Tag Archives: editing

WiP Sneak Peek

The marvellous Ms Simmone Howell has tagged me in a meme challenge. Henceforth I must throw caution to the wind and permit a sneak peek at my work-in-progress – specifically seven lines from page seven or page seventy-seven.

I’ll confess to clicking ‘compile’ in my writing software to stitch a manuscript together. And to reading the copy on pages seven and 77. And not being entirely comfortable.

So I returned to those chapters and, after some huffing, puffing and hand wringing, I edited and rewrote.

I don’t know if that’s in the spirit of the meme, particularly given the inadvertent destruction of dwellings fashioned from straw and sticks. Karma came back to haunt me anyway. When I recompiled the manuscript, the page numbers had changed. What used to be on pages 7 and 77 wasn’t any more. This effectively meant that editing until I was happy could take an eternity. I had to draw a line somewhere, sometime.

So here you go, brave readers. Please find below what was a seven line snippet from page seven of my WIP:


Michiko lingers at the showroom door downstairs. “Hey, thanks for all your help,” I murmur. “It made it easier, knowing you were nearby, ready to stab me with a sharp implement.” She giggles and that’s it, that’s enough for me. One moment of levity punctures the heaviness in the room, my chest, my mind. Lets fresh air trickle back in.
I put an arm around her, acting more boldly than I feel. “So, when do you fly?”


As for tagging others, I hereby toss the gauntlet at Ms Leanne HallMr Michael Pryor, Sandy Fussell and  Mr Scot Gardner. No pressure, guys.

UPDATE: You can check out Sandy’s post, here.

On life getting in the way of the next story

Not a lot of creative writing going on for me lately.

At my ‘real job’, I’ve been learning about complex medical procedures, various ailments and where anarchic commas hide. Lots of editing. Lots of work.

I jot down ideas for stories, or moments in stories, but rarely have time to add flesh to these bony fragments.

When I’m feeling fraudulent about still being an author, I have to remind myself that Five Parts Dead is less than 12 months old. Sure, there are other authors pumping out more than a book a year but circumstances mean I’m not one of them. To folks waiting for the next book, I’m sorry, it’s going to be a while.

That’s why this 2009 post from Neil Gaiman gives me some comfort. In answering a reader query about another author taking his time to write a much-anticipated sequel, Mr Gaiman said the following:

“And sometimes, and it’s as true of authors as it is of readers, you have a life. People in your world get sick or die. You fall in love, or out of love. You move house. Your aunt comes to stay. You agreed to give a talk half-way around the world five years ago, and suddenly you realise that that talk is due now. Your last book comes out and the critics vociferously hated it and now you simply don’t feel like writing another. Your cat learns to levitate and the matter must be properly documented and investigated. There are deer in the apple orchard. A thunderstorm fries your hard disk and fries the backup drive as well…

“And life is a good thing for a writer. It’s where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.”

It’s true. I’ve had other stuff going on, although the cat now refuses to levitate while my head is turned in his direction.

And I’ve been watching life. Listening and wondering…

Does a masseur read the life stories written under their fingertips in the braille of tired and injured muscles?

Why do strangers always look at the floor in lifts? What if they didn’t?

And one day life will make space for the writing to flow again.

Rust free

I’m embarrassed by how neglected this blog has been lately. Apologies to anyone who has tuned in and failed to find anything new.

The truth is that my work status has changed and, with new responsibilities and deadlines, I’ve had to cut back on non-essential tasks. Blogging and tweeting are among those. As for writing, sigh, let’s just say you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Book 3. I have the ingredients, characters and a good chunk of the plot – but no time to knead and bake.

Indeed, this post is being tapped out in a lull between cooking dinner, doing dishes and wrangling the kids towards their beds. Storytime beckons and I’ll soon be plunged into fictional worlds of noisy new babies and lusty vampire ninjas.

