Category Archives: Writing Progress

Errors and editing

mistakesThank you Neil Gaiman!

I have been silent recently; silent both in blogging, and writing, and around the house. I have been preoccupied. And horror-struck. And mortified at something I read.

Mistakes; typos; grammatical inconsistencies – all horrors for an English teacher to witness. How can something go through many, many readings, editings, online grammar-checkers, and still have so many errors? It should not be possible, one would think; or perhaps you are ahead of me and are already nodding your head muttering ‘self-published authors’.

Mea culpa. The shock, horror and mortification does stem from a self-published novel: mine. My first, published in 2013, which I had no notion of anyone other than me seeing. Once I realized that people were reading it, I hurriedly raced through it again and caught what I thought were the only remaining errors, and re-published it with a sigh of relief, my pride intact. Hooray for online publishing! For believe me, I had produced the best novel I could at that time; I had read it myself at least ten times, and had farmed it out to several others for comments and suggestions. I had done what I could afford to do with a novel that no one was going to read.

Imagine my horror, then, when casually flipping pages, admiring my debut work, my eye lit upon ‘positioned himself bedside his wife’. ‘Bedside?’

How could I and everyone else have missed that obvious, glaring error? Desperately, I turned more pages and with sinking heart noticed other grammatical choices that I didn’t like; excess verbiage; inconsistencies in capitalising certain words etc. etc. Only one reviewer had mentioned an error – that of reducing the rank of one of the characters towards the end of the novel – but several had mentioned that it was surprisingly well-written for the type of genre. Hah!

None of the positive reviews mattered anymore as much as the now-glaring errors I was sure permeated the entire novel. There was only one thing to do: remove it from the e-bookstores, re-edit it as closely as possible, and regret my inability to gather all of those sold copies back in with my humble apologies. All of this had to be done in order to be able to show my face again, figuratively, as it were.

Thus the reason for my extended silence. Months of excruciatingly boring revisions; changing a comma, a capital, checking each and every ‘apprise’ and ‘appraise’, and of course, immediately removing the horrendous ‘d’ to ensure that he was now ‘beside’ his wife. An entirely different meaning.

Of course errors are not  the domain only of self-published authors, as the reporter interviewing the chief editor of the Booker Prize winning novel The Luminaries gleefully pointed out after the editor had confidently announced he had read the novel at least 15 times; an error had been found! One wonders how many long days and nights it took that reporter and his team to find it. And the celebrations when they did.

But now my editing glasses are firmly in place, I find errors are everywhere, even in traditionally-published works. I have found several already in a classic I am reading, and many, many egregious ones in a modern novel which has had all the benefits of editorial input, computers, and corrections. There were so many that I began dog-earing the offending pages.

So perhaps I should not beat myself up as much as I have, embarrassing as the experience has been. I must put it into perspective. We are all human; we tend to read what should be there even when it isn’t, glossing over many errors with the greatest of ease as we, hopefully, concentrate more on the story, not the mechanics.

There we are, then. A salutary lesson in humility. What we think is the best we can do turns out to be only the best we can do at that moment. However, I will avoid opening my subsequent novels for fear of the terrors they inevitably contain; perhaps I will be strong enough for that lesson in another year or so.

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Filed under editing, General Thoughts, learning through literature, Life lessons, Reflections, Writing Progress, writing style

Fascinated with Time Travel

lit-final-cover-incl-male-and-promo-ch-title-page-001 Continue reading

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Work in Progress – update

mist LIT pictureonly-page-001 (4)

Many thanks and kudos to the following contributors to Pexels.com:                             background image –  Kundan Ramisetti at Unsplash; modern lady – freestocks.org.                 The Regency lady – Ackermanns Depository.

Hi everyone,

Just so you don’t think I’ve fallen off the writing wagon – the new novel is finished but taking just as long to proof and edit. (Also been having lots of fun with designing covers 🙂 ) Very distracting.

As you can see it is quite a change from my last few covers, and there is a reason for that! Rather than staying completely within Miss Austen’s territory, for this novel I have  moved into my own and followed an idea that has intrigued me for a while. I’m still deciding on the final title which is why it’s still blank. But see if you can pick up any clues from the image, and please let me know what you come up with!

Check back soon – I will start posting small extracts as I work my way through the novel just to give a flavor of what it is like.

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New Novel Release: Felicity in Marriage

Exciting news!!!
My third novel, Felicity in Marriage, is now available on pre-order for release September 30th 2015. This starts at the beginning of the year after Pride and Prejudice ends. Lizzy’s at Pemberley, Jane’s at Netherfield and Lydia’s in Newcastle. There seems to be happiness all around until Lizzy receives a letter from Lydia which reminds her that her sister is never happy or satisfied for long. To follow your favorite characters’ lives, to listen to their gossip and understand their problems, order your copy of Felicity in Marriage today!

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

Mrs. Bennet has nothing more to wish for. With three daughters married, her business in life is very nearly complete, and her delighted pride when she visits Mrs. Bingley and talks of Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Wickham with her friends may easily be imagined. Mr. Bennet is merely thankful to finally reclaim the peace and quiet of his book-room.

