Tag Archives: Progress Report

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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Editing – Progress Report

Back in the dim and distant past (January), I put together a plan for editing my first ever NaNoWriMo novel: working title, The Phoenix Fire.

Part of the plan was to spend May – July on a full-scale rewrite, based on the problems I found in the earlier months. By then, I had 60 “scenes” planned out, and needed to add, move and remove text to make the story work. I’ve been posting updates and you may have read that at the end of last month I’d fallen slightly behind, but things picked up in July and there was a bit of slack built into the schedule, so I managed to write the last word of the final scene on Friday 19th. For that, I’m rather pleased with myself.

I also think it’s a good story now. It’s a very different beast from where it was in January, but mostly in a good way. The plot feels much more rounded and the text sharper.

The biggest disappointment, though, is the length. When I started editing, it was over 80,000 words long, and suitable (on that front) for publication as a novel. However, the editing process meant cutting out a lot of fluff, and my writing style is much leaner these days, so the new version hovers at just 50,000.

The bad news is, publishing trends in this genre (mainstream fiction / magical realism) seem to be going long at the moment, which knocks me firmly back into novella territory. The good news, perhaps, is that novellas are on the up. So, I’m planning not to pad the text I’m working with now.

August is all about another read-through with a highlighter pen and a notebook. I’m sort of looking forward to it – hopefully I’ll enjoy it this time around!

How are your Writing Resolutions for 2013 coming along? Have you backtracked or given up, revised your goals or smashed through them? 7 months in, there’s still time to get some decent writing done this year, and to pat ourselves on the back for what we’ve achieved so far


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Writing

Editing Update – May

In the original plan for my editing project, it simply says “May – July: Rewrite”. So here we are at the end of May and it’s time to take stock on that intention. By the end of April, I had a clear scene list, made up of 61 individual scenes, and for each one I’d put together any sections of the original text I thought might help me to rewrite that scene.

With 61 scenes and three months, I am aiming to do a scene a day, Monday – Friday. That gives me 5 days’ slack, which should hopefully cover the combination of a steady stream of visitors, an unpredictable baby and the odd ALS ([Incredibly*] Long Scene) that takes more than a day to complete.

So far, so good. I write during Sebastian’s morning nap, which means I’m not worrying about it all day. I did the Bella scenes first, since they are stand-alone to some extent, and also quite short. And now I’m plodding my way through the rest of the story, letting the plan and the old writing guide me, but also letting the new writing flow as much as I can.

24 Scenes done to date.

* I know Incredibly doesn’t begin with A. It’s not the original word from which the acronym is taken. That word is NSFW.


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Editing Update – April

April’s editing had the kind of shape to it that many of my projects do. I started strong, did nothing in the middle, then had a little spurt to get finished before the final deadline.

This month’s goals weren’t too ambitious. I wanted to get things all set up so that I could start the actual rewrites in May. I juggled my notes, made some plans and considered some options but most importantly, I created the word document entitled NEWPlan. It’s one of the most enlightening things I’ve ever done in my writing ‘career’.

I started with the scene by scene plan for the new version. For each scene, I created a page on the word document, headed with the one or two sentence description of that scene.

Then, opening up the latest version of the old draft, I cut and pasted each section into the right place in the word document. It’s a bit like a jigsaw where you find all the red pieces and put them vaguely in the bottom right hand corner of the board because you know they go there somewhere, even though you don’t yet know how they fit together.

The consequence is strangely pleasing. Although all of it will need hard-core editing (it’s now in the right order scenes-wise, but completely the wrong order for all the little details), it’s nice to have 80k of rough draft in the new document and only a few scenes which are still blank.

Next on the list is three months of solid rewriting, starting with a little stand-alone subplot which forms a sort of skeleton on which the rest of the story hangs.


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Editing Progress Report

Another month down, and my editing process for the Phoenix Fire is going well, in a slightly scary way! This month was all about some off-text work, using the suggestions here to help me consider how best to reshape the novel. It’s been an enlightening process; I really feel as if I’ve now got a grip on what needs to change, be added and removed, be tweaked or recast, studied the plot arc, the character arcs, the balance of themes and the shape of the novel. I’ve spent quite a long time at storyfix.com‘s Story Structure articles, and I’ve started watching movies in a whole new way.

I don’t agree with everything I’ve read about structure (at these websites and others), but even by forming those opinions, I feel I’ve learned something which helps me to write better. I’ve also found myself checking how far I am through DVDs I’m watching, just to see if the “plot points” are where I’d expect them to be.

