Editing Progress

I always thought getting the first draft written and finished was the hardest part of writing a story.

It turns out, it isn’t.

After the first read through I was a little intimidated by how much work I had to do. I remembered hearing from somewhere how the book is carved out during the editing process. This is the part where the plot comes together and the characters come alive. I’d love to know where I heard this so I can remember not to listen to anything else they said. They lied!

Of course the process is very different for each writer. Some outline. Some edit as they go. Some write thousands of words a day, others only a few hundred. That person wasn’t lying, they were talking about their own method and approach. One that just doesn’t apply to me just yet.

As this is my first attempt at editing I’m pretty much learning as I go. It’s not as straight forward as I thought. I imagined reading through a printed text with a red pen and fixing a few inconsistencies as they cropped up. I had a pretty detailed outline when I was writing and the characters were fairly solid from the outset so I thought it wouldn’t be too bad.

I was unpleasantly surprised. And yet I’ve still achieved something. It’s not the first book I’ve finished. If I compare it to the last book I finished writing which was probably five or six years ago, my writing had improved. Slightly.

So “progress” wise. Three months of editing on a hop and a catch and I have a new story sketched out in a totally different genre, I’ve started to learn how to design graphics using vectors and Inkscape, I’ve knitted two teddies (neither of which look like they’re supposed to) and read three books.

Oops! My self-imposed target of getting this done by the summer so I can order me a Createspace book for my birthday seems like a bit of a stretch now…

Happy writing xx


How To Redraft A Novel – an incomplete guide 

What? Redrafting? Just send it out, as is. Publishers really appreciate seeing your raw genius. Editors love to pull apart something that already has holes in it, it’s less work for them. Readers especially love something inconsistent and incomplete, it gives them good fodder for their reviews.

But… If you really insist on giving that fresh story a once over try out this list:

  • Read another book first. Try to forget what you wrote and see what the standard is that other writers have managed.
  • Forget the book. Strive to be great, not perfect.
  • Read a book on writing craft. Elements of Style is a famous one but it’s hard going. I’m currently reading some by Sandra Schofield which are very interesting.
  • Read through your own draft without changing a thing. It’s best to print it out or read it on a Kindle if you want to save paper. (See my post on DIY self publishing if you’re unsure how to create an ebook).
    • You’re looking mainly at your plot and any consistent errors that you make. For me this was chapter length and plot threads that I dropped and never resolved. Not tiny ones. Ones that took up whole chapters and blew a massive hole in the training school. Whoops…
  • Next write down your outline if you haven’t already. Make the changes here that you want to. Keep reading through your outline adding more and more detail until you’re sure you’ve ironed out all the problems.
  • Here’s the tricky part. Put the changes in the manuscript. Add in the extra scenes, delete (copy and paste into another file) the ones you don’t need. Rewrite the remaining ones so that they still fit with the new outline.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t actually know for sure what comes next. I’ve never gotten that far. I assume it’s another read through followed by more editing. Rinse and repeat until satisfied. At some point though I know that you do just have to let it go and send it out. Whether that’s to an agent, a publisher or a hired editor. Then will come more editing.

If you’re at this stage or getting close then I wish you the best of luck. If like me you’re still hugging your first draft to your chest saying finally, I’ve done it then well done. That first hurdle is massive! Keep going we will all get there eventually.

Happy writing! x

New Year Same Plan

I had a seasonal post nearly written about reflecting on what I had done and looking forward to the new year. However, as is common with me, time passed me by and before I knew it the window had passed and another year had gone by. I’m not sure it would have been of interest to anyone else thinking about it, so it’s probably for the best. Achievements and goals are quite personal and unique to the holder in my experience but I find them interesting because I’m nosey. 

I haven’t got a long list of goals to achieve this year. I’m not really that type of person. I have ideas of things that I might want to accomplish at some point and that might explain why I don’t achieve a lot. My review of last year was kind of short!

I’ve got a very lofty idea of getting a novel published. It’s the same plan that I’ve had nearly every year since I was about 6 or 7. Although this year I’m a step closer as I have a complete first draft to work with. 

I started reading it back today and there’s much that needs working on. My first 10 or so chapters are very choppy and short. Too short for anyone to get into the rhythm of reading. I have taken the don’t set down too much backstory to heart and pushed my protagonist from opening scene to inciting incident and on their way on their journey in what felt like a hundred words. 

After that the chapters start to get longer and I’m part way through reading one of those now. There’s three different plot points crammed in, two of which are choppy and forced in, the third actually feels like a story. 

It’s strange to read my work back like this. I’ve adopted a method of a read through whilst strictly not changing anything. No line edits. No drawing arrows to show where a paragraph might fit better. At the top of each chapter page I am writing a short sentence or two to summarise the action, another sentence on what issues there are and a third to note what edits I want to make.

