Tag Archives: cutting the words

Diary of a hopeful author: Why silence is golden – even in the words of a book

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

In my cap dothing to the fact that I’ve been writing this blog now for a year (a year!) – in fact, a touch longer – I’m going through my favourite blog posts and sharing them with you. Last week was deadlines; this week it’s a post from February 2013 on silence and how, in the pages of a book, it really is golden.  

This week I am channelling silence. Well, I say silence, what I mean is editing.

You may recall I have been editing my novel for some time now, and I am here to tell you that edit is still continuing. I know, I know, it seems to be going on longer than a speech at the Oscars, but hear me out. See, this edit is going well. It’s edit round two of a novel that’s: a) turned out to be a psychological thriller; b) is bloody good fun to write; and c) has taught me more than anything else I’ve written. It’s point C here that’s the clincher. And the reason is this: it’s taught me less is more.

Less is more. A little phrase we all know, but turns out is quite handy in the book editing department. Who knew? See, I have ended up cutting loads these past few weeks, loads. I have gone down from 90,000 words – let me say that again 90 thousand words – to 75,000. 75. Maths ain’t my strong point, but I calculate that’s 15,000 words of my sweat (and, admittedly, at times, tears) on the cutting room floor – or this case, the study-floor-that-used-to-be-the-spare-bedroom.

And I feel better. I do. It’s not just the book that’s lighter, it is me. I feel better, more hopeful. Because the writing, writing my novel, the thing I have been working on for getting up to a year now, is tighter, sharper, more focussed. I have learnt a lot in the process, I have. And the biggest thing I have learned is the fact that, when writing, you have to think of the reader. The reader. The person who will kindly purchase your book and sit there and read it.

I may be teaching you to suck eggs here, but, see, the reader is not daft. They have thoughts of their own, feelings, emotions. They think for themselves. And that’s it, that’s the golden nugget that thinking for themselves bit. Because, when I wrote the first draft of my novel, fresh on to the page, I wrote it all down, and I mean all. Every description, every emotion. I thought I had to explain everything to the reader, spoon feed them, if you will, as to what was going on. And then I edited. I edited and edited and I realised: spoon feeding grown-ups, like onesies on adults or a sultana in a salad, is just wrong.

So I stopped. I let the words sit on their own on the page, ready to be eaten, or not.  And this is how I did it: I quit explaining everything. I ceased telling the reader all the stuff that was in the protagonist’s head or every tiny detail that was in a scene. Because, when you are a reader, just like you don’t need your mum to feed you, you don’t need to know all the details.

In fact, as a reader, a book is better if you don’t know all the details. See, the fun, the reading a book, the thing that makes you want to turn the page over and over, is that you are using your own head, transferring your own emotions, ideas, imagination on to the characters, on to the plot. My novel’s a psychological thriller so leaving details to the reader’s imagination works particularly well, but think of the good novels you’ve read. Think of what made them work for you, what made you want to read on, and you’ll be looking at a book where the author has edited to death and left the between-the-lines thinking to you, you clever thing.

So that’s it, really. My slogan to you this week is this: when in doubt, cut it out. Cut it. Like teaming no jewellery with a black dress, less is definitely more. I shall be continuing doing this cutting malarkey, this silent writing, if you will, this week and the next and the next. It’s a slog. I ain’t finished yet. I will have to write completely new chapters and take old ones out, but boy it’s better. Enormously. And that’s why silence, people, is golden – even in the words of a book.

How do you edit? Do you hang on to the words? Are you in the middle of cutting out what you don’t need or do you think you need to keep hold of it?

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog….**

Diary of a hopeful author: Keep your mind on the finish line & you’ll make it to the end

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 You know when you feel punch drunk? That feeling when you haven’t touched a drop but you’re so tired you feel like you’ve tanked a bottle of wine and 2 tequila chasers. That’s how I feel today. Exhausted. Yawning. Cream crackered.

But it is with good cause. It is with such good cause that I don’t care for the tiredness, I don’t care for the heaviness that I have in my arms, a heaviness that is making it, right now, tricky to type like I am using my laptop in mud, a tiredness that will make sure I keep this blog post short because I just can’t, well, see.

The cause is this: I have finished my second round book edit. Finished. I like that word. F.i.n.i.s.h.e.d.  Thank the lordy lord. Last week I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I looked at the amount of pages I had to get through, the fact that I had a busy work week, the fact that, deep down, I knew I wasn’t 100% well. But I had given myself a deadline. Easter. The Easter holidays are coming up and I wanted this book done. Complete. Finito.

But I was at that point, last week, were I couldn’t see the end. So I did something. Now, I suspect this sounds loopy, but it worked. For me, it worked. What I did was this: I wrote out the words ‘The Finish Line’ in a big marker on a piece of paper and stuck it to the wall in front of me where I sit with my laptop.