According to my original plan, April was about planning the rewrite, but in truth, I feel as though I’ve done a lot of that already. I still need to sit down and work out what I can import from the deleted scenes (I’m cutting almost the first third of the existing text, so a lot will need to be fed in at a later stage), but I feel much of the arc-work is done. So I might start the rewrites next month, or I might just give myself a break and work on a short story or two.

Still, I’m pleased with everything about March’s work except one elment. The first thing in March’s plan was the infamous “25 word pitch”. One or two of you have asked what TPF is about, and this pitch is supposed to answer that question. It’s also supposed to hook agents and publishers, get everyone excited about the novel and generally be the most important 25 words I could ever write. But as yet, I haven’t found a way to hit 25 words I’m really proud of. I’d love to receive your thoughts, input and suggestions.

Here’s the 50 word version:

Unemployed, homeless and heartbroken, Adam Heywood arrives in Wales looking for a fresh start.

What he finds is an ancient magic that caused its last discoverer to be burned as a witch.

Will he suffer the same fate, or will the phoenix fire bring him back to life?

And here’s all I can do with 25 words:

Adam Heywood is seeking a fresh start. Will the phoenix fire provide it,

or will he be burned as a witch like its previous discoverer?


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Writing

Editing Progress Report – February

In this post, last month, I set out my plan to edit my first NaNo novel, The Phoenix Fire. I planned to post an update on the last day of each month, so here we are.


The plan for this month was simply to read through and make some notes. I was looking for big-picture faults and I tried to go into it open to anything – changing characters’ genders, adding or removing characters, altering the POV, amending the plot and adding subplots… anything you could imagine. I finished doing that yesterday and along the way I’ve had some useful revelations.

1. The POV needs work but is probably the right choice.

I wrote the story in a close third person style, in other words “Adam did this” but with a strong bias on what Adam experienced and how he experienced it. Occasionally, the text wanders away from this, seeing something Adam couldn’t have seem, and that needs fixing. I also need to put a little more distance between the narrator and Adam in places, and I’ve been reading “How Fiction Works” to learn how to better achieve that. But fundamentally, it is Adam’s story.

2. The Plot needs beefing up

As I mentioned on Monday, the plot needs more to happen: more tension and drama, more suspense and interest. I’ve thought of a couple of ways to do this, including introducing a new character for Adam to play off against, but also, bizarrely, I’m hoping to achieve this adding richness partly by cutting. Specifically, two things.

a) I have a habit of writing EVERYTHING that happens. You know that saying that nobody ever goes to the toilet on TV (except to have important conversations at the urinals)? Well, Adam goes to bed and gets up about 50 times in this novel and it’s BORING. So I need to have the confidence to drop him at the end the interesting part of a day and not pick him up until the next interesting thing happens, even if it’s hours or days later.

b) The first third of the novel drags. And isn’t very interesting. Things only really get going around the mid-point and actually the most interesting and well-written part of the novel is a massive tangent about his niece. Either that needs cutting, or it needs to take on a new importance. I’m going for the latter and starting the novel there(ish).

3. The Themes are all over the place

I’m a little suspicious of anyone who suggests that novels need a central Theme, or a Hypothesis, or whatever other words they choose to use. A lot of great novels don’t have this, or only have it in the sense that somebody has clearly come along after the fact and announced that it’s all about whatever.

However, TPF doesn’t have anything resembling a theme, or a point, and it’s poorer for that. The writing style isn’t too bad, but it’s impossible to tell anything about the target audience or what you want them to get out of it. If I had to give a one sentence summary, it would sound like a Romance, but the writing fails at that on several fundamentals and it’s not what I wanted. So as part of stripping out the chaff, I’m cutting much of the romance and making it a novel about the Phoenix Fire. Which is helpful, because that’s the title!

4. The writing isn’t bad

Most of it isn’t actually badly written. Apart from the specific problems I’ve mentioned above (and a few over-used words where I’ll need to do a find/replace sweep later), which lead to me having written “BORING” next to various paragraphs, it’s actually OK on a writing level. Even the sex scenes are less cringe-worthy than I feared, and I *know* I’m cutting them!

What it needs is a lot of big-picture work.

Still, that’s what this edit was all about, and I’m brimming with ideas on how to fix the problems. It will take a lot of new writing and some difficult edits, but I’m ready. Next stop, some planning away from the text!


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Writing

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!


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2012 / 2013: Taking Stock

Given the date, it seems only appropriate that today’s post looks back over the last 12 months and forward over the next 12. Not only is it about to switch from 2012 to 2013, but I am celebrating 31 years on the planet.

