a new housing estate and put old secrets to rest.
She should never have come here.
No questions had been asked when he’d left her the house in his will. The consensus seemed to be that leaving her the property was his attempt at remorse. That somehow, wealth would make up for all the wrong-doing.
She let her knuckles scrape along the edge of the splintered wooden box. The veneer of the make-shift structure was faded.  At the base the wood had decayed. One good kick and it would collapse. She let her fingers trace the bumpy peaks and troughs that marked her palms. When she pressed hard enough it felt like the thorns were still under her skin. The pressure brought the pain back so readily. She kicked the compost box. The structure broke easily ... how easy it would be for her to break with it.
She had always known this house was not a gift; it just wasn’t within him to need her forgiveness. In the soft glow of the evening light the remains she had just uncovered confirmed that, even in death, he still wanted to play mind-games.
 The deadline was just hours away. She would get her solicitors to delay the cut-off. She would stall them by making demands for more money. It would give her the time she needed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Re-Writes - Stage Two

So I have my plan in place. I know what needs to be added and what needs to be taken away for the next version but it's much easier said (or condensed into three pages of bullet-points) than done.

My first chapter was originally the fifth and it needs a good shake up to make it work. And I need to make sure it all works. It needs to sparkle, and that's no small task.

So to try and give myself the best chance I've been reading up. Ever since I started this blog I've been heavily reliant on the library service. At any point since last March I've had about twenty books out on the various aspects of writing. This has been great because there is no way I could afford to buy all these books however much I'd like to.

My prize

In a stroke of luck, earlier this year I won a £100 book token for my vote in The TV Book Club. After taking some advice on recommended reads, I have been spending the voucher wisely. It has meant that I have been able to get hold of some books not available at my library and this time I get to keep them.

I've also been reading some novels in the chick lit/contemporary fiction genre. Not everyone does this for fear of taking on that writer's style but I need to know I am heading in the right direction.

Now I've charged my brain I hope the edits speed up! I will be re-stocking the tea and chocolate supplies. Any other tips for the next stage gratefully received.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Re-Writes - Stage One

In the run up to completing the first draft of this novel I have taken some time to do some study along the way. In the process I have come across some very useful blogs on tips for the re-drafting stage:
There are lots more but these have proved particularly useful at this stage of a romantic novel for me. Alongside this Hannah Hooton has a really helpful reading list on her blog.

The link above for Julie Cohen goes to her blog on post-it plotting. This is a technique used by Julie Cohen and several other writers. Julie discussed this technique in her talk on pacing at the Festival of Writing. So I used this technique (in my own brown folder way) to look at my over all plot.

I admit it is not as glamorous as the post-it note technique but it fills a similar function. For each chapter I have listed which characters appear in that chapter, location, circled which POVs are used and have listed the areas of conflict that occur in each chapter.

For the areas of conflict I have used a key (hence me getting high on the smell of sharpies during the process) and marked them out on each chapter break-down.
It has proved to be a very useful process and it has been much easier to recognise areas where there are major flaws. I have also benefited from a chapter critique from Sue Moorcroft as a result of Authors for Japan. From this I know I need to get rid of the first few chapters and start later on. From the break-down of chapters I can see what areas need some work. Now I just need to work out how to fix them. 

It is really worth having a go at the post-it technique or devising your own version of it to see if you find it helpful. I really have and will use the same system again in the future. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Winner of Love & Freedom


Thank you to everyone who took part in the blog tour post with Sue Moorcroft in the run up to the launch of Love & Freedom. As part of the tour one lucky person had the chance to win a copy. The lucky winner is Elpi!

Choc Lit are sending the prize out to you. If you weren't one of the lucky winners you can buy a copy here. Well worth it for a slice of dreamy Martyn!