Tag Archives: Editing

A Second Look (Friday Fiction)

A few people who submit to the Friday Fictioneers (and other prompts) don’t like feedback. Well that’s fair enough for them, but I believe feedback is what makes my writing better. First, because good writers and real readers point out things I am too close to see, and second because my critics never let me rest on my laurels. You challenge me to write better, to question everything and I’m truly grateful.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted “Tea Party” and a bunch of you were kind enough to be honest and say you didn’t get it or got something I hadn’t intended from it. I had been, perhaps, a little too obtuse. That’s my word, not yours, you are all far kinder in your words. Then this last week, out came “Extraordinary“. Laying it on thick, you said, Obvious. (Though again, your wording was gentler).

I didn’t post either story as a rush job. In neither case did I sling out my first draft or something I wasn’t happy with, but you were there anyway, my faithful critics, to push me to on to another step, another improvement.

I want you to know I’m listening. I want you to know that I’m grateful. I may not always agree with your comments, but I always appreciate them.

This rewrite of Extraordinary is for you. For everyone who gives feedback, good and bad, and takes the time to help and encourage other writers. As ever, you are welcome to leave your thoughts, whether good or bad.


When Libby watched Footloose with her sisters, they mocked the Eighties hairstyles and fashions, but she absorbed the lessons of the story itself: Confidence, individuality, strength.

At school, she tried to carry her hips with a bit of a sway, like Ariel. She was strong, unique, confident: unbeatable. The feeling outlasted even her teacher’s jibe.

“Sit down, Elizabeth,” shot Mr Caber. “You’re not on the catwalk now.”

“Meow,” Iain’s voice snarled behind her. It crowded over her like a stormcloud, building into something dark and powerful. Sliding down in her chair, Libby thought about how one boy can change everything.


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Bring It There

There’s a difference between bringing and taking that I think has been lost to some of the people I talk to. And whilst I know that, like a lot of grammar issues, it’s not a big deal, it bugs me, so let’s clear things up if we can.

BRING things HERE.

TAKE things THERE.

 Let’s say Andy is carrying a box to Bernard at Bernard’s house.

If Bernard is involved in the conversation, whether he’s speaking or being spoken to, use BRING, because for Bernard, his house is HERE.

If Bernard isn’t involved – say Andy is discussing the trip with his friend Charlie – use TAKE, because for everyone in the conversation, Bernard’s house is THERE.

Tenses don’t change which verb to use, so obviously you might need to switch it to BRINGING or BROUGHT, TAKING or TOOK etc, but the rules above still apply.

A Niggle

There is a complication to this basic rule – occasions when BRING is used in what looks at first glance like a TAKE situation. Actually, either is probably OK here, but one is more common.

Let’s say Andy is talking to Charlie about the party at Bernard’s tonight. Even though neither of them is at Bernard’s house, they both will be. So although the house is currently THERE, it will be HERE at the time they are talking about.

So, Andy might say, “Can you BRING the box to Bernard’s house tonight?” but the following week, he would probably say “Did you TAKE that box to Bernard’s party last week?”

The Rules

If either (or both) people are at the location in question at the time of discussion, use BRING.

If both people in the discussion will be at the location in question at the time in question, use BRING.

Otherwise, use TAKE.

A Trick?

So far, so confusing? Probably. But there’s a way around all these rules and conditions. In spite of the common phrase to the contrary, most of us know whether we’re coming or going. As in “Are you coming to my party?” or “I went to Bernard’s party last week.”

Well, here’s the trick. If you would use COME (or past tense, CAME), use BRING. If GO (or WENT) is more appropriate, use TAKE.

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Are cliches overused?

I feel like I’ve posted about this before, which – given the subject matter – would be somewhat embarrassing. But I’ve searched the archives and can’t find anything, so perhaps I’ve just thought it before…

When writing, and particularly when editing, one of thing I’m always on the look out for is use of clichés. They come in all shapes and sizes, from little phrases to characters and even entire plot-lines, and generally speaking they are bad things. Writing, surely, is about putting our words and sentences together in new and interesting ways – why read a poor copy of a classic when you could just go back and read the classic itself.

And yet, by definition, they crop up everywhere. They have their uses – spectacles and pencil skirt can tell us a lot about a cameo character without the writer or the reader having to distract themselves from the main story with a lengthy description, for example. And avoiding them can lead to tortuous and forced language which gives the reader far more pause than a simple cliché would do – a fast-paced action scene is not necessarily the time to get all flowery about how dark it was when “night” or “pitch” will fill the part.

In language at least, I actually think it’s easier to get novelty wrong than it is to get clichés wrong. Much like the mind passes over “said” as a speech attribution, but stumbles over more frilly versions, I think I would skim “dark as night” but I’ve definitely tripped over more exotic blacknesses.

However, for the most part, I think I’m on the side of the editors. Isn’t it nice to see something sparkling and new in your reading? Isn’t there a thrill – for both the writer and the reader – in finding the perfect new way to concisely deliver a prim woman or an unfathomable hole?

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Inspiration Monday – Second Bookmark

Finally, back to InMon and what fantastic prompts this week. One of them, second bookmark, reminded me of this picture that’s been doing the rounds on facebook etc recently. In addition, I’ve talked to a lot fo my fellow writers recently about editing and it seems the highs and lows of pride and doubt are fairly universal. And so my story below was born. I’d love to hear what you think, if you ‘get’ it and if you like it.

***WARNING: Mild offensive language***

Second bookmark

Warren picked up the pad of sticky notes and peeled one off. The only other one he’d used so far flashed at him from the second page of the print-out. He knew exactly what it highlighted: a piece of epic description about Briggs’ descent from low self-esteem into madness. He was no longer certain it was any good, but he’d thought it was at the time, back when he was expecting to need pads and pads of sticky notes.

45 pages further in, it was still the only flag on the manuscript.

He stopped, the single sticky note held in mid-air, somewhere between the pad it came from and the wedge of paper he was going to stick it to. His mind flashed back to the image on Facebook where he’d got the idea: George R R Martin’s Fire and Ice series, with every death labeled by a luminous sticky note. He’d liked the look of it. But his manuscript looked nothing like that picture. And Warren wasn’t flagging deaths. He was flagging passages of excellence. Places he didn’t feel needed radical editing. Parts he was really proud of.

“Parts,” he muttered with a low chuckle. “The part.” The only part so far that hadn’t made him want to throw the entire thing out of the window and sit with his head in his hands rocking and crying and wondering why he’d wasted all those hours on writing this steaming pile of crap.

But now there was a second brilliant passage. He read it through again. This was where his hero, Castor, and his villain, Briggs, came face to face for the first time. It was the scene that had made him want to write the novel in the first place. It was a denouement of sorts. It was the part when he’d really felt as he wrote it, like he inhabited the characters. Briggs especially, who was only the villain at this stage and would later turn out to be the one in the right.

He held his breath as Castor opened the door and saw the whole of New York City set out below him; as Castor searched the penthouse apartment for the man he’d thought was dead; as Briggs – hiding in the shadows of the perfectly-appointed kitchen, his hand resting on the knife block – watched his old friend and sometime rival complete a circuit of the main open plan living / dining room…

The sticky note gradually descended as Warren lowered his arm. It was all too melodramatic. And that New York penthouse was such a cliché. At least he could have chosen a more interesting setting: a city no-one ever used, or a different path for Briggs’ life that hadn’t left him a millionaire.

He put the note back on the pad. It didn’t stick properly and the slight angle it made to the rest annoyed him. He’d drunk so much coffee while writing that now he was on a detox, but the lack of caffeine made him tired and irritable and he could smell it wafting through the apartment. Warren prowled into the kitchen.

“How’s the editing?” asked his wife, her fingers wrapped around a mug. Warren’s eyes flashed to the knife block, then back to her.


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Editing Progress Report


According to the amending version of the editing schedule, I’ve finished October’s target for editing! Which means I’ve done a full read through, patched up the holes and filled out the text. I’ve dealt with all the big continuity issues and a few of the small ones, made the whole thing flow a lot better and generally done the bulk of the editing I wanted to get done this year.

One of the things I’ve been doing the last couple of months is adding a bit more subplot and tension. The new version is still short – 65,000 words approximately – and given last night’s Booker Prize announcement, hardly seems to qualify as a novel at all, but I’m pleased with it. And for now at least, I think it’s where it needs to be.

December will be for a final read-through for some specific text-based issues, but hopefully no big picture ones. Then next year I’m going to send it out into the world – to Beta readers first, and then on a submission mission.


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Editing Progress Report – September

As I mentioned last month, things have gone slightly astray on the editing front. That is to say, August was meant to be a re-read, September a re-write based on it, October another read-through. Instead, August’s re-read highlighted an exciting and scary hole in the middle of the text and I’ve spent September filling the whole. Well, the second half; the first half of September I was away and did basically nothing writing-wise.

Somehow it’s now the end of September, and I’m patently not done. I’ve managed to write about 9,000 words of the missing chunk. I’m pleased with that, both in terms of the plot developments I’ve added, and the amount I’ve written, but it’s not done on either front.

So, October is going to be more of the same. Hopefully by the end of October, I’ll have a finished story, ready for some smaller-scale edits during the December read-through. Because November is bracketed for NaNoWriMo. I’m going to see whether it’s possible to complete a 50,000 first draft with a one-year-old in tow!

