Wednesday, 10 February 2016
Sunday, 7 February 2016
Image via Gratisography
I sometimes use tools to help me with writing. Or rather, re-writing and editing. I try to get a first draft banged out while in the flow of the story, just making up details, and leaving errors in - it's best to keep on going and try to stay within the fictional world for as long as possible. Then I go back and edit and rewrite (and edit some more). Once it's all done I then run it past your editor, proofreader, or whoever else provides the professional human input. But when revising a first draft prior to another human's intervention I use tools to help me spot common errors I make, and fix them myself. And in that process I learn to avoid making those errors so much in the future.
During a discussion with some other writers recently I found out that they didn't know such tools existed, and I decided it would be a good idea to talk about them a bit here. Finding one that helps point out areas where you are weak can be really good, like having someone looking over your shoulder, and it makes a good precursor to a human editor, fixing some mistakes in advance.
Here you go. Hopefully useful to some of you! They may even help with non-fiction writing too. Paste in part of your report/thesis/essay and see what you think. I tested them with samples from my next work, a short story horror collection (provisionally entitled Dark Harvest).
The first ones are all free and don't require an account.
Monday, 1 February 2016
"Dialogue that nails the metre and manic exuberance of the Manc tongue. Perfectly realised rudderless 20-somethings stuck in empty jobs and flats. A dash of magic realism [...] Manchester music holds this book together as it holds Mark's life together. But dig deeper into this seeming love letter to the Manchester music scene and starts to read like an obituary. All the good music gone. The Hacienda closed. The Conti faded, captured here before the lights go out for the last time a year later. Mark makes endless connections between the music he loves [...] But these patterns form a web as sticky as that woven by his family that fixes him in the past so he can't see the future. He is 'Lost in music'"
From a lovely and perceptive review of 2000 Tunes. :-)
Saturday, 30 January 2016
Much as I love novels, I also really enjoy collections of short stories for the variety of styles and themes they offer. It's also easy to read a single story when I'm busy; it doesn't matter if I don't get back to the book for some time, I won't be losing the plot or forgetting the characters. Dip in, savour, move on.
Secondary Character is a collection of 28 stories by writers who identify with Wales (including me - see disclaimer at end; details of the launch event and my reading here). A variety of subjects, voices and genres. The writing is excellent throughout - I was often arrested by an image or way of wording things, which I usually jot down so I can revisit them later. Some of those in my pad as I glance through it now are:
Thursday, 28 January 2016
I took time out of editing my short story collection to write a 17 page report about the bad planning decisions of my county council over 20 years (Ceredigion County Council, though I imagine others are just as bad). Primarily it is about all the green field wildlife locations they keep allowing developers to build on; it also touches on issues of democracy and openness.
It's weird writing 17 pages of unbelievable truth rather than 17 pages of believable fiction.
If you're interested, you can see my full rant here.
Disclaimer: If you are only interested in my novels and short stories then don't bother clicking that link! But if you're interested in green issues then feel free.
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
I'm editing a horror story the old school way, on paper, today. With help.
Well, she's more of a bemused observer.
I always find making changes to paper copies fascinating. You can see how much is being chopped and replaced, in a way that doesn't seem so apparent when editing on screen, where every change fits in seamlessly.
This story is called Regression, and is being extensively updated for my next work, a horror story collection. Dolly gave it 4 paws out of 5, but said it needs more rabbits in it.
(There was only one reference to rabbits).
Saturday, 23 January 2016
Thursday, 21 January 2016
I recently re-read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Oh boy, was I depressed. It didn't help that at the time I was campaigning to try and save a greenfield meadow from having a housing estate slapped on top. Green becomes grey. I think of what we lose. This book seemed a perfect fit (I'd read it before). But it was not. It was so depressing to read in that state of mind that I had to leave it for a couple of weeks, read something cheerier - probably something with zombie in - then come back to it.
The Road (the book) is like the road itself. Unrelenting and bleak, but with a beauty too. The novel is a gripping story and an important warning. These place the book in the highest categories. Bear that in mind. I keep this book on my writing shelf as an example of how to achieve certain effects, and how to use language in a poetic way. I love it for that.
However, there's one element I don't love, which breaks my immersion in the story. Punctuation! Cormac McCarthy sometimes used apostrophes and sometimes not, which jarred every time I came across it. Specifically, there were never apostrophes in the words can't or don't - instead he wrote "cant" and "wont", both of which then have different meanings once the apostrophes are removed. At first I thought it was a printing error; then that it was a form of future speak; then I realised it must be his style. The choice to ignore the way we write and instead create his own ambiguous rules was something that kept interrupting the flow of the story for me. Oh, and the ending is a blatant deus ex machina.
Still, I love and admire the book. If I can do that in spite of a writing tic of the author's that irritates me, it is all the more praise for the novel's effect.