Sunday, April 26, 2015

Is This How Thor Began?

This god-like image made of volcanic ash, thunder and lightning from

Seeing a sight like this amongst the catastrophe of a volcanic eruption is enough to get anyone to their knees.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Editing: The First Paragraph

Roadkill by R de Heer

This rather macabre image, a photo of a bit of squashed road-kill, was a beginning that led to the invention of many interesting images and illustrations.

In the same way a first paragraph needs to be able to lead into a reader's enjoyment and indeed tweak a prospective reader's intention hard enough to make them want to read. The promise of the whole story to follow must be in the first paragraph.

In my novel Monster-Moored I didn't have that yet. My beta readers found my first paragraph a turn-off. They didn't want the geography lesson I had there. They wanted a description of the main character.

But I resisted for a while. I didn't just want to insert a couple of sentences listing Tardi Mack's attributes. I needed to weave an indication of the whole story into it. I wrote out the first paragraph in longhand a few times, making changes each time. Left it overnight. Next breakfast I had it.

Old first paragraph:

Tardi stopped paddling. He sat up on his surfboard. He imagined his legs hanging in the sea. Shark bait. He hurriedly compared the distances from himself, a dot in the bay, to Cape Byron in the southeast, the Quarry Lane Ridge, and Mt Chincogan in the north. 

New first paragraph:

Tardi stopped paddling. He sat up on his surfboard. He imagined his latte-coloured legs hanging in the sea, being shark bait. Why couldn't he have taken after his mother? With both his eyes and hair dark brown, Threen used to say he was her very own good-looker. Rowan wouldn't want to encourage him. All of it a bit of fun on the days that he didn't compare himself to his father. So think of untameable sharks, instead. 

What do you think? Does the new first paragraph herald a better read?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

About Editing

There's more happening with editing, but due to my shoulders not working properly, I am suddenly limited to 3 x 15 minute sessions a day on the computer.

So it's back to amending a paper print-out of Monster-Moored. With a pencil or pen, as the day may be. This is a sample of the previous 'real' edit of the same novel. What it may look like when I'm finished with it.

Why did I ever think I could edit any other way? I'm finding so much more to improve. It's so much easier to go forward and back, to check on details. So much easier to make notes than with Tracking.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Nitty Gritties of Editing

White Forest by Azot2014 on
This borrowed image, thank you for your art Azot2014, a near-perfection illustrating the mood of the forest scene in my post.

Del, a supporting character in Monster-Moored, is in the clearing at midnight. The moon turns off. Clouds perhaps. A storm threatens. Yet she can't go yet, there's a strange light.

This post is about editing. Making the scene stronger by untangling clauses to clarify sequencing, rewriting in the active mode and ratcheting up tension.

Notes for page 107
1: In my first version I had:
In the clearing there was enough moon light to see by.
She switched off the torch.
Transposing these sentences, and making the new second one stronger, works to strengthen Del as well. Good sequencing makes a story stronger, so it is said, and I can see it becoming so on this page. The new version reads:
She switched off the torch. There was enough moonlight in the clearing to see by.

2: My awareness of the need for clear paragraphing has obviously grown since I wrote this. The main rule seems to be to start a new paragraph when you start a new subject. I knew that rule already when I wrote the old version but took the passage of time (then/now) as the new/old subjects. The old version:
A pair of small trees stood to one side in front of the log and another grew quite near the well.
Last anniversary they would’ve been saplings, that’d be why she didn’t remember them. The backpack squatted …
In the new version the small trees and the saplings are deemed the same subject, despite the time gap, and the backpack is the new subject. Works much better …
A pair of small trees stood to one side in front of the log and another grew quite near the well. Last anniversary they would’ve been saplings, that’d be why she didn’t remember them.
The backpack squatted …

3: My third big change on this page was to another instance of weak sequencing. The old version: 
Del retrieved the bag and the flock-backed cloth – it would make a blanket of sorts come the pre-dawn cold.
In addition to the improvement in sequencing of actions, the new version has Del acting those actions in verbs that can be visualised.
She folded the flock-backed cloth – it would make a blanket of sorts come the pre-dawn cold – and stuffed it into the bag.

4: My last big fix-up on this page was to strengthen the suspense in the last part of the scene. Seems to me I’m always raving on about increasing the suspense in other people’s stories, here’s my chance to concretize that in my own writing practice. The old version:
She turned to go.
The moon was switched off.
She stood in the absolute dark, fumbling for the torch.
There was still the breeze, night time cool, but nothing whatever to see.
No, wait. There was a light.
In the well, in the water, tugging at her gaze.
Why would the water be glowing without the moon giving its light to reflect from the water?
She drifted there, taking hesitant steps in the dark.
Silver streaks curled in and out of one another. Yellow light glinted in between.

