On Jettisoning 40,000 words and Quotes from Famous Writers

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It was horrible, but there was nothing else for it.

I have just had to jettison about 40,000 words of my latest. I had hoped to be in the last stages of publishing it next month; now with the re-writing, it is going to be delayed by six months at least.

I wasn’t happy with it. I thought it was fairly good, but not good enough. If a writer thinks that about his/her work, then given that most readers are going to be far more critical, it is a  fairly bad sign.

I have never thrown out so many words before. I think I jettisoned 25,000 words for The Villainous Viscount and 15,000 for Where Worlds Meet and maybe an average of 10,000 for the others. But come to think of it, there’s some comfort in the fact that I did write about four drafts of That Scoundrel Émile Dubois.

I was always dubious about the scene that led on to all the others that I had to jettison. Ah yes, it was funny, if I say so myself; but it didn’t lead in the right direction. I should have analysed the problems I was having at that point, instead of wading on, getting into worse difficulties with the plot mechanisms. I think you often know the exact point at which you went wrong .

In this one, it was approximately halfway through the book. In another words, I fell a victim to that dreaded ‘sagging middle’. That is notoriously the most difficult part to write, and it caught me in a quagmire of flabbiness.   I should have pondered on that writing advice about ‘Writing from the Middle’ by James Scott Bell which I read a year or so back.

I have images of Stonehenge in this post because this latest work (late indeed!) does feature thhe magical influence of Stonehenge, and also, a ring which is fasionened from those famous stones.

And on learning from experience, here are some useful bits of advice from well known writers.

“ In order to write about life first you must live it.” – Ernest Hemingway

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ― Terry Pratchett

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  Louis L’Amour

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”— Stephen King

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” — Franz Kafka

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt” ~ Erma Bombeck, Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing From America’s Favorite Humorist

“There’s nothing on Earth like really nailing the last line of a big book. You have 200 pages to tickle their fancy, and seven words to break their heart.” ~ Alex de Campi

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”  ― Octavia E. Butler

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

‘Listen very carefully to the first criticism of your work. Note just what it is about your work that the reviewers don’t like; it may be the only thing in your work that is original and worthwhile. ‘ –  John Irving.

My thanks to these websites from which I have made use of the quotes.

https://getfreewrite.com/blogs/writing-success/writing-tips-from-famous-writers

https://holidappy.com/quotes/Quotes-By-Writers-About-Writing

https://www.inc.com/glenn-leibowitz/50-quotes-from-famous-authors-that-will-inspire-yo.html

https://writingcooperative.com/18-motivational-quotes-to-bring-out-the-writer-in-you-ea3e61c93734

 

 

 

‘Ravensdale’ by Lucinda Elliot – Just Awarded the B.R.A.G. medallion for Outstanding Self-Published Fiction

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I’m celebrating on two accounts.

One, I have won a second award.

I’ve just heard I’ve won a B.R.A.G medallion for ‘Outstanding Self-Published Fiction’ for my historical romance spoof ‘Ravensdale’.

That was a lovely Easter present.

Here’s the B.R.A.G award website, for those writers wishing to enter their own work, but even more for those readers, who are always wanted to review books objectively according to the guidelines of the site.

https://www.bragmedallion.com/about

To have your work bonoured – particularly if it’s regarded as ‘too cross genre’ to attract agents and publishers –gives you a sense that it’s all worthwhile after all.

Goodness knows we self-published authors who strive to write to our best standards, often wonder if it is. There’s nothing like a one star review – or two, or yet more, to make you feel that you’re banging your head against a brick wall.

Here’s the link to amazon for ‘Ravensdale’.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JSPXQV8

A couple of awards put matters into perspective.

The second reason I have to be cheerful is that I’m now up to the final part of the sequel to ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ – which I think I will call ‘Where Worlds Meet’ (I was thinking of ‘Villains and Vampires’ but that is too close to the title of my last spoof, ‘The Villainous Viscount’ and people might confuse the two).

I expect I am typical, in that I love writing this bit best of all, with home in sight. Writing the end of a full length novel is like running the end of a long distance race – I used to love cross country running at school (that was before I filled out fore and aft and it became a lot less comfortable) – where the lungs are heaving and the legs like jelly, but you know you’ll make it.

I don’t know if I’m typical in this, but I suspect I am –  I don’t particularly enjoy writing the middle of a book.  I suspect that it is where you are likely to give up if at all. The biggest effort seems to be required. You have to develop character, maintain reader interest, build conflict, create obstacles, all that sort of thing, and you are no longer fired with that initial enthusiasm.

I did a post on this a few weeks ago.

here

I believe it is known sometimes as ‘The sagging middle syndrome’ and they aren’t referring to the need for a few workouts.

Then, the middle-coming-up-to-the-end is a bit of a killer, too. There you have to do the above, only higher key.

