Monday, 14 November 2011

Definitely Do Sweat The Small Stuff...

Because of the disjointed time I have to write - demands on my time come at me from all domestic angles! - I tend to write my first drafts longhand on a huge pad which I dig out whenever I have a free ten minutes. Then I spend any longer spells of time (chiefly Tuesday and Thursday mornings when the small one goes to preschool) writing them up. I tend to play around with my rough draft as I type and it ends up (hopefully) as a coherent story in a Word document.

Following New Voices I've decided to experiment with self-editing as I go along. Prior to this I waited until I had a finished draft MS and then worked back through it. For NV, however, I had to redraft and polish my Chapter Two over and over, and the same for the Pivotal Moment, to get it to a standard where it it passed the approval of my mentor, Liz Fielding, whose self-editing abilities were staggering. I want to be her when it comes to self-editing. My draft would read pretty well to me but she could pick up tiny flaws... sentence or paragraph structure which was clumsy, words that had the wrong connotation for the scene, all sorts of things which alone didn't amount to much and so passed under my radar. When all these little things were corrected, however, the result was amazing. The whole thing flowed better, sounded tighter, the pacing was stepped up. My jaw dropped at the difference, I sounded so much better a writer!

I can give one example so you can see where I'm coming from. In my Chapter Two I have the hero break into a bathroom where he believes the heroine is suicidal, only to discover she was actually trapped because the doorknob had snapped. I wanted to use their close proximity and the fact the heroine is wearing only a towel to put across their growing physical attraction. In the middle of all this I had the hero touch the bathtub (which was covered with bath oil) and I described it as 'greasy' under his palms. This choice of word seemed OK to me, I certainly didn't pick it up in my many read-throughs. Liz, however, pointed out that 'greasy' has unpleasant connotations and therefore didn't belong in a paragraph where the hero is thinking about how gorgeous the heroine is. I eventually changed it to 'slippery'. 

Having worked so hard on Chapter Two and reached a point where I was really happy with it I also found I had a really clear idea of how to proceed with Chapter Three. So I'm hoping that by trying hard to be objective and self-edit as I go along I will not only keep my writing tighter and more effective, I will also make the path ahead clearer. I definitely will be sweating the small stuff from now on.


  1. Hi Charlotte - just found your blog! Big congratulations on making it to the New Voices Top Four! And you are so lucky to have had Liz as your mentor, she is an amazing lady :)

    I'm with you, I learnt more during New Voices last year (and the months after) than I learnt in my previous 3+ years seriously writing (and attending writing conferences, reading craft books etc). An amazing - if stressful - experience :)

  2. Hi Leah! I followed your NV journey on your blog and loved reading about your progress. I got so much more out of NV this year, even if I hadn't gone through to the final 21 I read tons of entries, left loads of comments and read all the advice articles. The whole comp was stuffed with info. Still feeling like I'm on a huge learning curve!

  3. Hello Charlotte! I am the opposite to you I think; a natural self editor who is trying to turn into a first drafter to get the story written and then go back to polish/add depth later. It's almost impossible though try as I might. Glad to see you are writing HWAS, looking forward to reading it! Jessica

  4. Hi Jessica! I do feel like the self-edit thing is slowing me down though, I just want to have a first draft finished! I will have to revise like mad anyway. Am never happy with my progress and forever on a quest for the answer, be it how-to books, blog posts. I need to just get on and write the wretched thing!