We’re 3/4 of the way through the year. How are your writing resolutions looking? It may not be going exactly according to plan, but I’m really happy with the progress I’m making on TPF. I hope you’re having similar degrees of success!


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Let’s Be Clear

Clarity. Doesn’t it always come back to that? When I write the grammar posts for this blog on Thursdays, I try (not always successfully) to provide the rules without judgement (unless you’re North American, in which case you’re just wrong!) Whether you follow them or not is really up to you. For example, the way I was taught, literally doesn’t mean figuratively and due to doesn’t mean as a result of, but both are now accepted alternatives. Knowing the ‘right’ way is still useful, because a lot of people will judge you for ‘misusing’ the language, and that matters in job interviews, on dates and if you’re looking for commercial success as a writer.

But ultimately, the purpose of language is to make oneself understood, and as long as the audience understands, we have mostly achieved our purpose. Clarity, however, shouldn’t be taken for granted, and when editing, it’s particularly easy to assume clarity where there is none. As writers, we tend to know what we mean, which makes checking our own work much more difficult. And that, to some extent, is what grammar rules are for.

Have you ever played that game where you describe something without using the word? Great for a game, not so much for reading a novel. If I say to my husband, for example: “Oh, I left the thingy for the whatsit at the house,” he might understand what I’m talking about. But only because I’m lucky to have a husband who occasionally shows some prowess in mind-reading; the truth is, that’s not a helpful sentence. And if I write the equivalent, it’s not going to go down well. Hence grammar, hence precision and hence clarity.

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Editing Update: The Phoenix Fire

I’m typing this early as I may not have internet access at the end of the month. So, as it stands, I haven’t finished the August run-through of my draft novel as planned back in January, but with luck I’ll be there or close enough by the time you read this!

Rereading has been an interesting exercise. Last month, I determined that the new slim-line novel was a bit short to bear that description. at 50,000 words, it’s really a novella. I also resolved to read more novels, and that’s still part of the plan, although it’s been put on hold by the arrival of two interesting baby books and James N Frey (see last Monday’s post). What I discovered on re-reading, though, is that the first two-thirds of TPF feels like a novel. The pacing, plot, character development etc all feel bigger than a novella. And then it charges into a final climax which could come from a novel or a novella, but probably the latter.

So, I don’t think this is a novella at all. I think it’s a novel. With a big chunk missing from just after the half-way mark. A big chunk which ratchets up two of the subplots which are built up in the first 2/3 and then disappear with something dangerously close to an outbreak of deus ex machine. And to rectify this, all I need to do is write and edit that chunk.

It’s a good thing. Right???



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The Alpha in Betas

Beta readers are the first people to take a look at our masterpieces and give us an independent view. Even if you’ve let your writing sit for months or years before you come back to it, you can never get a completely independent reading of it yourself – you know what you meant to happen and how you intended it to feel. A beta reader doesn’t. And that’s their magic.

Finding good beta readers isn’t easy. You’re asking someone to dedicate several hours of their time to your prototype novel. And you’re asking them to be honest. And you’re probably not offering them much of anything in return.

Most people find their beta readers amongst friends, family or members of a writing group. All three have their disadvantages – the first two are likely to be a little bit star-struck (Wow, someone I know wrote a BOOK!) and a lot biased / afraid of upsetting the author. They also aren’t practised in giving feedback on writing. On the other hand, they will read the work like readers, which is exactly what we want them to do.

By contrast, another writer is probably much better able to express the things they don’t like in a helpful way, and is hopefully used to giving critique of the work without attacking the writer. But there’s a big drawback in the way writers read. They often do so quite unnaturally – “studying” instead of reading. Writers have theories stuck in their heads, like don’t use adverbs or show don’t tell, and they can pick these things out in places where, in reality, they don’t cause a problem. There’s a second big drawback in having a writer as a beta reader – they will be tempted to rewrite. No two writers’ styles are the same, and what you NEVER want a beta reader to do is to try to rewrite the story in their own style and voice.

Personally, I love being asked to beta read and I try to find a happy balance between my reader and my writer sides, but I suspect the best solution for a writer looking for beta readers is to seek out a mixture of different types of reader, brief them well, and be aware of the value and the limitations in their feedback. And to bribe them with beer, acknowledgements once we’re famous, or an appearance in the next masterwork!


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No Grammar Post … and Why

Hey folks!

Turns out I forgot to write a grammar post yesterday. The main reason (Mummy-Brain aside) is I’m trying to focus on editing. It’s not going ever so well, but at least it’s going. Except when I procrastinate, and then it’s not.

Anyway, instead of a grammar post, I’m going to give you a bit of insight into my brain right now. Courtesy of someone else. You may need to translate – my brain is a lot less American than this guy’s, and swears less often – but the basic editing process is right there:


Made me laugh, anyway.

(Thanks to @Dragonwrites for the heads-up!)

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