Edit out the habits: How to Improve Work

There are certainly a few recurring ‘snags’ as it were in the cloth of my carefully constructed words. By editing and work-shopping I’ve been lucky to identify the trends in my work that make it less accessible to the reader. If you have to work hard to read something, then you’re more inclined to give up part-way though. For my rambling thoughts on what puts me off reading a story, there is a post here: Scared of Reading – actually funny story. I started writing this blog post and it originally turned into that one. So I decided to split it into two complete and hopefully coherent articles! Fingers are crossed.

But here are the trends that I learnt to look out for in my work.

  1. Passive verbs passive verbs.

My characters had many limbs that did things for them, but instead I needed to just write, that the characters –did-the-thing- much simpler, much clearer. So for example: Her hand reached out toward the glowing embers. – Passive. What would be better is: She reached toward the glowing embers. – Active. It’s just easier to imagine what the protagonist is doing.

  1. Did uh…did that just happen?

A lot tends to happen to my heroine as she goes about her journey. But I was informed, and then realised that although she reacts physically to the things around her and says things, the reader was being cut out of her thoughts. This was causing a second problem in that my reader felt disconnected from her and therefore my storytelling was less effective. The manuscript I’m working on, was supposed to have a close-third person narration, but too often it was just narration and I wasn’t as close in the third-person as I thought I was. Cue thoughts and responses! It sounds very juvenile but I listed a number of responses such as:

‘She was surprised’, ‘shocked, Sarah turned,’ ‘torn between’, ‘relieved’ etc and then used them as a prompt sheet to include things more in my writing. The result has so far been successful and feedback very positive. Hooray!

  1. Too many wonderful, amazing, blue, sparkling adjectives.

Description is a beautiful thing. However, going through everything with a cut-happy pixie on my shoulder I realised something else that I’d been previously told. I have a tendency to repeat myself. With repetition and a build-up of adjectives, some of the writing was getting lost in itself. Cut, cut, cut! And the work made more impact. I kept the best phrases and descriptions or reworked the ones I really loved and couldn’t bring myself to part with.

  1. For a moment she was a little afraid.

In a final bid to avoid unnecessary repetition in the manuscript I did a ctrl-f word search for a few phrases such as ‘For a moment’ and ‘a little’. I’ll tell you something, I use those tags far too often! I think within 30,000 words I ended up deleting them over 50 times. They didn’t add anything to the story, the plot, the description. They were filler! All they did was water down the writing and stop the protagonist committing to any particular emotion. If she was ‘A little afraid’ why is she just not afraid? If ‘she paused for a moment,’ why doesn’t she just ‘pause.’ Cut!

Everyone has different version of these phrases that they fall back on. My nemesis as I’ve started to refer to them. They’re things I don’t even remember writing! Maybe I don’t, maybe they just appear… That must be it. Those and spelling/grammar errors.

It may be worth going through any work under editing and seeing if you can find one or two and then doing a word search to find out just how many times they sneak in, pesky little things. I definitely go through additional phases of ‘word of the day’ that will sneak in over and again in a chapter if I took a shine to a certain sound when the chapter was in construction. Thank goodness for editing!

The best thing about recognising (the latest) failing of you work, is that when you go on to write new things, you are aware of them and so you make them less often. This does open up the path to making shiny new mistakes, but I like to believe that by slowly eliminating bad habits and trends I’m improving every time I do a thorough edit.

I’m sure there is even evidence to support this as whenever I write I feel it’s better than what I was able to write 6 months ago. I still need to edit the draft, but the process is less painful. I know what I’m looking for, what needs to be edited for clarity what is actually my style. Maybe I still use too many adjectives- but that is because I like long and rambling description. That is a choice, it’s not just the adjectives sneaking in a little.

What are the writing habits you have learnt to look out for? Let me know 🙂

Fibi xx

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I believe!

I’m sure you’ll all be sick of me talking about this, but thank you Daily Prompt for a perfect oppertunity! Another reason to believe….