Their two eldest daughters, Elizabeth Darcy and Jane Bingley have certainly found felicity in marriage as the ladies of Pemberley and Netherfield, enjoying everything such positions in society command. But the marriage of the youngest Bennet daughter, Lydia, to the unscrupulous but charming George Wickham does not leave her parents or sisters entirely sanguine. If only the couple had not gone so far away – to Newcastle of all places – and Lydia in possession of such an unguarded and imprudent manner, certain only to worsen without her family’s steadying influence.

Step back inside the delightful world of Pride and Prejudice and Wickham’s Wife and join your favorite characters as they continue with their lives and loves. Listen to the gossip; celebrate the delights and vexations of early marriage; visit old relationships; experience country living, and the excitement of Regency London. The ending of Austen’s famous novel is just the beginning!

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The Art of Literary Conversation: Biographers vs. novelists

[With acknowledgment to the creators of this ‘card game’ Keith Lamb and Louise Howland.]

Q: ‘Where biographers fear to tread, novelists can rush right in.’ Example?

A: I certainly do have an example. I have just finished reading a novel called Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold and it answers this prompt perfectly.

It is the fictionalized account of the private life of one of the world’s most revered authors – Charles Dickens – told from the point of view of his estranged wife living in what amounted to solitary confinement for the twenty years after he decided to publicly take up with his mistress. The names have been changed and, I am sure some of the facts of the affair, but it remains rather a sordid and sad account. The reader has no difficulty in becoming very angry on the wife’s behalf since she, sad creature, still loves her husband and remains in her apartment so that he is not embarrassed or annoyed by her ineptitude in dealing with his increasingly public life and fame.

I am sure that there are several biographers of Dickens who have lionized his triumphs and literary successes – indeed it would never have occurred to me that there could be anything else to be said about such a great writer – and quietly ignored the despicable manner in which he cast off his wife and the mother of his ten children, convincing them to cut off all ties with her as well. Apparently, if the book is to be believed, he forced them to choose between living with him or their mother, a very usual situation in the Victorian Era; there could be no compromises.

Very often we tend to idolize public and successful people, we want to have someone to look up to, to dream about becoming, but as is so often the case, the saying ‘look how the mighty have fallen’ can be applied. For some of them, being so adored inflates their view of themselves and they begin to believe the hype and adoration that surrounds them everyday; and so it was with Dickens, evidently. He did not wish to be lumbered with a fat, boring, lazy, stupid wife anymore (his opinion of her; not her actual character), and decided that he deserved better and more interesting company in the form  of a beautiful young actress who would make him feel young again whilst hanging on his every word.

The fictionalized biography begins on the day of Dickens’ funeral, the day that his wife feels able to break her self-imposed solitary lifestyle and leave her apartment to face her demons, and in very short order she discovers that her children still love her, and that the actress is also living an enforced solitary lifestyle in a house in the country with her mother. The actress’s whole life revolves around wondering if today would be the day that Dickens would honor her with his company. The wife discovers, as is often the case, that her imaginings have been far worse than the actual fact, and ends up feelings quite sorry for her old nemesis.

The aspect of this novel that makes it so interesting and allows the writer to tread very heavily over Dickens’ good name and flawless reputation is its foundation in truth, based as it is on the man’s actual behavior as displayed through his and his wife’s letters, but it is an aspect that few biographers would want to dwell upon. It is not in their interest to reduce their subject’s worth in the reader’s eye.

Which makes me very glad that novelists are not as bound to the truth as are biographers, because they are expected to, and do, tell a damn fine tale around thinly-veiled truth without repercussions.

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The Art of Literary Conversation: ‘Taking a writer from national to international readership’

[With acknowledgment to the creators of this ‘card game’ Keith Lamb and Louise Howland.]

Q: ‘What is needed to take a writer beyond the limits of a national framework to an international readership?’

A: Very little. I don’t believe that readers have ever been so insular as to only read writers from their own country: the British only reading British authors; Americans only reading American authors. Readers, as a very general statement, read to discover new worlds and different people and behavior. Yes, often we tend read about topics with which we are familiar, about settings and characters  we can identify with, but  because people are people, the world over, whether their problems are set in California, Birmingham,  Alice Springs, or Crete they will all show similar hopes, dreams, motivations, or depravities, and so it matters very little where the story is set.

Of course, it is always very interesting to read about other countries and the differences in their daily routines as depicted by the characters. I would never have known that it is very common to have cheese for breakfast in Norway if I had never read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; I would never have understood the terrible hardships suffered  by the migrant farmers in California if I had never read The Grapes of Wrath; I would never have known that in Japan the city is broken up into prefectures if I had never read Kafka on the Shore. So, while I am sure the national readership of these novels were delighted to read about events set close to home where they could envisage the scenery and the everyday lives of the characters with ease, to read these from an international point of view only increases the enjoyment in learning about different ways of life.

I think the difference between being a national and an international writer lies not in the content of their novels, but with  the acquisition of a very good publicist.