So, please find below a bulleted list of things that have consumed the first quarter of 2011:

  • I’ve had a week’s residence at a secondary school where the Yr 10 English students studied Five Parts Dead. That was impressive on several levels. 5PD is a novel that’s less than a year old but the staff found it somehow and felt it would connect with their students, including reluctant readers. The feedback has been incredibly positive and the college is looking at studying the book in 2012 with a fresh batch of Yr 10s. I’m indebted to a group of teachers and teacher-librarians who were willing to think outside the usual bunch of school texts. As for the students, they certainly came up with probing questions about character and plot. I reckon I understand my own work better, thanks to their dissection.
  • I have sold three short stories, two of which will be used in literacy tests. The third will feature in a school textbook for Grade 5 to Year 8 students. I haven’t had any junior fiction published before so I’m quietly chuffed about this.
  • I attended my first interstate speaking engagement, joining the smorgasbord of storytellers at the Newington College Literature Festival in Sydney. I applaud Newington for generating so much enthusiasm and interest in words and writing from their students and staff. And it really was fun to meet and spend time with other speakers.
  • My family booked tickets for Japan – and then watched in horror at the devastation wrought by the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear contamination. Our holiday plans are on ice but this is inconsequential. My heart goes out to the generous people of Japan as they grapple with a social, environmental and economic toll we Australians can’t possibly comprehend. I heard a father interviewed last week who lost two children to the tsunami. Every day after work he returns to the wreckage to search for even the smallest sign of their bodies. There must be thousands of other heart-breaking stories like this.
  • I spoke to a group of 250 Yr 12 students just off the buses at their first day of study camp, in Week 1 of term. Chances of them remembering my words? Slim if not nil. Apologies to the student that asked for tips on writing short stories that I haven’t posted yet. (I haven’t forgotten though – and will do so ASAP.)
  • I’ve spoken to Yr 7 and Yr 8 students about finding and reading great books – and launched the Premiers’ Reading Challenge at two schools.
  • I spoke to a large group of fathers and their Yr 7 sons about Books for Boys and how to get their sons reading.
  • At my editing job, which is basically full time now, I’ve hired four new staff and begun an intense six-month project.
  • I’m now booked to speak at (in chronological order) the Emerging Writers’ Festival, an exciting Booktalkers event, the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, the Ballarat Writers’ Festival and the 1000 Words Festival. There’s also a guest lecture at RMIT, another at NMIT and sundry other luncheons and chats. Please come along to one or several of the public events and say g’day.
  • While work on Book 3 has been rare or non-existant, I started a short story that seems to be begging to be something bigger. That’s kind of exciting.
  • I’ve cycled in excess of 850 km and have actually come to appreciate the beauty of dawn, dammit.
  • And I’m slowly rebuilding our front fence in my “spare” time.

As my grandmother used to say, it’s better to wear out than rust out.

Take your time and read it aloud

During the editing phase of Five Parts Dead, one of the things the publisher asked me to do was to read my entire manuscript aloud.

It was good advice and it’s something that I regularly encourage students to do, too. Whether you’re writing fiction, poetry, a speech, book review or essay, it’s always worth going to a quiet room and carefully reading your work aloud. Why? Because if you stumble on an awkward sentence when reading in private, it will snag you like barbed wire when you read it in public. If someone else is reading your writing, someone less familiar with the content than you are, I guarantee they’ll find it even harder to negotiate.

Just as stand-up comedians hone their routines over and over, you need to do the same to ensure the rhythm is right, the words flow and your intended meaning is clear.

I was present at the State Library in May 2008 when Neil Gaiman read from his page proofs for the multi-award-winning The Graveyard Book. He said: “It’s always nice to read stuff in public that you haven’t read before because you find out … that sentences that looked good on the page are impossible to read aloud.”

Another reason to read your work aloud is to highlight repetition.* If you have overused a word or words, you should pick this up quickly. I know that when Game as Ned was turned into an audio book, and I heard actors reading my work for the first time, I became acutely sensitive to particular words that seemed to recur in every second sentence. I also winced at a few phrases and wished I’d polished them more.

So, read your work again. Aloud. And don’t worry about sounding like a goose, talking to yourself. If you’re going to be a writer you’re going to have to get used to the sound of your own voice.

*Here’s another handy tool for picking up repetition. Online software such as Wordle creates ‘word clouds’ that enable visual analysis of your written vocabulary. You might be surprised by words that fly under your editing radar.