Currently my reason to believe is the generosity of the people around me. A few weeks ago I put out a call for poems, stories, artwork and photographs to pull together in a book. The purpose of this book was to help raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis and the fire fighters charity via Alex’s Adventures.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of work I received back, and the immense quality of so many of the pieces.
One of my favourite things is a poem written by my three year old niece about her favourite person. Honestly, it’s inspired! But there are also some gorgeous short stories and many poems dedicated in love to those who have passed on from this world. I’m so proud of the collection and just feel so grateful to all of the contributors who helped make it what it was.
It’s been an emotional journey, pulling it all together but it’s worth it. I hope it does well as all proceeds will go to charity and help raise awareness for things that are close to my heart.
One final, enormous thank you has to be to a friend I contacted, out of the blue just two days before sending the book to print. I asked, because I knew he was into arty things, if he had any illustrations that would fit the theme. His response was just incredible. He managed to get three amazing pictures back to me, for three poems. They are amazing and so beautiful. His website is Unknown Creatives and they come very highly recommended.
If any of you lovely bloggers would want to review this raw and heartfelt collection that would be amazing! Please contact me 🙂

And here it is! You mean the world to me… a collection made and dedicated to love.

Bluebells

bluebellIt’s been a while since I have shared any photography with you all, so please find a little something below! It was taken on an Iphone 5 and edited with Pixlr. I’m quite excited as for the first time I figured out how to do the black and white – with a pop of colour effect. Hooray!

Fantastic Photography!

I thought I would share this wonderfully talented photographer with you all!
I remember seeing an article about Kirsty Mitchell a couple of years ago and was just blown away by her work. She of course, automatically scores awesome points for sharing a name with my sister, but her photography is beautifully composed and imaginative.
But I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!
I’d highly recommend a visit to her website and the wonderland collection.
Kirsty Mitchell

 

Have a fab weekend all!

 

Fibi xxx

In the water

Happy New Year All!

I’m a bit slow on the uptake with well wishings and holiday things this year as I’ve been all around the country and Ireland to see family for the festive season. I hope everyone has had a fantastic year though!

These are some of my favourite photos, I’m actually in them so I’m not taking them this time! (Strange) but I do absolutely love them. I had such an amazing ride on the beach with the lovely Daisy.

Daisy and I have been working hard whenever possible to train ready for our trek on the South Downs.

As previously mentioned my cousin is trying to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis in memory of my cousin Melissa who passed away on the 18th of January 2004.  To raise money, Alex will be attempting ten treks/challenges/adventures in ten months. The first of these will begin on the 18th of January (under two weeks away! Agh!). He’s going to walk the 100 mile route across the south downs over a period of 6 days. On one of these days, Daisy and I, Alex’s fiance and George and my Aunt on her horse Guiness will be accompanying him for support.

Wish us luck!

Fibi

 

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Halloween

Halloween

It has been a few weeks, possibly over a month, since my last blog post. I feel like I’m forever apologising for my lax attendance here, and promising that I’ll be making it up to the great wordpress in the sky – so this time I won’t. I’ve just been super busy, and part of the busy has been writing. So I feel quite happy about my time away from the blog.

Not that it’s intentional, with a few hours extra in the day, and little less exhaustion, I’d be blogging away like nobody’s business! But I’ve managed to put my blogging hours into constructive writing hours – hooray! So this unfortunately will be another ‘what have I been doing recently’ post.

I am pleased to say that I finished the final glossing and editing of my manuscript- Hunters (tentative title) and sent it off to a friend. My fingers are crossed and I hope he likes it! So that was successful mission number one…

Next missions – so far I’ve managed to keep up to date with the work for my MA and have written new chapters for the new manuscript, tentatively titled Forging the Fires.

This week I have also been very brave and submitted my work to three competitions. One was a very quick piece written for Halloween and so I am hoping to hear back shortly!

What is rather strange, is that I started writing this blog post over a week ago and was so excited to keep writing new fiction, that I forgot to come back and finish it! Organisation is slipping I fear…but at least the writing is buzzing around this week!

I’m really excited to be continuing a few projects and hope to give a proper update soon!
Happy Halloween all!

Fi

 

Happy Halloween!

Image has been cropped and ‘autofixed’ on Pixlr Express.

With a little faith.

photo

I couldn’t bring myself to re-post something today. I really wanted to write something new.  I haven’t been checking the daily prompt on a particularly daily basis so this is adding to my lack of blog posts. My next post on the 10 Day Challenge, is about the top four websites I use as a writer, and It’s stumped me a little. I feel I need to go and do some research into this before crafting my response. Alas, it is also taking some time, a commodity I feel is slipping through my fingers.

