Afternoon all:

I thought I might just give you a progress report for “On Dark Shores”, for those interested.

Firstly, thank you to all those people who have voted on the choice of covers. Current thinking (as I write) is that the dark blue is the more popular cover, but that the text needs to be made white so that it stands out better in colour on the computer screen, as well as in greyscale on the Kindle. We’re fiddling with that at the moment and as soon as we have the finished version, will post it on uk (where the original vote is, if you’re interested).

In the meantime, “On Dark Shores 1: The Lady” is undergoing some considerable surgery. This first chunk started off as approximately 50k words. It’s just coming back from the editor and by the time it’s finished the transformation into Kindliform, there’s going to be rather less of it than currently. As an author I find this a bit – well ‘painful’ is too big a word and ‘ouchy’ which expresses it better, isn’t a word. It’s like papercuts, basically! However, as discomfiting as it is to hack bits out, it’s obscurely pleasureable too, and as this is a bit bad and wrong really, I thought it might interest you to know a little more of the masochism of writing.

There’s this thing you do when you write sometimes; you start off with a huge, exciting splurge of text as your characters dash around and you hurry after them with a pen (all right, keyboard) and first you have a mad writing frenzy to see what comes next.

Then you leave it for a bit to gain a touch of distance and impartiality. When you go back to it, you spell-check and format-check; you change a word here and a sentence there; you might even cut up and redistribute chunks of text so that the pacing is better or the story flows more naturally or something. Then you go onto the next chapter.

When you get to a good stopping point in the story, you do those initial edits; and then you go back to the beginning and check it for sense, context, your character suddenly turning into somebody different halfway through etc; and you have a bit of a repolish of all the words again.

Eventually, after many and many an edit, you think it’s about as good as it’s going to get. Sure, there are bits that are really good and bits that are less good, but anything wrong or badly-written or just plain illogical has been polished away and what you have in front of you is a pretty good story. You’re pretty pleased with it – and yourself. At this point, in this spirit of complacency, you deliver up that shiny nice story of yours to the editor, confident in the knowledge that there might be a tweak here and a word-change there, but really, it’s almost a finished product so that shouldn’t involve much change. Should it?

And yet….and yet….. when you do hear back from the editor you sometimes don’t know whether to be really pleased or to give yourself a good kicking. In this particular case, my editor is a good friend who has historically done a great job of editing stuff for me. She “gets” the way I think but edits with a mean scalpel – and on this occasion I had requested a particularly vicious edit to ready it for formatting and upload to Kindle. (Anything less is short-changing the reader).

Thing is, as the person who has painfully sculpted each word that appears on the page, I look at the prose for reasons to take it out and find none – there are bits I like and bits that aren’t quite so good but nothing that makes me think it’s enough below-par that it needs to be cut out. Fair enough, you might think – except that not being so attached to each individual sentence, my editor comes at it from a different angle. For her (as for the reader) the question is not whether or not this bit of prose is quite nice or if there’s much wrong with it; but rather, she consideres whether it needs to be there for the story to progress in as tight and pacey a manner as possible.

Hence the rather tremendous cuts you get back; because there are things the writer needs to visualise in detail that the reader can better pick up from hints and references later.

The thing that really irritates and gratifies you at the same time, though, is that invariably the bits the editor picks up on are the bits that you already had pegged as being not quite as good as the rest, so when you’re told to cut it your reaction is not shock and surprise and hurt, but

1.Damn, that’s a big cut;
2.Mind, I can see what she means – it will be a lot better without it, and then
3.For goodness’ sake! I already knew that! Why on earth didn’t I think of that?!
You want to sulk, except that you know she’s right and that it’s going to improve it immeasurably, and in a masochistic kind of way you’re looking forward to seeing the new, excised product of your labours (and your editor’s!) and waiting for that moment when you re-read and think “Wow!” (But if you’re anything like me, you’ll keep all the offcuts lovingly saved in a little file somewhere on your computer, just because you can’t bear to delete it all, and because of the sheer amount of man-hours that were involved….) That’s why you need an editor, though; because you’re as partial to your text as any mother to her child, and just as no mother thinks their child is ugly, I can’t imagine any writer seeing clearly which are the good / bad bits of their story.

That’s just my opinion, you understand – and it may be just that I have both a tendency to be over-explanatory and an editor very good at pulling me back from that – but in support of it, once the book is uploaded in its final version, I may try to make the original downloadable for you all to compare and contrast, and see what you think of it.

Watch this space…..