Whilst I can see that I have made a lot of mistakes (and there will be some serious heavy lifting needed to get it readable), by forcing myself to do a non-writing read through I’ve managed to get to a bit of writing that’s closer to the style I want for the whole thing. That’s progress. I managed to read something I’ve written and get past the whole this isn’t good enough part. Maybe this year will be the first year that I do a second draft that isn’t just a complete rewrite.

Fingers crossed.

Of course I am only on chapter eleven. There’s a whole world of procrastination ideas out there for when my New Year buzz wears off!

Happy writing! X

The End

They should be two of the most satisfying words to write. After months of slogging away at a manuscript it should come with a sense of achievement. A confirmation that you are in fact an official writer. You have written something to completion.

For me those two words have another meaning. I give up. I’m stopping the story here. If I don’t stop now this book will never end.

I’ve been writing since mid-September and 97k words later I’ve stopped. I strayed from my outline, went off on tangents, dropped into plot hole after plot hole but kept forcing myself forward.

It paid off in a way. I have a manuscript to edit. I can upload it to CreateSpace and order myself a paperback proof copy. I can hide it away in a folder to look at in a few years time and think maybe I should rewrite it from scratch…

I should feel more excited about this. But I don’t. It feels like I failed. It feels unfinished. 

Back at the start of my draft I had all these visions of finally writing something worthwhile that I can submit to places. I know that between the first draft and the submission there comes a lot of rewriting and editing but I always imagined there would be some sense of celebration of achievement when I finished the first phase.

Has anyone else had a similar sense of disappointment after their first draft, or is it just me?

A Bad Workman Blames His Tools

(I wonder if the title should say workperson? Internal editor is in overdrive today.)

I haven’t had much to say about procrastination lately because, well, I haven’t been doing it. I’ve been doing actual writing writing. Writing writing being the kind of writing where you work on the piece you want to finish rather than trying out a short story or a different novel or an old novel in order to avoid facing the horrible mess you made a few months ago. Does everyone do this or is it just me?

After reworking my outline into something that sounded coherent and story-like I set myself a daily word count and a goal for the end of the month. This worked for about a week and a half before my steam dropped off, then I didn’t write for two weeks, then it picked up again at the beginning of October. I’d like to blame the sicky bug I had followed by a sinus infection (I really don’t want to think too hard about if they are related or not, bleugh) but other writers manage to write when they are sick so it’s no excuse really.

All seemed to be going well in October. I wrote every evening and on the days when I was off work I wrote in the daytime too during naptime. Then Thursday last week, disaster struck. I was buoyed up with enthusiasm after a good writing session the night before and I wanted to carry it on. 

I attempted to write whilst my little alarm clock was awake in short ten minutes bursts while she was occupied by a toy or a book (she loves books as much as I do). In between said bursts I closed my laptop and tucked it down the side of the sofa for safe-keeping as she loves nothing more than pressing buttons. Cute but also a nightmare when she hits the power button over and over…

Naptime rolled around after a good walk in the surprising October sunshine and I settled in with tea and chocolate for a good stint. I wrote for a while and then when I tried to save it, it froze. I’m pretty patient with my laptop, I know it will carry on if you give it a while and it’s all good. I drank my tea, watched a bit of YouTube, read a little of James Oswald’s Written in Bones – highly recommended if you like crime and/or supernatural – and glanced at my laptop to see twenty minutes had gone by (oops) and my screen hadn’t changed a bit (crap).

I hard-powered it down trusting in Microsoft Word to do its recovery thing and prayed the last autosave wasn’t too long ago. It wasn’t. I lost about two hundred words. I rewrote them as best as I could remember and saved again. It saved and I carried on. More paranoid about losing said words I continued to save more often than normal and again the screen froze up.

Annoyed I repeated the cycle several times until I decided that enough with the writing. Just restart and let the laptop sort itself out.

It didn’t boot.

Now I rate(d) my Toshiba laptop very highly. It had a nice keyboard. A traditional one more like the keyboard you get with a desktop (I believe the technical term is chiclet) rather than the type that the newer laptops come with. The downside of owning a Toshiba is that the bootup doesn’t behave like other computers. I discovered this after a good thirty minutes of trawling through forums on my mobile phone when I tried to troubleshoot how to start in safe mode. I’m not even convinced that Windows 10 has a safe mode anymore. Shrug.

Naptime over I decided to let my husband have a go when he got back from work. He couldn’t figure it out either but he did at least manage to get into a menu that allowed you to repair start-up errors, reset Windows and some other technical BIOS related options that are beyond me. Nothing seemed to work so I tried to use my bluetooth keyboard and phone in the meantime but I felt really disheartened by the whole thing a soon gave up and went to bed.