So, today I thought I would share a few things with you; namely a picture of trees. I like trees. I know this picture isn’t the most amazing, beautifully lit or framed photograph in the world. But I loved the setting and wanted to capture it. As such, the picture has no edits, it is simple what my phone captured in that moment of time (last week when I was taking a very long, slightly unexpected walk!)

What else have I been up to, other than impromptu rambling and photo snapping? Well, I have been making concerted weekend efforts to work on my first manuscript. I have added in a chapter and am very excited to get back into writing and add a few more chapters. It’s all coming together! The more I work on the story, the better it pulls together. It’s taken a very long time to muse over the plot and threads as a whole, but now everything feels as though it’s slotting into place. Not only am I anxiously awaiting the weekend, or some extra free time to re-work the new chapter and spin some more, but I’m eager to complete this project in time for my deadline (end of the month- eeek!) But I’m becoming slightly intoxicated with the thought of launching into the second manuscript.

Mr Lovely and I had a very long talk on Sunday morning and I went over again the background information for the series.  I was then able to talk about my ideas for moving forward with the second, third and fourth books and the multitude of ones that link in. However, at the end of the discussion, I had a much clearer idea of what the second manuscript needs to be.

I always had a plan for the plot of the second book. I’ve always known what the end result will be, but the rest has always been a bit, well…misty.  A large mind-fog. I’ve always been confident that the information I need, and a decent story is under there, but I’ve been stabbing at it blindly, hoping to pick it up.  For an assignment of my masters, I took the opportunity to write the beginning of the book. This was ridiculously helpful. I didn’t get the beginning on the first write, in fact I wrote several starting paragraphs and then put them away in disgust, unable to find anything that I wanted to continue from. However, coming back a few weeks later (assignment deadline looming) I realised that yes, although the paragraphs weren’t very good, a few of the sentences were great. I’d managed to write what I’d wanted to write; it was just diluted in a lot of other dross, and spread out over several different false starts. Between the bits I liked, I was able to craft a beginning I found really exciting. I was able to move on with the story, a huge relief!  In fact, the first chapter that I submitted for the assignment was one of the best pieces of writing I feel I have pulled together. After all, my masters is having the desired effect, I’m becoming a better, more honed writer.

So, first chapter complete. A full, exciting bound back into the world my reader leaves behind in the first story.  So I knew how it ended, I know how it begins…what happens in the middle? How do I drive the plot from A to B?  (Well, plot ‘should’ be driven by Character but a lot needs to happen) After my conversation with Mr Lovely though, bonus. I  have a firm idea of what is going to come, and I’m so very, very very excited to get writing and get the story done, finished. It’s going to be epic and that’s all I can say…

Again, another huge sense of relief. I always knew the story was lurking in all the fog and I’ve found at least the thread of a path through it. The path even has a few stones on it, leading the way.

Wishing everyone happy writing, and a little faith.

Fibi xx

 

Words are Spaghetti or Wool?

I’ve raided my old website, for previous blog posts that I think are worth re-telling. I don’t want to lose the work I put in and I would like to share some of the things with you. So, words are they like spaghetti or wool? Apologies to anyone who has already read these.

I was walking to the shop, and narrating to myself a conversation (as you do). What is writing like? My mind caught up, as ever, in slightly more abstract imagery decided instantly that it was like trying to make spaghetti out of soup, an impossible goal – but if you work out how to achieve it, would take considerable patience.  Although it’s a fun idea, and probably reminiscent of Manny’s tower of soup in Black Book’s it wasn’t a workable image and I don’t like to consider that writing is impossible, because it is not.

The second image drifted into my mind, was that writing is like making a ball of yarn. But then I corrected myself and remembered that I am not American and therefore, writing is like making a ball of wool.  You start off with all the wool, the words (substitute wool for words at any point and hopefully this will work…) As much or as little as you like. You may have even researched fancy colours and dyed your wool, making it more unique to you. But once you have this length, you’re fascinated by it and want to complete your end product. You start by throwing it down or trying to twist it into shape. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work.  Suddenly you have a tangled mess of wool at your feet, although some of it has created some difficult and interesting knots, and some has even curled itself into your end goal (I’ll assume that more experienced wool does this more often than the beginning wool). But you have to start untangling those knots. You tease out the threads until you see clearly, at least for a while, but those threads get lost amongst the overall tangle fairly fast and so you’re faced with an ever so slightly less knotty piece of fleece. Patience is required, as is dedication. Sometimes you get so close to the knots to figure them out that you forget to see the rest of the string and some of it is nearer to being a ball than you think.

