Plan B

Every once in a while last year, I looked back at my targets for the year to see how well I was doing. The answer, to be honest, is not that well. At the beginning of the year, I had a lot of writing ambitions, then in February I discovered I was pregnant, and a combination of physical impairment and too much to do put paid to a lot of my plans. I had to back out of NaNoWriMo entirely, and a lot fo other plans went by the board too.

Now that Sebastian is here, and more settled, I have clawed my way back to three blog-posts a week and I’m starting to find time to write (indeed, breathe!) again. Having said that, things are different, and will undoubtedly keep changing as his needs and habits change. So, I need to be flexible in what I want to achieve.

At the moment, I’m finding more time to read than before – because I sometimes read to him and he doesn’t care what I’m reading, so I’ve got through a couple of novels and I’m now deep into How Fiction Works by James Wood. However, I’m not going to assume this will continue – it won’t be long before Sebastian is ready to take a more active part in the reading process, and then we’ll be on to Where’s Spot, which is hardly going to extend my literary experience very far. I would, however, like to read more this year than I managed last.HFW


Apart from this blog, I would also like to work on more writing. This is where the dilemma arose. Last year, I tried to do a bit of everything. I wanted to submit every month again, edit Booker’s Seven and/or Eric AND write new pieces – in particular my nano novel. The result of these broad ambitions, coupled with the distractions mentioned above, was a lot of nothing.

I stopped submitting in the late spring, and the only new pieces I really created were here online. As for Booker’s Seven, I gave them a good go, but the feedback I received boils down to this:

For experimental pieces, they are good, with some well-written parts. The exercise was a worthy one, and didn’t fail. However, the stories should be viewed as exercises rather than stories to be polished and submitted … and you should put them away and focus on the latter if you’re serious about getting published. In short, not your best work.

Given that none of the other six writers involved completed the exercise, it’s not going to go anywhere as a project, so I’m going to heed this advice. A couple of them, Robin Hood in particular, are probably salvageable as short stories for submission, but salvageable, not complete as they stand. Others, to be honest, need to be consigned to the “Proof I shouldn’t meddle in this genre” folder.

I decided last year that Eric needed a little longer to ferment before I could bring him out for editing. I’m sticking by that this year.

So, what am I going to do? Well, at the risk of taking on too much, I have two plans for 2013. The first is to take out and look at Phoenix Fire. It was my first ever novel-length draft and has some definite issues. It needs more than tweaking at the edges – I think some serious rewriting is required, and a vicious attack with the editing pencil. However, I’ve let it rest for a couple of years now, and I think it might be time to bring it out and give that a go. Before I start, I’m going to formulate a plan for HOW to edit it, which I’ll hopefully be sharing with you in a week or two.

I don’t want to ditch the idea of submitting altogether, but I think I need something new to submit. I’m also conscious that the stories I write here are very short, and I do want to exercise my ability to sustain a story for more than a few hundred words. So I’d like to try to submit something once a month again, but it might have to be once every two months or a little flexible. I’m hoping that writing to prompts and word counts will help me to write new stories and vary the length I write.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for any of the above, especially how to return to a first draft after a few years away – I don’t want to squander the fresh perspective that time should have given me!


Filed under Booker's Seven, Writing

6 responses to “Plan B

  1. That was an excellent post today. Thanks so much for sharing it. I
    really enjoyed reading it very much. You have a wonderful day!

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  2. I don’t have any relevant experience editing fiction, but I edit quite a bit of business/technical/marketing writing. I’ve read a lot of advice that the best way to edit is to do a lot of passes, and look for one particular category of thing on each pass.

    Personally, I often (not always) find I need to do the opposite. I do one really slow, thorough pass, especially if it’s something I’ve written and I’ve needed a break to make it seem ‘fresh’ when I edit. If I go over it lots of times, I find myself spotting “wrong category” things on the early passes, so try to ignore them because that’s not the purpose of that pass. Then I miss them on the later passes when I’m meant to be looking for them!

    • I’ve seen that “mulitple passes” advice for novels too and I agree, Stuart. I can’t make my brain only see one type of mistake. Having said that, there could be some benefit in a first read-through being fast and furious, looking for high-level issues rather than getting caught up in minutae… Argh! Decisions!

      • Joy

        Your convo got me thinking about what I do when I edit, StuCuth and Jen, so I thought I’d share.

        For book length texts, I do the multiple passes method with extra oomph. As I write (or read for the first time if I didn’t read it), I make a list of everything I can think of that might need checking. For things written by me, I have a semi-standard list of ‘you always make this heinous error’ which I add to. For other writers I start from scratch. Then I give each item a colour or a symbol (depending on whether anyone else needs to understand my edits). Then I start the passes. I do them in an order vaguely along the lines of: structural issues (eg. is this whole topic/storyline in the right place), content issues (eg. have I written the same thing four times, have I been consistent with myself), language issues (eg. have I used the same stock phrase eight times? Answer: in my case inevitably yes), twiddly bits (eg. grammar, language level tweaks) and finally, layout issues if it is a laid out manuscript (eg. do all the images have captions? are the pull quotes sensible? has anyone tried to put the contents page in twice?) Whenever I hit something that isn’t part of this pass, but is important, I put a blob of colour or a symbol in the (enormous) margins as a reminder flag. If it isn’t yet on the ‘heinous errors’ list, I scrawl it on the bottom. Once I reach the end of each ‘category’ (eg. structural issues), I have a little think about whether the problems found so far are huge or easily solvable. If huge, I may abandon the edit at that point and go back to writing/ battering the author until things get in slightly better shape.

        I’ve used this for fiction and non-fiction, but mostly non-fiction, very varied topics and mostly for publication in hard-copy by UK/US publishers. It seems to work ok, but I tweak the system endlessly!

        Having said all that, for short pieces I do everything at once. I think I do basically use the same mental strategies, but do it all in my head as I’m going.

        Apologies. Essay on editing. Dear me. 😉

      • Cool, thanks Joy. I’ve been wondering about the something along these lines – highlighting the bits that need tweaking while I go thoruhg doing to major rewrite. It sounds like it may be the way forward. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.
        And I agree, for short things, it all comes at once for me – as marvellously demonstrated in my Friday Fiction versions!

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