Sound And Fury

I couldn’t really think of a blog post this week. Yanno: work, the dog, the hubby . . . a new tv show . . .

So you’re going to get 250-500 words of sound and fury, signifying nothing* about my week so far.

#1 on my list of nonsense is that my husband makes a great roast.**

#2 is that my dog stinks. I mean really honks. Can’t give her a bath because a.) no time and b.)when there is time it’s too late in the day for her to dry without leaving the whole house smelling of wet dog.***

#3 is kept for the smug, happy thought of the book I’m planning on reading next.****

#4’s job is to mention that I’m dying for a cuppa.

#5: Did I mention I really want a cuppa? A cup of tea is the best medicine. And I won’t say no to a couple of scotch fingers with that.

#6 would like to offer up the proud knowledge that I’ve figured out the kinks in a story I’ve been thinking about for years, making it properly writable at last *****

#7 is, happily for you, the end of this nonsense. Go do something productive with your day. I’ll be over here having a cuppa.

*Yup. You got it. I’m the idiot. You’re very clever.

**By this I mean that he cooked me a great roast, not that I cooked and ate him.

***Yes. Stinky dog smell is infinitely preferable to wet dog smell. Wet dog smell burrows into stuff.

****Re-reading Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret, in case you wanted to know.

*****I have no time to write said book, of course. I have a schedule of four publications for next year, one of which I have yet to write, one of which is yet to be quite finished, and the third of which is on its last edits. The fourth is done, though. Go me!

Walking Home In The Fog

I’m a fiddler.*

Even if I’ve only written a chapter of the manuscript, the next day will see me re-reading, editing, revising.  Fiddling.  Reworking.  Obsessing.  By the time I reach the midway point in a manuscript,** I will have read it in excess of 40 times. Then the MS is finished, and the fun really begins. There’s the line by line edit, where I catch*** all those stupid little grammatical errors; not to mention the glaring errors in spelling. There’s the paragraph to paragraph read, when I try to make sure of continuity and flow. Then there’s the last**** read through to be sure my story structure stands up on its own two feet.  That’s not to mention the time I spend on my characters, making sure that each of them is separate from the others; each with their own personality, voice, quirks, and reactions.

That’s now.

But when I finished my first MS, fiddling aside, I did nothing like that. I did read the MS. In fact, I read it exhaustively, niggling at wrong word choices and bits that just weren’t quite right.  The problem was, 9 times out of 10, I didn’t know what was wrong.  I spent the first few days after finishing the MS in a happy daze, certain that I was the next Austen,***** or Patricia Wrede, or Diana Wynne Jones.  Then I re-read it, and I was just as certain that it was rubbish. I could feel that this paragraph or this sentence didn’t fit, or didn’t sit right, or just plain felt wierd; but I didn’t know what was wrong.  I knew that the characters weren’t right, and that everything felt flat, or too fast, or too slow; and that the conversation that felt so very witty and/or grand when I first wrote it, now seemed somehow not quite so witty or grand.  I just couldn’t put my finger on where it was that I’d gone wrong.  The next few weeks after finishing the MS I spent in a black fug, gloomily certain that I would never be published.

I still get both of those feelings.  The euphoria, the fug.  The difference is, now they’re in moderation because I do know what’s wrong and I do know how to fix it.

It’s the difference between walking home on a clear night and walking home in the fog.  In the fog, you know where home is and you’re pretty sure you know where you are, but the turns are obscured and everything feels just that little bit off.  The familiar parts of the road aren’t familiar in the fog, and you can’t see enough to know if you’ve turned rightly or wrongly.  Then the fog lifts, and suddenly you know exactly where you are, and where home is, and every turn and step of the way there.  You know that in two steps you’ll have to turn left, and that the gate across the field is already open so you won’t need to wrestle with that rusty hinge, and that the neighbour’s dog is outside, so you’ll have to watch out for that irritating burst of barking.

walking home in the fog

I know more now that I did when I started.  I know about pacing, and structure; I know about characterization and voice; style and flow; a little grammar and a smattering of spelling.  I read a sentence I wrote last night or last week, and I know straight away what’s wrong with it.  I still make mistakes and write flat characters and make a complete mess of continuity,****** but now I know how to fix it.

And that makes all the difference.



*No, really. I play the violin.

**Usually 60,000 words, give or take.

***Alright, so I try to catch ’em.


*****Well, I am a writer.  Did you think I bought that imagination at a garage sale?

******That’s what sisters are for.  Right?  Right, Naomi?  What’s that?  You say that they didn’t have fluffy towels in the whatever century?  And that gun popped up out of nowhere?