WordPress tells me that 600 people have summited Everest this year, and if everyone who achieved that were to read my blog, it would take Everest 19 years to catch up. Which makes me think two things, first 600 people have been to the top of Everest this year? That’s almost two a day, since when was it so achievable? And secondly, it’s a bit depressing to think that my blog has only had 19 times as many views as the highest place on earth – probably in fact, fewer people have seen Elmowrites than the summit of Everest, since most of my visitors come back multiple times. Sigh.


But I’ve been reading about teaching children resilience, and the first lesson is to practise it yourself. So, woohoo, 19 times as many views for my little 1-year-old blog, versus just 600 for a mountain as old as the hills. Take that, Everest!

So, seriously, 2012. In my mind, this has been a year of great change. I’ve from Employed to Kept; Wife to Wife and Mother; Tenant to Homeowner; Wannabe Author to Published Wannabe Author. I wonder, if we were DINKy (Dual Income No Kids) before , are we OIKs (One Income, Kid) now? Basically, over the past year, I’ve switched into a whole new life-stage and become well and truly a Grown Up. I have accidentally embraced this song right on cue and I’m pretty happy about it.

Who knows what 2013 will hold? Hopefully a bit of stability, lots of family time and, of course, as much writing as I can fit in. I’d like to work on more publication, which means a year of writing, editing and submitting. This time next year, Rodney, we’ll be millionaires!



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First of November

It’s the first of November. Many of you will be setting out on the path that is NaNoWriMo. Some will be clutching a map for this terrain, in the form of an outline you’ve written, detailed character sketches, a calendar filled with targets and rewards or whatever else it is you believe will carry you across the line. Many will have a backpack stuffed with tools and equipment – everything from a special notebook to a thermos filled with coffee. A few will be setting out alone, most will be part of a team of other writers – all battling their own writing challenge, but supported by the company of others in the same boat.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve done this before. But even if you have, each year it is new in as many ways as it is old. Each November brings its own challenges, each plot has different stumbling blocks. And that’s before you’ve changed the goal posts by increasing your target word count, challenging yourself to write a new genre, or changing the way you plan.

Everyone wants something different out of NaNoWriMo, and nobody can tell you that what you want is wrong. That’s why I think it’s a good thing there’s no prizes for winning, and I think it’s a good thing that the only one who can really validate your achievement is you. There are a million ways to win – technically you can write the same word 50,000 times and call it a win. No-one will know. Wrimos set their own goals and determine their own rules. Ultimately, we take part because it is something we want to do and we stand or fall on that basis alone.

At the time of writing, my 2012 NaNoWriMo document doesn’t even exist yet, let alone have 50,000 fresh-pressed words of fiction on it. But my goal is that in 30 days, it will. And I’m going to try to post every Thursday this month with an update on how that’s going, in the face of everything else this month holds. InMon and the Submission series will be taking a backseat until December, but I’d love it if you could stop by and cheer me on!


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Protecting the Flag – Progress Report

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while might remember my Flag Raising post (https://elmowrites.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/flag-raising/) and my Booker’s Seven Progress Report (https://elmowrites.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/bookers-seven-progress-report/) in which I set out some of my plans and goals for the year.

So, I thought as a new month blooms – come on March, let’s have some blooming! – I would give a quick update.


My goal is to finish this edit by 1st July. My plan is to get back into that this month, now that the hectic February of FAWM and Editing Booker’s Seven is over.


I have succeeded in submitting above target this month – three pieces – and in keeping up the regular blog posts.


I’ve finished my first edits of Booker’s Seven. The table now looks like this

Story Idea

Booker Plot


Colonisation Overcoming the monster Awaiting Beta Readers
Wild West Voyage / Return Awaiting Beta Readers
Concert Tragedy Awaiting Beta Readers
Road Trip Comedy Awaiting Beta Readers
Stargazing Rebirth Awaiting Beta Readers
Robin Hood Quest With Stage 2 Beta readers
Phoenix Rags to Riches With Stage 2 Beta readers

 If Beta Reading is something you’d like to do, and think you do well, I’d love to hear from you!

I’ve written another short piece this month, called Moving On. I can’t decide how good it is, but review is something I’ll save until it has matured a little in a drawer!

I’ve also drafted the lyrics to 14 songs for FAWM (February Album Writing Month). Unfortunately my husband and musical collaborator didn’t have time this month to compose the music, but he’s hoping to get that done over the rest of the year. I can’t wait to record another album with him.

Not much criting last month, apart from my regular writing groups and a friend’s new website. Still, I’ve been busy enough without it!

All quiet on the job front, but again, I guess I can’t do everything at once!


How are your writing goals going? What’s the hardest thing to keep up with? For me, it’s always the big projects – like Eric. Wish me luck this month as I drag myself back into the habit of editing a novel manuscript.

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