Every so often you have to leave it for a while and come back refreshed, able to see the overall pattern and swirl so that you can begin unpicking it again. Then you start to wind it up, you think you’ve got it all untangled and you get to mould it into its final form. It will tangle along the way because its cantankerous and fibres love to cling together. Sometimes you have to be ruthless and firmly separate the threads, despite your secret desire to leave them as they are and set the whole thing in a drawer or at the back of the cupboard.

But you’ll never forget it’s there. It’ll be at the back of your mind, that half-finished ball of wool. You’ll find yourself digging through the cupboard you long since shut with the intention of never opening again (a threat of a mop ready to fall on the unsuspecting door opener… there’s a cupboard like that in every house I’m sure, and they always have a mop or long forgotten broom.)

Finally, though it may take hours or years, depending on the length of the wool, you’ll have your ball. Your completed thing. But hand it to the wrong person and you’ll find that they start to unravel it. They’ll pull the wrong string and it will drop to the floor and race away from you. You’ll chase it, hands outstretched and rescue it before the cat gets it. Then you’ll roll it up again.

That is what I think writing is like.

 

Previously published at writingwolf.co.uk.

Sail away with me

Ship

This was a very quick watercolour that I painted a few months back. It was the first time I’d picked up a brush in a very long time and I just wanted to play with the colour. I only had a very simple idea in mind and I am really pleased with how it turned out.

As soon as it was finished though, Mr L claimed it as a gift. It’s a good job I was planning to give it to him anyway!  i was flattered that he was determined to have it though.

 

10 Day Blogger Challenge: Day Four ….Or Fourteen?

I feel as though I’ve probably broken some cardinal rules when it comes to blogging and the blogging challenges. Ergo- I’ve missed a few days/weeks on my blog, eek! As always, I will endeavor to slink back into place and carry on as though nothing happened, nothing at all- you saw nothing you hear? Well, if you’ve been following my blog then really you would have. Anyway, continuing…

Challenge four of the 10 day blogger challenge from Hunters Writing

Profile 3 to 5 top writing craft books

I’m not sure about five, but I can certainly manage three, I think – if not then there is probably a huge problem! Okay, definitely two, two sprang into mind straight away.

Booko numero uno:

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers – Any writer that I meet, or generally just people that I meet and I happen to get into the conversation that I write, I’m bound to tell about this text.  If we’ve been friends for more than a few weeks, I’ve probably raved about it, at you – sorry. But it IS brilliant.  Joseph Campbell, in my mind is attributed for this idea that there are just seven main stories, or The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  (Note to self, profile this book second) But Vogler, I find to be excellent at clarifying the archetypal characters.  He names them all, and then explains their purpose. His explanation of how to structure a story really stuck in my mind. I had already written the majority of my first manuscript when I read Writer’s Journey but I found that it immediately sharpened my focus. I realised that things that had been niggling at the back of my mind, were really out of place and I was able to adjust the plot to make it more coherent and enjoyable for my reader.

Book Two:

For anyone interested in storytelling, structure or literature analysis, you’ve probably already heard of, or read Cambpell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I’m a bit rusty on this text, but I remember it being a gem! Well worth a read if you’re interested in why things work a certain way.

Book Three

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft

This book was a set text for a creative writing module I did a few years ago. I studied the module in Canada along with a few others, however when I returned to the UK I had very limited funds and couldn’t either physically bring all of my belongings back with me, or b, afford to pay for postage to send them. It was a nightmare! In the end, I had to make some hard decisions and ended up selling over half of my school books back (the college had a handy buyback scheme). However, I was determined to keep Writing Fiction! And so I did, it was so satisfying to deliver it safely home. (I have a thing about books, it’s bad.)

Why was I so determined to keep the text? It has the most amazing examples of writing to inspire. It also has writing prompts and suggestions that I felt really helped me develop my characters. Having studied writing at University for a few years, I recognized in this book something I hadn’t found in others. I do really recommend it to anyone who wants something constructive to read.

(I also carried back my copy of the Watchmen – which I gave to my brother for Christmas and he LOVED)