Category Archives: Editing

The Hardest Thing in This World is to Strive For Your Dreams

I have a vivid memory of myself when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was standing in a corridor in school and determinedly thought to myself about what I was going to do once I had finished primary school. I was going to go to high school (at age 8, I didn’t realise this was compulsory), then college, then university, and then I would become a published author. It was somewhere around this ages I wrote my first short story (available to read here).

It’s now 18 years later and I have achieved all but the last of that list. And it’s the last item, which is my dream and therefore has been the hardest thing to reach for. Why? Because the only person I really have to motivate me is myself. I’m not harming others, or giving happiness to others if I do or don’t get published. This is something to do solely for myself, and I think that’s what makes it hard. Not because I don’t feel I don’t deserve it, but because there’s no outside drive to push me into it.

Recently my boyfriend and I began the nuts exercise regime called ‘Insanity’ (Google it). It’s essentially 6 days a week of a 40 minute intense aerobics session and you end up dripping sweat afterwards if you do it properly. After the first two days my calves hurt so much I had issues walking up and down stairs. As we’re doing this in our flat, it would be easy to say we’re not going to do it one day ‘cause we’re both tired. But with the two of us doing it, we’re encouraging each other on the days when one of us feels less than enthusiastic about it. So far, we’re doing amazingly well. If either was doing this on our own, we wouldn’t be still going.

This is why I believe NaNoWriMo is such a great thing. Because no matter where in the world you are, you can connect with other people doing the same insane challenge through the power of the Internet and can get the support, the encouragement, the cheers, whenever you need them. Having people around you doing the same thing you are I believe helps you to achieve what you’re trying to do because it’s easier if you know someone is going through the same thoughts, problems and who understands how you’re feeling.

Going back to my 8 year old dream – I still want to be published. I have a novel in the process of being edited. But I haven’t edited in so long. I come up with a ton of lame excuses as to why I haven’t edited. The last time I looked at my novel, I had left it a few months and couldn’t fully remember the story prior to where I was up to. Rather than back track a bit, I decided to leave it. And now the situation will be worse.

With editing, I have a completely different mindset to writing. Writing I can do anywhere, especially if I have a pair of headphones with me. But with editing, I need to be in a room by myself, with a spacious area for spreading out notebooks, post-it notes, pens, etc, and the space to pace the floor when I’m thinking or working something out. (I’d probably be thrown out of a coffee shop if I kept jumping up to pace between the tables.) This means, I only have myself to fully motivate me, and it’s a struggle.

What do you do when you need to motivate yourself? There’s nothing I particularly want right now which I can offer myself as a reward, so I’m thinking more along the lines of withholding things I enjoy until I park myself at my desk and flippin’ well edit the thing!

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What I’m Learning From Editing

These last few days, I have been Seriously Editing. Don’t look at me that way, I have! Okay, so I didn’t edit yesterday but I have a perfectly legit excuse! I was training to volunteer for a children’s helpline. See, legit. I will be editing after I blog this. I have my Scrivener open and everything.

But I did edit for two hours on Sunday (as mentioned in my last blog) and for about an hour on Monday. Editing is actually fun sometimes. I haven’t read this writing in over a year and sometimes get so involved with the story that I’m supposed to be looking for typos and bad sentences. (Luckily, this is only the first edit so anything I’ve missed I have a good chance of catching the second or third time round.)

But on top of the fun-ness of realising my writing doesn’t totally suck, I’m learning a lot which is very interesting…

  • I write notes in whichever notebook I have closest at the time.

This is not as useful as it sounds because then, a month later, I can’t find which notebook I wrote in and thus can’t remember what my plan was. I then spend several minutes searching each notebook I can currently find (which isn’t all of them) and yelling at my past self.

  • I start a lot of sentences with “so”:

1. So did you find any groups at all?
2. So you only found one group, so what?
3. So that’s cool.
4. So he began to tell himself he was alright.
5. So go for it.
6. So no one begrudged him a bad night.

All those examples came from a section 353 words in length. Examples 2 and 3 were in the same bit of dialogue, one sentence after the other. I suddenly realised (probably around this point, which is in Chapter 9) that I start way too many sentences with ‘so’ and it’s really not needed in the vast majority of cases. I can just delete the word and the sentence not only makes perfect sense, it doesn’t read like a babbling fool wrote it. I’ve since realised that I say ‘so’ a lot when I’m talking, which is why it’s in my writing. Gosh darn it! I’m going to need to keep an eye on that…

  • I can see the points where I was hitting the wall and just scrambling for words.