Friday I ended up not writing which depressed me even more as I had been doing so well, so Saturday I got up with the determination to fix my laptop. I decided that the repeated cycle of hard powering down my laptop because it was stuck on boot up meant I had corrupted the registry files and I needed to reinstall Windows. I wasn’t too worried about it. All my writing was backed up to Dropbox and my photos to Google so it would be easy to get my laptop back to the way it was. Just reinstall some programmes maybe. I did it. Go me.

And it came on. I reinstalled Dropbox and automatically my files started to download onto my Laptop again. This did take all day, mind. The laptop felt really slow and clunky. I was patient and waited for it to finish whatever it needed to before I shut it down the proper way. After the in-laws left I switched it back on again and just got the boot screen followed by the dreaded Repairing errors or checking disc message – I can’t remember which now.

That’s when my husband realised that it probably wasn’t a problem with Windows but a problem with the harddrive. He thinks that when I tucked my laptop down the side of the sofa I covered all the fans and caused it to overheat.

So… the moral of this long waffling tale is make sure you take good care of your tools. Especially if you use a laptop. They’re a great tool for writers but when they break it can cause major headaches and heartache over those lost words and time.

A few little tips just incase you don’t know them already:

  • Keep those fans aerated. Not just the one on the side but the ones on the bottom too. 
  • Don’t use a pillow or a quilt to lean on while writing, a hard surface is much better. 
  • use a cloud service to back up your files. Flash drives are good too if you can’t always access the Internet but they have a life expectancy and eventually will corrupt your files no matter how good you take care of it.

On the plus side I’m now back to using my mini-lappy (Asus netbook) which has Linux Mint installed on it and LibreOffice and I’ve managed to get back into the flow of writing again. I don’t know how the formatting will translate to CreateSpace for when I want to buy a printed copy of my book (just for me, I’m not thinking of self publishing … yet) but that’s a problem for future me.

Happy writing all! Also fingers crossed your technology behaves itself!


Restarting a stalled project 

  • Chuck it in the bin and start on something new
  • Take up a new hobby e.g. knitting
  • Start a major DIY project (it is advisable to have your own house to smash apart or at least get permission from the house owners first)
  • Go shopping
  • Go on holiday
  • Take a course

    I’ve been working on a novel on and off (mostly off) since November last year. It started life as a Nano but that was more of a kick to get it going. I hit 10k words pretty easily as usual then every 5k words since has gotten progressively harder and harder.

    Now I’m at 30k and I’ve ground to a halt. That is pretty normal for me. If I ever make it this far in a story I’ve usually fell out of love with my plot, noticed how flat my characters are and am plagued with the foresight that the end will be the ultimate in anticlimaxes. So why keep going? What’s the point?

    Seriously, how do professional writers do this for a living?

    Anyway, enough with the moaning. This is how I’ve rekindled my motivation and I thought I would share it with you in case any of it is helpful in restarting some of your stalled projects. If you have any. I’m jealous if you don’t.

    • Accepting the story is fatally flawed

    Especially if this is the first draft. There are going to be some major holes. It’s hard to see whether or not a plot is going to work until you get it down on paper. The plot has to work with the characters and no matter how much you plan beforehand, sometimes they just do something unexpected or they say something that twists everything you envisioned on its head. Try not to mourn the wasted time put into meticulous outline planning, instead hope the new story will be something better.

    • Look over your notes

    Go back to the beginning of your notes and read from the beginning to see what plans you had for the story. It helps if you have all your notes in one place. (Mini tip: organise your notes as you go – I use a bullet journal for this) Make a list of any new ideas that occur and also reiterate any points you think you’ve forgotten about but that are still important to the story.

    • Print it out and read

    (If you are concerned about the environment or don’t have a printer you can always convert it to an ebook or read it on screen. I prefer a paper copy so I can write notes over it as I go)

    Read your draft from the beginning as objectively as you can. Look out for things like inconsistencies in character or plot, plot points that were introduced and then never explored, info dumps however small, and descriptions that don’t quite capture enough or the right details. Also jot down any new ideas that occur as you read.

    Make a list noting the chapter, page number, the issue and idea. Then make a parallel list noting how you will resolve the issue or incorporate the new idea along with a check box or chapter and page location of where you resolved the point.

    Here is my list as an example in case I haven’t explained it very well. 

    • Revisit your planning

    Go back to your outline and redraft it. (Or write it down again if you have it on paper like me). For the bits you have written, now is a good time to summarise it all while it is still fresh. Also include your new ideas in the places you them to appear. If they have no home yet then keep these in a separate document, part of the document or on a different page. When you hit the parts you haven’t written yet, outline the story you want it to become, not what you thought it was going to be initially.