And that was it. I was off. I went in every day last week and I saw those words. They stayed with me. Even when I wasn’t at the laptop, those words, like a good friend in hard times, they stayed with me.

It worked. Each day last week that phrase did the job as I ploughed on through the edit, throwing words to one side, cutting, re-writing, shifting scenes. It got to Monday and I had a few miles left, but for the first time I felt the finish line was around the corner – and there was no stopping me. It was a bit like the way I run a half marathon – as soon as I get to the last three miles, I know I’ll  make it and, even though I’m shattered, I move, I go faster.

And I went faster with my writing. Yesterday, Tuesday, I started at 5am. I worked on through. I got a call from my daughter’s school at 11am – she had a headache, could I come pick her up. I got her, had a cuddle, put her lying down watching DVDs, eating cake, then I began writing again. I stopped for the school run for daughter number two at 3pm. I fed, watered kids, sat with their homework, ran their bath. Then 7.30pm, I fired up the laptop, poured a glass of wine and went for it. And at midnight I had finished. Like I said, fast. I’ll admit now, I had a little cry.

So that’s it. Book edit 2 is done. Next is edit number 3, but this should be a quick one. Stylistically, I have ironed out the novel, so edit 3 is checking continuity, clarity, that kind of thing. Then there will be one final edit, edit 4, for a proof check and, rather like a car, a final wax and polish, if you will, of the writing.

Today is newspaper column writing. My hands hurt. My knuckles, finger bones, they physically throb from typing, but what the hell. Tis no problem at all. Because I have finished. I got to the finish line. And now, I can hear the kids are up, and the day has started. Where’s my coffee? The sun is shining. Here we go…

How do you keep yourself motivated to finish? Let me know.

 **Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Why silence is golden – even in the words of a book

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 This week I am channelling silence. Well, I say silence, what I mean is editing.

You may recall I have been editing my novel for some time now, and I am here to tell you that edit is still continuing. I know, I know, it seems to be going on longer than a speech at the Oscars, but hear me out. See, this edit is going well. It’s edit round two of a novel that’s: a) turned out to be a psychological thriller; b) is bloody good fun to write; and c) has taught me more than anything else I’ve written. It’s point C here that’s the clincher. And the reason is this: it’s taught me less is more.

Less is more. A little phrase we all know, but turns out is quite handy in the book editing department. Who knew? See, I have ended up cutting loads these past few weeks, loads. I have gone down from 90,000 words – let me say that again 90 thousand words – to 75,000. 75. Maths ain’t my strong point, but I calculate that’s 15,000 words of my sweat (and, admittedly, at times, tears) on the cutting room floor – or this case, the study-floor-that-used-to-be-the-spare-bedroom.

And I feel better. I do. It’s not just the book that’s lighter, it is me. I feel better, more hopeful. Because the writing, writing my novel, the thing I have been working on for getting up to a year now, is tighter, sharper, more focussed. I have learnt a lot in the process, I have. And the biggest thing I have learned is the fact that, when writing, you have to think of the reader. The reader. The person who will kindly purchase your book and sit there and read it.

I may be teaching you to suck eggs here, but, see, the reader is not daft. They have thoughts of their own, feelings, emotions. They think for themselves. And that’s it, that’s the golden nugget that thinking for themselves bit. Because, when I wrote the first draft of my novel, fresh on to the page, I wrote it all down, and I mean all. Every description, every emotion. I thought I had to explain everything to the reader, spoon feed them, if you will, as to what was going on. And then I edited. I edited and edited and I realised: spoon feeding grown-ups, like onesies on adults or a sultana in a salad, is just wrong.

So I stopped. I let the words sit on their own on the page, ready to be eaten, or not.  And this is how I did it: I quit explaining everything. I ceased telling the reader all the stuff that was in the protagonist’s head or every tiny detail that was in a scene. Because, when you are a reader, just like you don’t need your mum to feed you, you don’t need to know all the details.

 In fact, as a reader, a book is better if you don’t know all the details. See, the fun, the reading a book, the thing that makes you want to turn the page over and over, is that you are using your own head, transferring your own emotions, ideas, imagination on to the characters, on to the plot. My novel’s a psychological thriller so leaving details to the reader’s imagination works particularly well, but think of the good novels you’ve read. Think of what made them work for you, what made you want to read on, and you’ll be looking at a book where the author has edited to death and left the between-the-lines thinking to you, you clever thing.

So that’s it, really. My slogan to you this week is this: when in doubt, cut it out. Cut it. Like teaming no jewellery with a black dress, less is definitely more. I shall be continuing doing this cutting malarkey, this silent writing, if you will, this week and the next and the next. It’s a slog. I ain’t finished yet. I will have to write completely new chapters and take old ones out, but boy it’s better. Enormously. And that’s why silence, people, is golden – even in the words of a book.

How do you edit? Are you in the middle of cutting out what you don’t need or do you think you need to hang on to it?

 **Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  sheltered housing vs family housing…**