Rewrites

Novelist Derek Farrell (Death of a Diva, Death of a Nobody – Farenheit Press) gives us his quirky take on the sometimes tortuous business of rewriting.

 

So you finished a first draft?

Congratulations. Seriously, in a world where most people never finish a sentence let alone a book, you did it.

Be PROUD of yourself.

Now, lock the manuscript in a drawer in a desk in a very high tower surrounded by thickets and forests and leave it there. Or save it to a drive where you won’t easily be able to open it. In other words, start your rewrite by not looking at the manuscript.

Instead, ask yourself what, if you were asked in an interview to describe your book, you would say. What’s it about? How’s it written? Does it have a message, and if so what is it?

Let go of what you’ve written. Go back to what you wanted to write.

Jot this down if you like. Fast. Don’t think too much about it.This is the truth and too much thinking turns truth into bullsh*t. Years of therapy at eighty quid a pop and you’re getting this nugget for free. You’re welcome.

Now you know what you wanted to write about, how you wanted it to sound, and what it’s meant to look like, you can cut through the thickets (careful: Thorns) climb the ladder to that high tower, unlock the drawer, drag out the MS, and take a look at it.

Or open the file on your computer; whichever works for you.

Rewriting:

It is not ‘Killing your babies.’ You’re an author not King Herod. It might be taking your babies and putting them into an orphanage until you find a proper home for them. Nothing you write is ever worthless, so don’t delete. Just cut ‘n’ paste to a document called ‘Offcuts.’

It is not ‘Throwing everything away and starting again.’ I promise you the book you’ve written is good, this will just make it better. Silence the voices. Keep as much as you like of the draft.

It is not ‘Adding whole chapters.’ Or rather it shouldn’t be. The process is about reshaping to your original vision, and inserting new material only where it’s needed.

It is not a one shot activity. My first book ‘Death of a Diva’ was rewritten nine times. The first draft is massively different to the second. The ninth barely different from the eighth. Each rewrite was necessary to get it to the vision I had in my head when I started the book.

That said it is not an open ended activity. The voices in your head cannot risk your book ever being seen by someone who might contradict their negativity. Thus they will continually tell you that it ‘needs another reworking,’ ‘will never be right,’ or ‘isn’t done yet.’

Further, there will be real life actual people – agents, other authors, your uncle Tom with the funny eye and the unfulfilled dreams of becoming an actor – who will happily tell you everything that is wrong with the work, and advise what you should do to put it right.

Remember that vision you had – the one you scribbled before the rewrites began? If the book you end up with looks like that vision, you’re done. If it doesn’t, rewrite it again.

Ignore the other voices. They are not necessarily wrong; but what they want is their own book, not yours.

Keep on until yours is in front of you.

 

Derek Farrell’s new novel Death of a Nobody is available from Farenheit Press from May 2016. You can find him at http://www.derekfarrell.co.uk or alternatively @DerekIFarrell on Twitter

 

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Writer’s Reflections: Rebecca Mascull

This month I am starting a Guest Post series on my blog. I want to ask writers not so much how they wrote what they wrote, but why, and what did they learn from the experience. The marvellous Rebecca Mascull has agreed to be the first writer to ponder.

( If you are interested in contributing to this section of my blog then feel free to contact me @stirlingwriter or by leaving a comment and contact after this post. )

Rebecca Mascull: A Writer’s Reflections

My latest book is my first to published, THE VISITORS. It came out in January this year but I wrote it from January to May in 2012. I was researching it for about a year before that. Time can move in a stately fashion in the world of publishing. Since, then I have finished my next novel and started researching another one( but I’ll save those for future blog posts…) This book is about a deaf-blind girl called Adeliza living on her father’s hop farm in late Victorian Kent, her relationship with her teacher Lottie and the mystery surrounding the Visitors.

