Tag Archives: The Phoenix Fire

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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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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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


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Editing Progress Report

Visitors are wonderful, wonderful things. They provide company and support, practical help and even babysitting. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

But they aren’t great for editing, so having gone into this last couple of weeks a bit ahead, I’m now slightly behind: 41.5 chapters down, when I should be at 43. I’m hoping to make it up to 42 and I’m still pleased with the progress. I’ve got a month left of this full-scale rewrite to go and hopefully I’ll finish it on time…


Wish me luck!


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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?


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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!


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Adding More Filling To The Pie

Approaching the end of February, and I’m desperately trying to finish my first read-through of The Phoenix Fire, in accordance with my editing plan. I’ve just taken a week off to spend time with my best friend who came out to meet Sebastian. I don’t regret that at all, but it does mean I’m going to have to knuckle down to finish the read-through by Friday.

However, I’ve already made an important discovery in what I’ve read so far: there isn’t enough plot. The draft is long enough, maybe even a bit too long, in terms of word count, but there is nothing like enough happening to sustain interest for a full novel. It’s probably a symptom of this being the first novel-length story I’d written (not counting a romance I wrote in school), but I don’t suppose my recent spate of flash fiction writing is going to help me fix it.

Novels keep you reading because you want to know what happens. Not just to the main characters, but also to a bunch of minor ones. And you have to believe something will happen, that the author isn’t just giving a long-winded description of a boring life. Although I reckon that description would apply to a few classics, I don’t think I can rely on that to carry me through – Remains of the Day, anyone?

What this story needs are more themes, sub-plots, twists and turns, tangents and probably lots of other tricks. Yes, most novels can be boiled down to a one or two sentence plot summary, but they have to be much more than that when you read them. A “Beef Pie” isn’t generally tasty without the gravy, vegetables … and enough beef (or horse, if you’re British) in the filling.

I think the challenge of re-writing TPF is going to be harder than even I thought!


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