13 February 2012

Top tips for tip top writing

I have finally finished Due Diligence!

Followers of this blog might wonder what I am talking about, that I claimed to have written my crime novel a year ago. True, I finished writing it then but I have discovered that it takes about the same time to finish a novel as it does to write it.

I am referring to the editing process, of course. I imagined this would involve a quick read through to correct a few typos then off to the publishers.


I find I can't sensibly read my own writing. No, it's not illegible, that's not what I mean. The problem seems to be that I know what I meant to write and that's what I read. Also, I have the entire back story of all the characters in my head and tend to forget which bits I've bothered to share with the reader.

Editing myself turns into picking and scratching at the prose, substituting a less suitable word here and changing a few lines for the worse there.

I can't see the big picture. I have difficulty in seeing any picture other than the one already in my head. Whether I have managed to communicate it is a different matter entirely.

I do, of course, give my precious script to my friends and family to read. Their feedback is always positive and unhelpful in the main. Kindness and understanding are wonderful attributes unless applied to literary criticism.

My advice, based on lots of mistakes, is as follows:

Don't ever use colons, or even semi-colons

Gotten is not a word, at least not an English one

Write until you have finished, don't look back, don't edit, don't revise, don't make corrections. Finish it.

When you have finished it, whether it is half a page or 250,000 words, put it away somewhere safe. Somewhere you can retrieve it from but not too easily.

Then write something else.

And something else, maybe.

One day you will decide to look at what you have written and when you do remember to be kind and gentle. If you are feeling picky, or your football team is having a hard time, or the dog has been sick on the kitchen floor, put your writing away and deal with the crap first.

Read it, make it legible and correct any really obvious things, like repeated words and repeated words.

Now send it to someone who doesn't care a toss for your sensibilities. This unfeeling person is known in the trade as an editor. Ask for a critique, send them some money and only then will you know if you are on the right track. If you are, a full edit by a good editor will create something that really works. It will take time, money and effort, though.

'Due Diligence' has been massively improved by the editing process. I rather like being told what works and what doesn't, what to rewrite and what to leave as it is. You will all be able to buy it and see for yourselves very soon.

By the way, if you want an honest opinion at a very reasonable price, I recommend Fiction Feedback http://www.fictionfeedback.co.uk/