Tag Archives: writing

Editing

This is more a ‘creativity’ post than a specificially druidic one, but, writing is very much part of the bard path for a lot of fellow travellers, so hopefully someone will find this helpful.

For writers, editing is an essential, but not always easy or happy process. No matter how good you are, everyone makes mistakes and a fresh eye to go over the manuscript and help with the polishing is invaluable. For the author who is protective of their work and sensitive to criticism, it can all feel very uncomfortable.

Over the last ten years or so, I’ve accumulated a fair bit of experience from both sides of the fence – writing, and editing. So, here are some thoughts on what good editing looks like, and when to dig in and demand to work with someone else. There are dreadful, inexperienced, self-important editors out there, and I’ve fallen foul of a few along the way, and heard tales of others. There are also a lot of brilliant, dedicated helpful people.

A good editor will improve your work. It might sting a bit, having the flaws pointed out, but if at the end you get a better story for the changes, then the editor is good and you just have to learn to tolerate the process. A good editor will not only pick up on typos and grammatical errors, but will flag up continuity errors, phrases that don’t make sense, flaws in the story logic, anachronisms and other weak spots. Generally, good editors will identify the problem and either make suggestions or leave you to figure it out. In the ebook world (at any rate) heavy handed editing where the changes are made for you are rare. However (putting the editor hat on) there are authors who prefer to be heavily edited rather than being left to their own devices. If you run into an editing style that doesn’t suit you, it is worth asking if the editor would be prepared to tackle your work in a different way. If you’re going to be with someone for any length of time, it’s worth negotiating to find a way of working that suits you both. Very good editors may well be flexible, or willing to pass you on to someone who better suits your style.

When should you resist the editing process? I’ve had experience of editors who were determined to change my voice into theirs. Now, I gather some big publishing houses are very keen on this. My feeling is that if you get a big publisher, that may come at a price, and you might well want to grit your teeth for the sake of higher sales and visibility. However, there are a lot of small epublishers out there, and if you find the editing process with one of them totally unacceptable, you can always try somewhere else. If the editor’s work damages your plot, or results in the manuscript being less clean, run away. I’ve had both happen, and this is not good editing. If the editor is rude or abusive about your work, contact your publisher immediately and complain. (I’ve had that one happen too.)

It is not easy, especially when you are new to writing, to judge what is unfair editing, and what is the grumbling of a bruised ego. None of us really enjoys having our mistakes flagged up. However, it is really important to determine between the two. Having a hissy fit over good editing will not help you in the slightest. Tolerating bad editing won’t help you either. The critical question to ask is, does the process make my book better, and more saleable? If you aren’t sure, ask – it may be that there are conventions you need to learn about. A good editor will help you learn. If you feel that the process is genuinely harming your book, then contact the publisher. They took your book on based on what they saw of it, after all. In my experience, a word to the publisher can result in a change of editor when needed. If all else fails, and you really aren’t happy, then walk away. Sometime it pays off in spades.

The vast majority of editing is good and helpful, but don’t be afraid to complain if the process doesn’t work for you.

Settings and Landscape

Although I don’t always make settings explicit in my stories, I always have somewhere in mind – usually a place I’ve spent time in. I think this is one of the ways in which my druidry manifests in my writing – land matters to me. Every place has its own character, and that does affect my writing and the kinds of stories I tell.

Being back in Gloucestershire and seeing the landscapes I’d written from memory, is an odd sort of process. I suspect being here will mean I’m more likely to write about the Worcestershire landscape instead. The distance helps, I find. I can’t write what’s directly around me, it gets too personal and I become bogged down in the details.

Of my stories, the following have Gloucestershire settings – Hunting The Egret is set along the banks of the River Severn, and Dreams Come True is set in Gloucester. (I didn’t make that apparent in the book, but cover artist Dalia tuned in somehow, and picked a picture of Gloucester cathedral!) My cross dressing m/m tale Sweet Illusions owes a lot to time spent with a boyfriend on a farm in Coaley, a long time ago. Teacher’s Pet was based on another village round here, although I made a lot of stuff up for that one. There is no way, living in the area, that I’d feel comfortable about writing any of that now. Being at a distance also means not having to worry about what the neighbours think, and whether they fear I’ve written about them! That set of stories are all at www.loveyoudivine.com

The bigger peculiarity on this score is the comic. The imagery underpinning Hopeless is a mixture of Maine and the Cotswolds. Tom has drawn on personal experience for the Maine architecture and landscapes, but where he’s been looking for other elements, I’ve sent him images from the part of the world I grew up in. I’ve borrowed place names from here – both for places and character names. Frampton, and Arlingham Jones were both named after Gloucestershire villages. Tom hadn’t realised this and was amusingly startled when I suggested I might be going to Frampton (they have a folk club).

There are some odd parallels between the town I grew up in and the island of Hopeless – this is a foggy place too, and when the autumn mists roll in, they can turn the hills into islands. Where the lighthouse ought to be, there is a tower in memory of William Tyndale. Thanks to its geography, Dursley does have a feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world, and that affected my writing too. And now I’m back in the area. It feels just the teensiest little bit weird, seeing things I’ve borrowed, and having them be part of my reality again.

Where will I write about next? No idea, but it almost certainly won’t be from round here!

Writing …

except it’s afternoon !!!

Just arrived here as spent morning sorting out the Ogham post – it goes up here  tomorrow.  It was good fun getting the info together, if rather like herding kittens . there is just soooooo much that each tree relates to I feel I could write a damn encyclopaedia (sheesh! spelling … need coffffeeee!). I am putting the whole into a book – out next year at this rate.

I love trees. The lore they give you if you choose to journey with them is fantastic, and doing so is like an hour with your best friend, exchanging Q&A. Every time I go to write about them I found something new arrives and wants to be mentioned.

Writing’s like that … you set off with an idea and then the story wakes up and writes itself, you just have to stop it wandering off into indigestible and incomprehensible ramblings … again like herding kittens LOL. I’m having the same round-up scenes with the latest novel too. Having begun with a 14 yr old heroine, I’ve now got a 40 yr old hero, with fiddle, itinerant musician, with red hawk and now (since last Saturday) two ferrets as well … Yikes! And he’s going to fall in love with the heroine – who may grow to 16, sigh! – although nothing happens, which is probably very sad for them both but we’ll see.

Arrrrgghhh !!! back to the grind of writing … but I absolutely love it. except there’s a mountain and a half of work to do in the garden too. And I can’t wait for Paul to bring Fabrice’s french bread back from Fodders … Yummmmmmmmmmm !!!

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What a good novel should have …

Of course, this is only my opinion but for a good novel must have the following attributes …

  • Fully 3D characters
  • Excellent description of places, so you feel you are there
  • Complexity – nothing is simply black or white
  • Heroes who get it wrong some of the time
  • Bad guys who get it right some of the time
  • Events and characters that explode cliches
  • The ability to make you think, turn your values upside-down, if only a little
  • The story should grow you, your attitudes, as it does those of the protagonist

Novels that have all this do not grow on trees :-).

I’m currently re-reading Frank Herbert’s “Whipping Star”, it has all of these qualities and is still brilliantly thought provoking after 38 years.

What do you think? What makes a good novel for you?

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Blogathon tomorrow to benefit Boston Area Rape Crisis Center! