All About Writing

Editing

Editting Editing is not something I really knew how to do until AFTER I got published. I was just lucky that the publisher liked ‘Stinky Ferret & the JJs’ as I first wrote it, and saw potential in it, because all my editing process really entailed at the time was reading over it, fixing up a few grammatical errors, rearranging a few sentences and yeah, that’s about it.

It was during the editing process that I really discovered what editing involves. It’s not just a matter of re-reading and fixing up a few mistakes. Although line editing (as the publishing world calls it) is important, there’s much more too it that this. It was through the deeper look into how the story is working as a whole (commonly called structural editing) that I really learned about editing. So what is it? Structural editing is about looking at the whole picture. For example, how are relationships in the story developing? Do any of the characters need more ‘fleshing out.’ Is the story believable? Do we have empathy for the main character? What more might the reader need to know?

Though since working through ‘Stinky Ferret’ with my editor my ability to look at my own work subjectively has improved, I know I’ve got a long, long way to go yet. I’ve just completed the first draft to a young adult novel I’ve been working on. Ever since then I’ve been busy – tidying my desk, hanging out the washing, checking Facebook, anything to avoid editing. In short, I knew there were parts that needed expanding on, there were parts that needed greater research, there were characters that needed more substance, there were parts that just weren’t working. But doing this seemed almost impossible. It wasn’t so much the what needed to be done I had troube with, as the how to change it. Hence the procrastinating began.

Until last week when I was fortunate enough to hear author Arnold Zable give a workshopping on overcoming writer’s block. In it he was really explaining how to make your work, work. When you get to that point where you’re just about ready to give up on the whole thing, how do you go back and make it better instead of putting in the back of a drawer somewhere? There were so many useful tips in his workshop, and I highly recommend going along to one of his workshops if you see one’s running. Two points he made seem quite simple but have having a go at this has actually, I feel, breathed some new life into my story. One was playing around with tense (past, present) and perspective (first, second or third person voice). The other was deleting the first line, first couple of lines or indeed first paragraph and see how the story unfurls from there. Both have proved immeasurably useful to me and I’m getting excited by the story again, and finding new areas to delve into.

Next will be tackling the details of the story. Zable recommends firstly contracting the story (by removing any cliches in the storytelling), and secondly expanding the story (by including the fine, specific details of the text). So there’s much work to be done but instead of dreading the editing process I’m now excited by it, and can’t wait to have more fun playing around with the story!

And my final, parting tip – save each draft separately. More than being able to go back to original drafts later on, it gives you the freedom to play around with ideas without worrying that you might have lost a better, earlier draft in the process.

All About Writing

Workshopping

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful group of friends and fellow writers whom I meet with for workshopping sessions on a regular basis (by regular I mean whenever we can find a date we can all do, which usually happens about once a month).

For me, workshopping is about sharing ideas, reading new works, gaining invaluable feedback and listening to diverse writing. But more than that workshopping is my saviour in moments of self-doubt, self-delusion and waning self- confidence. Writing brings me great joy but it also brings me frustrations, fears, isolation and at times rejections.  Workshopping on the other hand motivates me, inspires me and reminds me why I write – because I love it, because I need to get those ideas out on paper, because I want to share stories, thoughts and feelings.

This week’s workshopping held a special place in my heart. Recently, in our workshopping group we have included the children, aged 8 to 12 in the event, at their instigation. This has added extra joy for me in hearing them become enthusiastic and increasingly talented writers.

This week my eldest daughter, 4, said that she wanted to be at my workshopping session. Since it was at my home this time I said that would be fine, and all she’d need to do to be part of it was tell a story. I knew this was not setting too difficult a task as for several months she has decided that on top of ‘normal’ story time she would tell her own stories as well (with a little embellishment from Mum or Dad). So, with great excitement on both parts, Krystalin dictated her story to me and I wrote it down for her. She then sat proudly beside me as I read it out to the group and was clearly thrilled to have been included. What a special joy it is to be able to share your life’s passion with your child.

This is her story:

Tinker Fairy flitters into Krystalin’s bedroom and sleeps in her bed with her all night long. Tinker Fairy goes into the fairy house she made for her, and sleeps in the bed Krystalin made for her. All of the snails and butterflies and rainbow fairies run around in Krystalin’s house, and all of the ladybirds too. All of the butterflies in the whole wide world flitter around in Krystalin’s house and she catches them all while they are sleeping. All of the spiders and all the different kinds of spiders come in. Dad catches the ones you’re not allowed to touch and Krystalin catches all of the Daddy Long Legs spiders.

All About Writing

FAQ from talk at Kunyung Primary

Hi,

Sorry for the slowness but I thought I’d post the answers to some of the great questions I received during my talk about ‘Stinky Ferret & the JJs’ at Kunyung Primary. Please feel free to email me if you’ve got any of your own questions, or comment here.

Do you write in different styles?
Yes, what I write and what age group I write for depends on the idea I have. I also like to write non-fiction sometimes – which is, as you know, factual writing rather than imaginative writing.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies a lot. ‘Stinky Ferret & the JJs’ took about two months for me to write. The idea for the story takes the longest and the writing part is pretty quick if I have a clear idea of what I want to happen.

How long does it take for a book to be made?
Like I said, it took me two months to write ‘Stinky Ferret & the JJs’ but it took a lot longer for it to become a book. It was seven months before I was told it was accepted, then about another six months for it to be edited three times, a cover design made and it printed. (sometimes this last part can take up to 12 months or even longer.)

Do you have to pay to have your story made into a book?
No, I am paid for my story. I get a percentage for each book sold, which works out to be just over one dollar per book. When my book was first accepted and published I got what is called an advance, which is where the publisher works out how many copies the book will sell and then you are paid that amount. Luckily, my book has sold more than that now.

What do you suggest if I get stuck halfway through writing a story?
Remember that you are the one writing the story, so you are the one who can change things or make the next thing happen. Think about ‘what if’ this happened to my character, or try adding another situation or character and see what happens. Just have fun with it and play around with the story a bit.

What do you like to read?
My favourites when I was a kid were Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, and I loved the Trixie Belden books. So I guess I liked fantasy and adventure stories best of all. The authors for children I’m enjoying at the moment include Cornelia Funke, JK Rowling, Morris Gleitzman, Douglas Macleod, John Marsden, Tim Winton and David Metzenthen. I also like to read young adult and adult fiction.

How long would you write for?
As Iong as I have time for. Usually one to two hours at a time at the moment because my other very special job is looking after my two gorgeous daughters.

How many drafts do you do?
Sometimes only one and sometimes up to five or more. Plus, with Stinky Ferret there were three edits with the publishers. I think it mainly depends how clear I am on the story before I start writing it. The more I think about it in my head first the less drafts I tend to need (but perhaps that’s because I’ve been editing in my mind first, and I’m not sure how you count that!)

Are you writing another story? Would you write a series?
Yes and yes. I’m always writing something, and I also have ideas for series’ but that will take a lot more thinking time yet.

Did you send your story to only one publisher?
Yes, so I was lucky, but it was the second story I sent to that publisher. The editor who read the first one said to me that they had another story with a similar theme but that they liked my writing style, so if I had anything else to send it in. Of course, after that I got very busy writing the next story. But if the publisher hadn’t accepted it I would have kept sending it to other places. Writing is subjective. If you think about it, you might love a book that your best friend hated. We all have different opinions, so it makes sense that while one person may not like your story, another will.

What would you suggest for kids wanting to become authors?
Read and write as much as you can. And read what you write aloud, preferably to other people who you know and trust. You’ll be surprised how much you notice about the flow of your work by reading it out.

If a story is like a mountain what would be happening when you get to the top?
That’s a great analogy for writing a story. On my mountain there would be a plateau on the top and it would be the kind of climax, where things change for the main character. On the way up, everything would lead to that climax, and on the way down things would change and resolve themselves in one way or another as a result of that climax (remembering that it takes a lot longer to climb up a mountain than it does to come back down on the other side).

Where do you get ideas from?
At the moment I have more ideas than I do time to write (though it’s not always that way!). Ideas for me come from personal experiences, things others have experienced, things I’ve read or seen on TV/movies/newspapers etc, the way I feel about things and most importantly, imagination.

Do you type or handwrite?
I type up everything. I love my laptop because I can take it anywhere to write (very handy with two young children). The main reason I type is because it’s quicker for me than handwriting. One of the handiest things I learned at school was touch typing. It’s the only way my writing can keep up with my thoughts. I find handwriting too slow, and because I’m so busy trying to get all my thoughts down it’s often difficult to re-read my handwriting later on. That said, if I only had a pen and paper it wouldn’t stop me from writing it down that way!