This week I’m… #writerslife #amwriting

This week, I’ve:

Found out more about the Tudors… My friend bought me a couple of tickets for events at the annual Aye Write festival, a reading and writing festival that takes part in Glasgow every March/April. We’re both big Tudor fans; the fact that none of them were nice people and some of them downright dreadful doesn’t deter us.

portrait of Mary Queen of Scots

The first talk was by the historian and broadcaster, Kate Williams, discussing Elizabeth and Mary, the rival queens. Throughout her life, Mary was betrayed by those around her—from her half-brother, the lords at court, her husbands and finally Elizabeth herself. Kate Williams pointed out that Mary adopted many of the same statesmanship practices as Elizabeth and yet they didn’t work in Scotland for various reasons. The historian felt her mother’s sending her to France as a young girl was the first mistake, and if she had a time machine Kate Williams said she would have gone back to the 16th Century and stopped Mary going to England after her lords revolted against her.

Henry VIII

The second event focused on Henry VIII and the men around him, where writer Tracy Borman argued the king wasn’t “the one dimensional monster” he is often portrayed as. I’m not convinced, but her talk was fascinating and I loved her suggestion that Henry’s father was a long-lasting influence on his son. Fact fans—Henry VIII died on what would have been his father’s 90th birthday.

Friends, I’m not terrible cultured. I love book events because they are… er, short. Yes, and thought-provoking too but my focus isn’t required for too long and I have been to few book launches or events that I haven’t found worthwhile. I like hearing a writer read his or her own work as it adds something special to the experience. Some years ago, I heard the late author Andrea Levy read from The Long Song and it was spine-tingling.

Bird-watching in the Levengrove Park. So far, no-one’s told the weather spring is upon us. The daffodils have poked their heads out only to find themselves battered to bits by wind and rain. However, on Sunday the rain and winds took a well-deserved rest, and I took myself to the local park nearby for a bid-watching session organised by the local rangers. Since taking up bird-feeding last year, I’ve discovered a new-found appreciation for the birds of this fair island, whose numbers have nose-dived in recent years. As usual, humankind and its greedy acquisition of everything around us, is to blame.

Book sales

And finally, I’ve saved the best bit for last—selling books. In the last week, I’ve sold 107 copies of Ten Little Stars. Some qualifiers dear friends; the book is free. I paid £3 for a promotion deal on Kobo*. But I think any writer will tell you, the currency of readers often feels more precious than hard cash. I’m not that altruistic. My long-term aim is to be able to write full-time and make an income from it. I have four books for sale and only one of them has made me money so far. My years of not selling fiction don’t discourage me—visibility is my main problem—but the 107 sales in one week are gratifying. The Kobo dashboard tells me the bulk of them are in Canada (home of Kobo), but I’ve sold in 19 other countries too—from Latvia to Turkey, Australia to South Africa, the Philippines, the UK, Spain and others.

I’m one year older this week. Inside, my eighteen-year-old self survives though she objects to the wrinkles and grey hair, and sometimes pipes up, “Still, Emma? You keep doing this and have yet to get the message it doesn’t work?” To celebrate, Sandy and I went to Inverary for the night, travelling through snow-topped hills and past sun-danced lochs, ate sublime food at the Inverary Inn and drank wine. As birthdays go, it was hard to beat.

*Dear other writers—Kobo promotions and ads are three hundred times easier and more effective than Amazon ads.

Book Revising & Editing – Some Tips!

Not so fast, my friend. Now, the hard work begins…

Ever heard of the ing sentence construction? It’s new to me, but once the concept had been explained, I thought, “Aha! I do that a lot. Time to stop.”

Here’s an example:

Grabbing the cheque from his boss’s hand, George ran for the door.

What, at the same time?

George grabbed the cheque from his boss’s hand and ran for the door.

Dropping ing sentence construction was one of the tips I picked up at a recent Book Revising and Editing Course I did as part of the Aye Write festival. It’s hard work rewriting and revising a book – far harder, perhaps, than writing the first draft – but that’s where the magic happens.

What did T S Eliot have to say about rewriting? “I maintain that the criticism employed by a writer on his or her own work is the most vital… and that some writers are superior to others solely because their critical faculty is superior.”

General tips for revising and rewriting include:

Check punctuation. Punctuation errors wear away the reader’s confidence in the writer and his or her abilities.

Shorter sentences and paragraphs are easier to read. As a writer, you want to make your prose as readable as possible.

The ing sentence construction. See above!

Dialogue arrangement. Generally, if a new person is speaking, put the dialogue on a new line. Make it clear who is speaking.

Read out your dialogue to check it sounds authentic.

Remove redundancies, padding and clichés. Redundancy examples include “screamed loudly”. Isn’t it enough that the person screamed? Padding includes too much description and lots of adjectives. Clichés are overused phrases, such as “cling on for dear life”.

Try to show, not tell. Angrily he put the book down. He slammed the book down on the table is better.

Other things to consider are:

  • Is there too much exposition or back story? If there is, it feels as if the story is taking place in the past. This kills the energy of the story.
  • Are points of view consistent?
  • Are there too many characters?
  • Are there any digressions or tangents that don’t tie up with the main plot?
  • Is there anything you think, “I’m not sure that works”.
  • Is there any possibility of a gap between your understanding and that of your readers?

If you can say ‘yes’ to any of the last four points, revise and rewrite.

I have plenty of material in need of revision. Having a list of issues to go through will help considerably.

 

 

Book Revising and Editing

aye-writeThis year’s Aye Write festival includes a workshop of book revising and editing.

I’ve written five books and have two on the go at present, but the minute I finish a book I leave it to moulder on my computer. I know they desperately need revising, re-writing in parts and editing*, but at that point I want to move on. I wash my hands of my finished projects and go my merry way, starting up a new book.

That’s more fun, right?

Aye Write is an annual festival of writing and reading that takes place in Glasgow. It’s not as big as Edinburgh’s annual book festival, but it’s a lot cheaper and the programme is brilliant and varied.

The workshops for writers offer advice on everything from script writing, to writing your own autobiography, poetry writing, writing historical fiction, comics and graphic novels and more.

The revising and editing course on Sunday 12 March is an interactive workshop that covers the basis of drafting and editing, looking at common mistakes and introducing the skills needed to refine a piece of writing to make it as good as it can be.

I’ll report back on what I learn.

 

*I’m very bad at over-using words and phrases.