And the penalty of doing NaNoWriMo: trying to meet that word count. These moments are jumping out at me and I can see that then I was either behind for the day and desperate or writing on kamikaze mode on Write or Die and just needed to keep writing no matter what so my words didn’t get eaten! For example, these two sentences came after each other yet both say the same exact thing, but differently:

“Right now their choices seemed to end up between a rock and a hard place. It was a case of trying to pick the lesser of the two evils.”

(If anyone’s wondering, I kept the first one.) It is interesting to see these sort of points in my writing though. It’s almost like I’ve gone back in time to watch my former self write the novel. A bit Ghost of Christmas Past. But with novels…

  • On occasion I had the same idea when writing, as I do when editing – 18 months after I wrote the first part of this novel.

Let me explain. At one point, I realised I needed a certain character to do something and I groaned because it would involve a lot of re-writing up ahead (I really wish I’d copied down the scenario because now I can’t remember it) but then a paragraph later, the character was already doing it! Which means that when I was writing it, I realised part way through that this character needed to do this particular thing and went ahead and changed the story there and then without going back to edit the bit before. This was an absolutely awesome realisation! Partly because it was nice to feel that my ideas are consistent, and partly because it was a lot less re-writing to do.

  • It is far too easy to switch a character name without realising it.

I have a character called Don but at various points in the story he becomes Dan, because clearly my brain has issues with vowels. And at one point Michael became Martin which was horribly confusing because I actually have a character called Martin…

And finally…

  • There’s something satisfying about deleting a bad sentence.

I don’t know about you, but noticing a truly bad sentence that has no right to be in your novel and just hitting that delete key is immensely satisfying. I enjoy having the ability to realise that it’s a bad sentence and that as I delete it, my novel is instantly that little bit better than it was before.

And that is what I’ve learnt from editing so far! It’s like looking into my own soul and I’m coming out the other side knowing myself that little bit better.

The Joys of Having a Desk

Do you remember my blog post about needing to have a particular set up in order to edit? (If not, well just clicky here!)

I’m super excited. For the first time in 2 1/2 years, I have that set-up! *does a little dance, makes a little love, gets down to tonight* A week ago I entertained the good people of Leytonstone in East London by purchasing a second hand desk from the British Heart Foundation second hand furniture store. Why is this entertaining? Because the desk had wheels. And since I only lived a 15 minute walk away, I decided to decline the store’s offer of delivering the desk and instead I wheeled the desk back to my flat. The majority of the roads I walked along were main roads with lots of people and passing cars. I told myself I was doing everyone a favour; when they went home, they’d have an interesting tit-bit to tell about the strange girl pushing a desk around.

In order to get to my flat, I had to pass under the A12 road, which was also the entrance to Leytonstone tube station. If you think wheeling a suitcase through a tunnel makes a lot of noise, you have clearly never wheeled a desk with a wonky wheel through one. I actually felt sorry for anyone I passed who was on a phone.

It was actually kinda awkward to push. It wasn’t heavy but it was too low down to push from behind without hunching over it awkwardly. I could push it from one side but one end tended to stray (like a trolley with a dodgy wheel). I ended up more pulling it along beside me and suffered a very stiff shoulder and arm for two days afterwards.

By the time I successfully manoeuvred the desk to my flat, I decided that pushing a pram around the pavements must be hell. They’re all bumpy with holes and in many places the ground is raised by the tree roots beneath it.

But! I had a desk! I then spent a good hour deciding where to put it. This involved much moving of furniture but eventually I decided to move my bed and put the desk between my bed and the wall, giving me both a desk and a bedside table at the same time (I know, I’m a genius).

I really like the desk. It’s small and used (and I managed to scrub some of the surface off when I was cleaning it) and I had to remove some weird half shelf which was at the annoying height of the middle of my shin but it’s mine. Why is that important? Well, I live in rented accommodation. I’m aware that the furniture isn’t mine and if I wreck it, I pay for it. But this little desk is 100% mine to do what I want with. I can burn candles without worrying if the wax drips, I can get ink on it, doodle on it or put stickers on it. And it’s a computer desk so it has the little pull out shelf for a keyboard. However, as I have a netbook, I’m using it as a shelf for my collection of notebooks. It’s totally awesome!

But the editing space wasn’t ready yet. Have you spotted why? Yes! I didn’t have a chair. Purchasing the chair was a less exciting story. I just bought a simple folding one from Argos and carried it back in plastic wrapping.