Why did I write THE VISITORS? Well, I’d worked with deaf students when I was teacher training and loved the experience. I also watched a Hellen Keller bio-pic as a child and was fascinated. I wanted my character to learn to communicate, to experience friendship and love, and to go on an adventure. I also wanted her to learn some truths about herself and the world. I’d written an historical novel before this one and it was a huge learning curve. I taught myself how to research, how to find what was required and resist the temptation to waste time down fruitless avenues. I learnt how to record my findings efficiently so that I could find them easily when I was writing; to always look for at least two sources for every key fact; and that I needed to leave the research for the second half of the book until I came to write, as otherwise I’d forget it all by the time I got there. All of this came to fruition when I wrote THE VISITORS. Files of research were distilled into an intensive five-month period of writing.

I’d written three other novels before this one, and two text books. The novels I wrote before THE VISITORS were not as good as this one. They were very good practice though. Some lucky writers get it right the first time, but for the rest of us who try, try and try again, it’s encouraging to note that. I thought it felt good when I was writing it, but I had no clue if it was good enough for publication. I was more surprised than anyone when Hodder and Stoughton made an offer. I’d had a good few years of publishers( and agents) saying No Thank You and you get kind of jaded about this stuff after a while. But now THE VISITORS is out there, and I’ve read some lovely reviews from people who have been moved by the book, have perhaps looked at the world a little bit differently after reading about Liza, and at the very least have enjoyed it as a good read. And that’s been wonderful and made it all worthwhile. It really has.

Keep Writing, my friends!

Rebecca

 

Rebecca Mascull author of THE VISITORS published by Hodder and Stoughton Jan 2014

http://rebeccamascull.tumblr.com

@rebeccamascull

http://www.facebook.com/RebeccaMascull

How do I write? – A writing process blog tour

Thank you to Sandra of http://www.sandradanby.com for tagging me in to the Writing Process blog tour, an ongoing train of travel to writers and their writing methods. For creatures so often alone we are intensely curious about how other people work. In my experience there are as many different methods as there are writers, and this is the time and place to let you in to mine.

What am I working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on a collection of twelve 5-6k stories. Each one may be very different in content and tone, I really don’t know until I sit down to write. In the words of EM Forster,  “How can I know what I think, till I see what I say.”

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I would describe my work as loosely Literary in style. The one thing it has that no one else has, is me. Sometimes that is a blessing and sometimes a curse. Like anyone else my written work is a jumble sale of the heart, my life tangled with the lives of those I’ve met and those I’ve read. I try to write without reference to what other people are writing but that shouldn’t be confused with a lack of interest. I love writers and their work. If you were to run an efficiency analysis on my day, you would probably decide that I am wrong to call myself a Writer and should call myself a Reader. But I think that, on the whole, each writer has to travel their own path and find their own words. That is what I am doing, finding my words.

Why do I write what I do?

I couldn’t tell you. I never know what each story will hold.

How does my writing process work?

I sit down each day and write a thousand words. I usually stop after a thousand and try to stop when I know what will happen next. Then I put the work aside and get on with the rest of my day, running errands, reading, and more reading. Before bed I sometimes think through the story but I don’t re-read until the following morning. I usually work on my laptop, largely for speed and ease of correction, but sometimes I treat myself and curl up to write longhand.

I don’t write a plan. That doesn’t mean I have no structure. I’ve spent many years reading and studying craft so, although I seem to write very simply, I am always, underneath it all, thinking about paragraph structure, storytelling, fore-shadowing, theme, language choice, and construction.

Once a story is finished, and I’ve had a brief run through for corrections, I send it to my Editor Rosie @iamrosiest who returns it with thoughts. These I work through and I usually accept most if not all. 

 

Next week it is the turn of the following writers to describe their process

Sandie Will – ia an aspiring author located in the US. who has completed a Young Adult Thriller as well as a Middle-Grade Historical time travel novel. She also has two blogs including http://www.sandiewill.com where she describes her social media adventures and http://www.rockheadsciences.com where she shares her fieldwork and travel stories through the eyes of a geologist. Sandie is currently a manager in the water sustainability industry, but is best known for her homemade cupcakes and occasional beer pong championships by her college sons and friends.

