Sunday, 18 November 2012

Skimming Stones

Surely only a handful of summers have passed
Since I jumped the white chalked squares
On the shiny black slugs of melting tarmac?
Long halcyon days filled with playgrounds and parks
In which hung a shimmering heat-haze
Which levitated above the hot speckled concrete.
Holidays of sipping iced-lemonade, with skin tinged pink
From the rays which danced in the palest of blues.
Surely only a small bouquet of nights have passed,
Each nocturnal hour filled with soft scents of blossom,
Since I read of the Famous Five by the landing's pale glow.

And now my reflection is patterned with lines of middle age.
How did I sink like a painted pebble into these murkey depths?
Did I skim that stone before it sank?
Polish it against my hip before hurling it
Seawards; to bounce and pirouette upon the surface?
And why does my mother's face look back from the mirror?
Is it a trick of the light? Her tired eyes, her lips,
Puckered with a life of coversation.
A private prank played on me by shadows, as
The poised pencil which draws the circle of life,
Rises, tick by slow tock, to meet its starting point.

By Angela Barton

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Making The Cut Less Painful

It's been a while since I've visited my blog because I've been editing my novel at every opportunity I can find. In August I sent my completed manuscript of 104,500 words to my agent and having read it, she suggested several helpful ideas; such as moving some chapters around, making it obvious that one of my characters was 'in' on the secret and also making another character more unstable without turning them into a psychotic caricature of a mad stalker! The trouble is, the characters make appearances throughout my novel so it's been a slow process to change dialogue and emotions without missing a crucial scene and confusing the reader.

I've also renamed my book, The Bandstand. The bandstand in question is in Clapham Common, London, and plays a part in several chapters of my book. I felt as if my original title - In Hindsight, gave too much away - protagonist looks back and wonders why she hadn't noticed....

So I thought that for this post I'd talk about editing. There's a huge amount of global competition when it comes to writing, so the sharper our manuscript is, the less likely we are to be over-looked. If we take time to learn how to edit effectively, the improvement can be profound. Every tweak and cut polishes our chapters. Even after we've read and re-read our work numerous times, the odd tpyo (see what I did there?) slips through, which is why copy editors are in employment! Sometimes we are just too close to our work and need an objective eye to cast a glance over it.

But what can we do for ourselves?

If you can bear it, put your manuscript out of sight in a safe place for several weeks or even months. When you come back to it, all sorts of mistakes will become apparent. Spelling, grammar, sentences that don't flow, speech marks in the wrong place, missing words, fluffy/wordy descriptions and paragraphs of information which waffle on and become tedious. The reader wants to be able to flow through your story seamlessly without becoming irritated by little flaws.

Personally I find the most effective way to edit is to print out a hard copy of my novel. I'll sit with a red pen and start to read. It's quite unbelievable how many red squiggles and lines will decorate my pages afterwards, even when I think I've done a good job editing on my computer. Also reading the printed pages out loud will make it obvious if I'm stumbling with the rhythm of my sentences.

Cut out repeated words, dull or superfluous detail, any overuse of adjectives and adverbs and all weak words like 'but' 'quite' and 'rather.' I use 'that' and 'just' too often and I just have to keep an eye out for them.

Look out for occasions when you've stated the blindingly obvious: 'He shouted loudly,' or 'she whispered quietly.' Don't rely on spell check. The misuse of it's and its or there and their won't be highlighted as a mistake. Some authors prefer to edit one aspect of their work at a time, for example, punctuation, spelling or deleting unnecessary information. Personally I opt for doing an overall edit as I'm reading.

Whichever way you decide, try to be ruthless.