New version:
The moon switched off.
Had to be clouds passing in front of the moon. But the dark so complete? She fumbled the torch from her pocket.
A breeze, night time cool, stroked her face. Overhead it blustered among the tree canopies. Wind like that was the harbinger of a storm.
A glimmer of light from the well tugged at her gaze.
How could the water be glowing with no moon to reflect its light from the water surface?
She had to know, didn’t she? Taking careful, hesitant steps she made it there without falling.
The stillness in the air was the calm before the storm.
In the water, silver streaks curled in and out of one another. Yellow light glinted in between.
No source that she could see.

All this on one page. With three hundred and some pages, I can see it's going to be a long winter, editing this book. I must have been dreaming thinking it was ready for beta-readers.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Editing and Proof-reading

Mandala someone made in a local park, I thank them for their art.

This mandala was not made by the professional mandala makers, the Tibetan monks, who often visit  these climes. But you might agree that it has a certain charm, and really, if you wanted to use it to meditate over ... sit down, though there's only the ground, I'm afraid, and go for it. Up close you will see enough detail to keep you going a while. 

In the same way that this mandala is 'home-made' so must my novel Monster-Moored be home edited. I'm sure some people will consider it foolish. Or unprofessional. Even impossible. Needs must. 

I had it printed out. Double sided and 1.5 line spaced to save paper. Spiral bound so it can lay flat when open. (Having a go at beta-reading a digital file convinced me that for a comprehensive edit I'd need a paper copy.)

Way back when, when I first began to write, someone advised a loose leaf file. Throw it into the air was the next instruction, and pick it up any-old-how. Edit as the pages come to hand. Pick up 52 they call that when it is a card game. I'm doing a variation. Open the manuscript at a page and edit. Circle the page's number when finished.

I've been working on it for a couple of days, whenever I sit at that table I do a few pages. 

Spelling and punctuation are not my main problems. Surprisingly, considering I edited closely at least half a dozen times, my biggest problem is clauses in the wrong place. Clauses out of their sequential order ruin a reader's expectation of getting the meanings in the order that they happened. 

I've also still got paragraphs that I've let stand intact (Why?) through all the previous edits, in the exact way that I wrote them down in the first place. Beyond belief, really. It is necessary to change them because while they reflect how a brain works, the beginning is not the best way to deliver the punch-line. 

We often think of the kernel of an idea first. Then we proceed to layer it with ancillary and descriptive thoughts. In half a dozen places already, I have had to transpose the kernel to the end of a paragraph. 

Interestingly, most of the above errors seem to be happening in the parts of the story happening in the Main Character's head. When I do read a page completely without errors, it is usually dialogue and or the main character's experience of various parts of the landscape. 

I've decided to mainly ignore the two beta reader reports I've been blessed with. There was no area of overlap other than that both were irritated by the Antagonist. Did that mean they both got so involved they viewed the Antagonist as she was meant to be seen? I don't know. Their explanations were inconclusive. 

I suspect the experience of real readers will mirror that of the beta-readers, though I'll be lucky if I get a 30% hit rate of readers. It's a mystery. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Nuancing The Game of Thrones

As I began to read The Game of Thrones once more, feeling myself get involved with the characters and seeing them in my memory in their filmic characters, I realized that the texts and TV series will forevermore be intertwined in my experience of the Song of Ice and Fire series.

It struck me then, that what I was experiencing, were two different nuances of the story, a double serving of the different ways that the story has been and is being told.

Reading the book, I am nuancing it, and viewing the TV version I am nuancing it, albeit a a set of different but overlapping nuances. An audio version would still be that story but yet another set of nuances.

Nuancing can be reading, listening to another reading such as in an audiobook, viewing a film or a TV version. Even spending time on is nuancing.

Books, film and audio-files are all different modes of story delivery. Adding drama, dance and video gaming and we are starting to get a collection of modes for story delivery. Each mode, due to its inherent characteristics, can give us a slightly different experience, or nuance, of a story.

'Nuancing' in this interpretation of the word, could mean enjoying, taking in a story in any of its delivery systems. I can already imagine the following conversation:

"I've just nuanced Tow Sawyer."
"Oh? What media? The film?"
"No. The podcast."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Mysteries of Blogging

I was pretty amazed on April 1 to open the Stats page to this blog and find about 200 more hits on than normal for the day, making a pretty impressive spike in the graph.

This is Not an Ant

What? I thought. I don't believe it. Google is playing me for an April Fool?

But no, after I checked different pages and posts, the hits were doled out over the usual topics of interests and panned out pretty well, leaving me only with a few questions.

What interest group did I hit on ... was it the sewing and handcraft cohort with the posting of the twin dollies put in an evil spotlight?

Was it my story in the #Street Scenes page that attracted all these people to my neighbourhood?

Was it something in the outside world that suddenly attracted a truckload of US readers to an Australian blogspot?

What? What? What?

I want to know.

I want to do it again.