That was the bit where I decided about six weeks back, looking over my work, ‘No point in kidding yourself, thickhead: you’ve gone in the wrong direction’ (and oh yes, I was known to do that in cross country running, too). So I had to backtrack. I thought I’d have to jettison 15,000 words, and some of it I was really pleased with, but there was too weak a series of links, and insufficient conflict, leading to too fast a denouement.

In fact, I found that I could use some of those paragraphs after all, as the writing was appropriate to later on in the story, but not to where I had put it.

All this is horribly familiar to all writers; just when you think you’re near the home run, there’s a home delay.

12618f13And that is one of the good things about being a self-published writer. You don’t have a publisher breathing down your neck with ‘When will it be ready?’ That, of course, was what happened to Elizabeth Gaskell in the third volume of ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’. She had already been writing it for three and a half years and was being harassed by her publishers. That is why she falls into the easy trap of melodrama and co-incidence (fine in a spoof, not in a work that is intended to be serious).

This is a shame, as it weakens the ending; however, despite those drawbacks, ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’ is still one of my favourite novels.

Well, there’s still a long way to go, because this is only the first draft for me. You may be sure that my Beta readers will have many painful suggestions, involving extensive rewrites.

…And that can be like running a long distance race in slow motion, or perhaps, backwards.

Getting From the Middle to the End of Your Story: The Main Characters’ Darkest Hours…

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YUK. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the sagging middle, and how I was fighting my way through that in my latest, the sequel to ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’.

By the way, this one has the interim title: ‘Villains and Vampires’. However, as my last began with the words, ‘The Villainous Viscount’ I am not sure that this new title is sufficiently different. A potential reader, skim reading, might say; ‘The V….V…’ that rings a bell; I must have read that…’  So I’m in two minds.

I have written a bit more of that middle – but guess what: I wrote a pivotal part about which I wasn’t quite sure. Then this way led somehow to all the characters getting towards the end from the middle too quickly.

I didn’t feel that the main characters’ feelings of desperation during the darkest moments were sufficiently extended or bleak. It was more, ‘Oh dear. This is bad. Oh dear, THIS IS BAD! Oh, what’s that? Ah, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel yet…’

I felt that I was pulling too many irons out of the fire before they were red hot, or as if I had lit the fuse too soon. A couple of the sub plots seemed to fizzle out.

And that isn’t good enough. That’s second rate at best – probably third rate. The only writers who can only get away with writing a middle like that are ones with a massive fan base, most of whom are so addicted that they will somehow miss the unsatisfactory nature of that move to the resolution, and give a five star review to anything connected with that writer’s name – even reissued juvenelia.

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So, in that last display of fireworks, you want them all to go off so that the reader says at the end ‘Wow! Just – Wow!’ I hope I’m not normally given to fatuous observations (some might dispute that ) but while I hate that expression  ‘Wow’, that is exactly what I did say at the end of, for instance, Rebecca Lochlann’s ‘In the Moon of Asterion’, the concluding part of the Greek section of her ‘Child of the Erinyes’ series. The way everything came together was brilliant.

By the way, at the moment,the first novel from that series, ‘The Year God’s Daughter’  is permanently free on Amazon.here

That being so, all I could do was jettison those 15,000 words and go back. It made me feel quite dismal for a day or so, but still, I wrote ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ three times.

I found the following information from this website very useful https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/19/evolving-your-story

…13 Downtime begins
The last section of the middle portion of the story begins with the downtime, which precedes the black moment. Your characters are coming to feel they have nothing left to hold on to. Detail these feelings.
14 Characters revise old or design new short-term goals
Your characters are going to make their next decisions out of sheer desperation. From this point on, they seem to lose much of their confidence – or, worse, they’re feeling a reckless sense of bravado that may have tragic consequences. What are their new goals and how do they plan to reach them?
15 The quest to reach the story goal continues, but instability abounds
Though your characters are ploughing ahead bravely, each step is taken with deep uncertainty. How does this action unfold?
16 The black moment begins
The worst possible failure has now come to pass. The short-term goals made in desperation are thwarted, and the stakes are raised to fever pitch as the worst of all possible conflicts is unveiled. Describe it in detail.
17 The characters react to the black moment
Characters react to this major conflict with a sense of finality. Never will there be a moment when the outcome is more in question than in this concluding section of the middle of the book.
The end…At the end of a book, all plots, subplots and conflicts are resolved. In the last few chapters, the characters are finally given a well-deserved break from their recent crisis.

On juvenilia – I am sure there will be no takers for anyone wanting to read my first satire, which I wrote in cartoon form aged nine?  Entitled ‘Wendy Goes To Town’ it was about an officious little girl who – surprise, surprise, went to town to stay with her aunt . She discovered that a gang of altruistic local villains from the local rough estate were stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and spied on them, using newly acquired detective skills acquired from a book. The story ended with Wendy driven off  by her proud parents, wearing a medal awarded by the local magistrate, who had given all the menaces to society six months…

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I remember that I had recently read a version of the  ‘Robin Hood’ legends, which had a great affect on me; any readers of this blog or my writing will know, of course, that it lingers still.   I hope I can write slightly better than I did at nine, though…