But what does this all mean? It means that I can now commence with Serious Editing (so serious is deserves capitalisation). And today, I did just that. It was glorious. I’ve edited on and off for several months but always in drips and drabs and never consistently over a number of days. That can all change! Now, I can have a daily editing schedule. It feels so wonderful I could cry. Today I edited for two hours in one hour slots. I intend on editing for at least half an hour a day from now on.

This blog was initially going to be about What I Have Learnt About My Writing From Editing but I kinda got carried away with the excitement of being able to edit. So, that blog will appear in a couple of days time.

The Trials of Editing

I don’t know about you, but I find that whilst I can write anywhere, I need a certain set-up in order to be able to edit. I need a desk. Well, a table of some description, with a chair. It needs to have space for my netbook or laptop, a drink of some sort and a notepad and pen. You may be thinking “well, that’s not particularly a lot to ask for” but it is. You see, I don’t have a desk. I haven’t had a desk in over two years (something which continues to pain me). Before I moved to London I had the box room at my parents’ house. That’s the smallest room in the house, for anyone unfamiliar with the term “box room”. It was seven foot squared (I measured) and had a bed, a bedside table and a wardrobe in it. The TV was mounted to the wall and I had shelves inside the wardrobe for my books and DVDs and boxes under the bed for storage. I sat on my bed with my laptop for writing and Internet. It wasn’t the best, but I made do. I didn’t really edit at all when I was in this room but didn’t think much of it.

I have since discovered that I cannot edit without a proper formal setting. In London I now have a bigger room but still no desk. The infuriating thing is that I have a lovely desk and chair in pieces in my parents’ loft and the room to have it set up. I just can’t get it down here! I’d have to pay to rent a van or something. So, I sit on the floor mostly. My laptop sits on top of my bedside table (which is not next to my bed) where it remains plugged into the mains (it’s old) and I use it for Internet and TV. My netbook is usually on the floor next to me for everything else computer related. I have a mug with writing impliments in it and notebooks scattered around me. I eat sitting on the floor and that’s where I rest my candles when I burn them. I call it my “floor-desk” which as fun as it sounds, is not very practical.

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Before I started paying rent and commute on a temp salary, I could afford to go and sit in Starbucks or somewhere for a while and use one of their chairs and tables. This worked and was fun and I got to people watch and drink hot chocolate. Now, however, I find myself illogically monitoring my money. I say illogical because I’m more than happy to fork out £12.50 to see The Dark Knight Rises (worth it!), and £80 for two Olympic tickets for the swimming but then I question paying £3.25 for a hot chocolate at Starbucks. I don’t understand my own mind sometimes but it does mean that when I have the time to sit in Starbucks, I worry over the £3.25 and end up not bothering.

I’ve tried taking my netbook into work and using the hour I spend 4 days a week covering the reception to edit. But it’s incredibly hard to concentrate when I can’t quite move the computer’s keyboard out of the way to make enough room, have the phone ringing at uneven intervals and staff coming by to pick up post or to chat.

I always viewed editing as something I didn’t enjoy. There was something about poking through the dregs of a novel written at speed which wasn’t really that thrilling. And I always made this the reason I didn’t edit when I was living with my parents. But then in February 2012 I began to edit what was to be the first book in my trilogy. And it was interesting! I enjoyed re-writing the parts that I knew needed re-writing, getting to know the characters again and analysing their relationships with each other, and I loved finding all those little golden parts that are awesomely written but you’ve forgotten about and it’s like you’re reading someone else’s work. I came to believe that in order to edit something, you really have to believe it’s worth editing. I’ve tried editing novels before (with a desk) and just got nowhere. But then, We All Fall Down is something I really want to work with. It kills me that I can’t settle into a good editing session anywhere, it really does.

At the moment, my answer is to buy a cheap desk. I can get one for £12.99 from Argos with has decent reviews for the price. And a cheap chair. My boyfriend says I should trawl second hand stores for a better desk for a similar price ’cause he got lucky wih his desk that way. I’m willing to have a look but if I can’t find anythig, it’ll be Argos. I really want to turn it around and have a proper working space. It might not be the lovely desk I have in my parents loft with spaces to keep folders and space on the desk itself for various things, but it would be a flat surface that will hold my netbook that I can sit at. Right now, I’d be content with that.

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Maybe I could edit for a couple of hours at a time regularly, instead of five minutes every so often.

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