Thursday, 31 May 2012

Off to the Seaside!

St Ives coast by Ali Corder

In just one more day it'll be half-term and we'll be on our way to Carbis bay. It only seems five minutes ago that I booked it - but I know it was January, there was frost on the ground and I was about to go down with a rotten cold!
I've been looking at the photos of us there last year and feeling increasingly excited. It's so beautiful!

The five (soon-to-be-six) year old in St Ives

These are from a photo album I've been browsing through.
 I did have dozens of gorgeous digital photos of this holiday...until my husband did something
 insane (that I still can't quite believe) with the computer. Sigh... 

I've been remembering the coastal path that was over-grown with flowers and subtropical planting...the train that wound along the wooded hillside overlooking the sea...the soaring (occasionally dripping) viaduct arches over the entrance to Station Beach...the lights from the ships out at sea in the darkness. And St Ives, of course...the shops, cafes and coloured beach huts...the lazy seals, boat trips round Godrevy lighthouse, crabbing on the wharf...and buying shell bracelets, toe-rings or coloured dreadlocks to weave into our hair - until we got them home and wondered what were we thinking?

One of the prettiest train rides ever.

Lighthouse tiles...

...that I bought in a shop in St Ives...

And stuck on the wall outside our back door!
(Much better than postcards or sticks of rock!)

This year I can't decide whether to take my laptop and work-in-progress or not. I've left it behind on every other holiday and always enjoyed the break from thinking and plotting and constant self-criticism (not to mention the news and celebrity gossip, Facebook and emails). Holidays ought to be about getting away from routine and habit, friends and certain family members, work and hobbies - from everything really. It's wonderful. But this time I'm strangely reluctant to leave my writing behind. Not sure why. Maybe the habit of writing each day has reached the point of being too hard to break. Or maybe I'm too close to the end (only a handful of chapters left to go now). I might even be a little bit worried that if I stop now...I'll never pick it up again.

I'm around 80,000 words and slowing down all the time. I've read about people getting stuck around 12-15,000 words, because that's when the plot has to be thought about in more detail. 30-35,000 also seems to be a common tough spot because too much has been written to stop and give up, but there's still no end in sight. I passed both these wordcounts without faltering, but it's the end I'm having trouble with. Because when it's finished, I'll be in line for all those crushing letters of rejection again - and that's a horrible, horrible business. I have a lot less confidence in my writing this time round and I think my subconscious is trying to protect me from failure by preventing me from finishing. My subconscious is an annoying jackass.

Well, I won't have time to write in the day when we're at the seaside - the boys'll see to that. And there are lots of books I'd like to read in the evening - if the sea air doesn't knock me unconscious first. So the sensible thing to do is to take a notepad and a pen.

Look - I've chosen a pretty sundress for every day of the holiday. As always, I will end up wearing shorts and a vest on each day of the week and having to iron the suitcase-creases out of all those unworn dresses upon my return. Yep, every time...

The boys have been wearing their swimmers every day to slide into the paddling pool. I'm trying to get them dry enough to pack. Just the sight of them on the line puts me in a holiday mood. To the sea! To the sea! 

Last week, one of the writers in my writing group received the freelance editing report on her full-length novel. It's something that several people have advised me to do, so I was interested to get a look at it. Although it was expensive - it was also very thorough; pages and pages of encouraging remarks and suggestions for improvements. The areas it covered were - Style, Beginning, Plot, Denouement, Pacing/Tension, Characterisation, Marketability/Next Steps/Conclusion etc...
This order allowed the editing to start small - typos, mistakes in spelling or punctuation (misplaced apostrophes and so on) - which was all fairly unalarming. Then it moved on to slightly bigger fish such as POV breaks, examples of overwriting and those dreaded attributive verbs -  'she spat'...'he sighed'...'she laughed'...'he nodded'.
Followed, of course, by the pace-killing attributive adverbs - 'she spat angrily'...'he sighed wearily'...'she laughed hysterically'...'he nodded psychotically'.
In his book On Writing Stephen King says: 'I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special occasions...and not even then if you can avoid it.'
(Mark Twain famously said something rude about adverbs too, but since he's responsible for this quote about Jane Austen:  'Every time I read "Pride and prejudice" I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.' I'm not going to bother with it.)
After lulling the writer into a false sense of being able to edit their book without too much pain or hard work, the report reached the macro edit stage. Is there too much back story at the beginning? Well, move it, but don't put great chunks of it anywhere else - or it'll slow the pace. Is this character really necessary? Or could he be combined with these two over here? Does every character have a firm sense of goal? No? Well, give them all an agenda or kill them. Do these scenes really need to be set in Slough - or could they be moved to Bolivia?
Terrifying stuff!
I think most writers necessarily get too close to their own work to be able to see the big changes that would improve it. So my conclusion is that - if you can raise the cash - a freelance editing report is probably a good idea.
I want one now. But I also want some Cartier spectacle frames, a dozen pairs of Irregular Choice shoes and a new treehouse. So I'll just have to add it to my list.

We're going from this... this!

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