    • (Optional) Change your workspace

    I find a new location to write or new equipment to be highly motivating. At the moment portability is key as is minimal accompanying ‘stuff’. I never know when I will have time to write or if I will be too tired at the end of the day. Also our house is being extensively and messily decorated so space is limited. All this means that sitting at a laptop with my drafts and notes all spread out beside me is no longer an option. Instead I use a single notebook to contain all my notes including plot, characters, backstories etc. It sounds chaotic and really, it is, but I’ve adapted the bullet journal system to organise it all and it’s really working for me. I’d recommend giving it a try if you haven’t already, if nothing else it’s a great way to procrastinate. For the actual writing part I use Dropbox and a combination of my laptop and my phone/bluetooth keyboard depending on how much time I have to write. 

    So here’s to a good stint so far of editing and renewed interest in writing. Fingers crossed the momentum carries over into actual writing, but actual writing is not something I’m known for.

    Happy writing x

    Losing Focus

    Is it normal that I spend more time watching YouTube videos than regular TV? Something about the short 10 minute bursts of tutorial is addictive to me. I get filled with a sense of being able to achieve anything given the right materials. 

    You might think as an aspiring writer I would spend my YouTube time learning how to be a writer. That would be very sensible. 

    Of course, I don’t.

    So far this year I have purchased over £200 worth of stationery I most definitely did not need in order to recreate some of the “Bullet Journals” I saw. Last year I spent a shameful amount on professional makeup that I will probably never use up before it goes off. And now, I have a unsupressable urge to buy a Silhouette Portrait and make my own stickers.

    Why? What is wrong with me? Nothing is helping towards actually writing anything. I’ve barely even managed a blog post for the past four months as every time I get my phone out I’m clicking on the red square with a white triangle instead of the blue circle with the fancy W in it. (This is a very rare exception, obviously.)

    I should perhaps feel guilty that I haven’t been writing. Or that I’ve failed on some level. Truth is, I’ve really enjoyed being creative this year. I am even considering taking up knitting so that I can knit cute teddy bears to sell on Etsy and earn myself enough of a fortune to afford a writing office in which to sit and not write.

    I wonder how many teddy bears that would take…

    Application for the Job of Writer

    Dear Mr. D. Job

    I would like to apply for the job of Writer.

    The open-ended work shift pattern for little to no money really appeals to me. I require almost no supervision, training, or guidance, preferring instead to flounder about by myself for years on end with no success. I think this is really character-building and will eventually make me a better writer.

    I have twenty years’ voluntary experience in the field and think it is about time that I settled into a formal role rather than farting around like some kind of university student on a gap year / study break.

    My recent work experience in a busy sales admin office involved filing so I’m really good at my alphabet. I now only have to sing letters L-T, the rest I know off by heart. I also answered the phone a lot before I went part-time so I heard genuine dialogue for at least five hours a day, five days a week. I reckon I could accurately capture on paper all of those accents and readers do love to read a good accent. Especially when it’s in every dialogue exchange or if it’s a really thick accent. Also I had to check orders for errors which really helped to develop my self-editing skills. I almost never include order forms within my stories by accident.

    I also own a small child so spare time is really limited. I need something to soak up those last few precious hours that I used to spending relaxing or sleeping.

    Yours sincerely,

    Aspiring Author / Professional Procrastinator.

    I have a little problem

    My name is Laura and I’m addicted to stationery.

    Supportive applause.

    I’m pretty sure the reason I decided I wanted to be a writer was because of all the pens.

    There’s nothing quite like the plasticy rattle when you dig through your pen box (because pen cases are too small) to reach a biro you acquired from a hotel you stayed at five years ago or a fountain pen that was the first pen your now husband gave you when you went off to uni.

    Someone who owns multiple pen boxes, a large plastic storage box full of blank pads and notebooks, a shelf full of ‘in-use’ notebooks and folders and still struggles to keep their monthly stationery spend under £20 has a tiny problem…

    I wonder, what are other people’s reasons for wanting to write? Hopefully they’re a little more writerly than mine.

    Also, I’m really looking forward to April. Thank you eBay and Amazon 🙂

    Excuses why I didn’t write today…

    • It’s 9.30pm and I’ve already been wearing pyjamas for an hour … On a Friday night
    • I went to work today. Surely that’s productive enough for anybody?
    • My deadline is still 7 days away 
    • I did some editing yesterday
    • I did some writing last week, I mean come on!
    • I really really just want to watch the next episode of Broad church (I’m a late comer and am currently binge watching the first series.)
    • I’d rather doodle in my bullet journal. At least I’m making words…

      Although overall my writing output has increased this month, it’s still pretty irregular. Today is most definitely a non-writing day!