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The Art of Literary Conversation: ‘Why Read?’

[With acknowledgment to the creators of this ‘card game’ Keith Lamb and Louise Howland.]

Q: ‘Why Read?’

A: This is an question frequently asked by disinterested students, students who are so busy with their online presence they can’t conceive of spending time, by themselves, with their only distraction being their own imagination. And this seems to be true for certain adults, also. There is not enough time in the day to do everything, and so, an hour spent immobile – seemingly doing nothing – is considered an hour wasted, especially when there could be instant gratification from engagement online or TV.

But reading is, of course, central to every human being, even if that reading does not extend to an entire novel. We read all the time and have to, to survive. We read notices, signs, directions; we read facial expressions and body language; we read advertising and newspaper headlines; email and Yahoo sound-bites. We read to learn, to understand, to explore a world that is not always in our direct path, but affects us nonetheless. If we do not read the signs and signals, then we are in possible danger or ignorant of events over which we may have no control but will educate us somehow for the future. We do not need to experience every trauma, accident, or mistake but reading about such experiences enables us to formulate how we would respond should we need to and educates us on the best way to survive. Reading allows us to live vicariously through the experiences and decisions of others without any actual suffering on our part.
And so it is with reading fiction, which, I assume, is the main point of the question. Just as with learning through real-life readings, fiction has the same ability to teach life lessons and allows the reader to understand different ideals, morals, motivations, disappointments and judge their own responses to those of the character.
Why read? is not a good question: Do you dare not to read? is a far better one.

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The Art of Literary Conversation: questions to answer

With acknowledgment to the creators of this ‘card game’ Keith Lamb and Louise Howland, I have decided to use their questions as prompts for my blog. Call it mental exercise; call it delaying tactics before returning to my W.I.P; call it ‘write something everyday’, I don’t mind what it’s called as long as it gets me writing and thinking.
And, shuffling at random, the first question is … ‘do you have stories in your mind that are spoken, not read?’

A: Well … I have lots of stories in my mind; little snippets of things that hopefully won’t disappear before I get the chance to jot them down; stories that I want to remember so as to tell them to colleagues tomorrow; stories that stand out from the mundane everyday because they are only slightly different. Such as why were several well-dressed Asian business-men filling their shopping cart with baby formula at four pm today? Did they have several starving babies at home? were they intending to take them back home as gifts from their trip? were they going to take it to their laboratory and do extensive testing on said milk powder to copy the formula used? were they Asian competitors trying to sabotage the local market? Any and all of these responses passed through my head as I trundled past, and I liked all of them because they allowed my mind to wander and wonder away from the drudgery that is food shopping. And I told that story: to my husband; to my colleagues; to my daughter. Nothing great or earth-shattering but incongruous enough to make it a little note-worthy and conversational. However, I am sure that any of you reading this are deciding right now that this story was probably much better being spoken than read, and you would be absolutely correct. I apologize for taking up your time.

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Writing Life

I suppose the most surprising thing I have discovered about writing is that once people know that’s what you do in your ‘spare’ time, they ask about it. It shouldn’t be surprising – people are interested in anyone’s line of work – but now that my writing life is out in the open as it were, it feels strange to be asked how the ‘writing’ is coming along.
Before I published my first book, my writing was a secret. No one knew: I didn’t know really. For four years it was just something I returned to and added to and re-read and edited just to see if it could be done, and to satisfy myself that there was another story underneath my favourite story of all time; that the characters could behave differently or have a better ending than everyone thought.
It wasn’t until there was enough written down that I could see that within another chapter or so, I would have told the story I had set out to tell. Then what?
Then I published and people have read those words that I wrote in secret; hundreds of people all over the world and some have commented politely about my secret writing and I am glad they enjoyed it. But it is still very weird to think that words and ideas from inside my head are being read and discussed. And now, when I sit down to write, not only do I wonder if anyone will enquire how the writing is coming along, but also I feel all those people watching over my shoulder, reading and commenting and making suggestions.
It’s much easier to write in secret. The pressure is not there, the expectation is nil. There are no spectators or commentators or critics.
Fortunately, the characters don’t put up with my neuroses. I put two in a chapter together and they have their own conversations, and while they are organising the way their lives will unfold, I discover the fact that where I thought I was going with the story – my story, I believed – is not actually where it’s going at all. And so, with a fierce argument between two characters, all sorts of dynamics change, and earlier action has to be re-vamped to fit. It’s an ever-changing world inside my head apparently; I’m just the last to know about it until it appears in front of me on the screen.
So even though people ask how the writing is coming along, I still don’t know even though, for the second time, I am closing in on the end of a story I set out to write.
The trick now is to decide when the end will be; I could continue on with the characters’ lives ad infinitum; follow their every move until they die in the distant future. Perhaps I will; perhaps I will continue for another hundred thousand words. That will delay all the queries and comments for a while.
Perhaps not. The right stopping place is the key. When is it? I certainly don’t know.
Perhaps the characters will let me know when they want me to butt out of their lives, and I’ll get back to you.

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