Joanna ‘Meika’ Maciejewska – was born is Poland but has been living in Dublin, Ireland for the past six years. She works as a video games localisation specialist and tries to write whenever she has the time. Her short stories have been published in Polish magazines and anthologies, and now she tries to write in English. Her first story to be published in English was “Miye’s In” in Fiction Vortex and she hopes this was not the last one. When she’s not writing, she’s playing video games, reading or trying to use up her enormous stash of arts & crafts supplies. You can find me at http://www.Melfka.com or @Melfka

Roger Bishop – is a writer living and working in the South of Ireland. His writing is a thrilling mix of fact and fiction. His last novel
‘Unholy Orders’ combined experience and storytelling to produce a sometimes frightening look at the inner workings of the Church of England. You can find him at http://www.rogerobishop.wordpress.com or @rogertheriter

I am lucky enough to be able to direct you all towards a writing team whose process will be very interesting to many of you. The following is in Kaisy’s own words:
James Courtney and Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills are the creators and authors of City-State, a dystopian paradise set around 3211 after the united states fell to a horrendous war. The City-State government hopes to maniacally control its citizens through vile government policies and procedures. However, there is hope with the illegals who live in the underground metropolis of Nocturnity. James and I have been working together for about two years and we thoroughly enjoy one anthers creativity and vibrancy in regards to city state, its evil Dynamic, and influential characters, and its vivid atmosphere.
@KaisyWMills
@JamesaCourtney
citystatewritings.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Who Am I?

I’m a writer currently living in Middle England. I am taking time this year to write a collection of twelve short stories.
I have a great and very patient Editor. I hold an Honours Degree in Applied Human Psychology and I tend not to talk about myself very much mostly because I put all the interesting things on the page, and when you have done that what is there left to say?
I read a great deal and widely. I’m currently listening to a lecture series on Plato’s Republic because, well, I haven’t before. I think it’s important to always be learning and growing.
I enjoy writing and I try to make each piece better than the last.

Tune-up

The English language has built over time and has rules of construction; just as any other builder has to follow a code, the writer should be able to don their hard hat and survey their handiwork. Kick the foundations and see if it wobbles.

In order to do this effectively the writer needs a good and up to date understanding of the rules. I recommend a yearly tune-up with a good grammar.

Of course, there are times when the correct use of grammar is simply incorrect, such as when we represent everyday speech.
Speech follows a whole different set of social rules,

Ya get me blud?

No one said you have to follow the rules all the time but it’s more fun to break them what you know are there.

Lie to me

Isn’t that the basic premise of fiction? I spend all of my days writing about people who don’t do the things I say and certainly aren’t in the places I mention. Usually they aren’t even real people. In fact I am a great big “Liar liar pants on fire” most of the time.

The funny thing is that amongst all the fibs, of which there are many, the thing I am searching for is the truth. The truth of what it means to be human. The truth and mechanics of relationships. To engage a reader in a story you have to find the spark of recognition, the place where a reader realises yes I know this, I have lived this, this man is like me.

In order to get to that place your writing has to remain true to your character.  Are you trying to make a person behave in a way they simply wouldn’t? Does it ring true? You see people really don’t step outside their normal range of behaviour unless they are placed in extreme circumstances and even then it is unusual.

So figure out what your character’s usual reactions would be and then you will know if you step outside them. If you are going there, do it with purpose and conviction. There are times when you can use this fact to advantage but it must be with a character your audience knows very well and I think possibly several books into a series just to shake up the pace. Part of the truth behind people is that we do things for certain reasons; sometimes we don’t know the reason, sometimes we have some insight. We are complicated and understanding and using complicated characters to get to the truth is just about the highest goal of literary fiction.

So Lie to me, I want to know the truth.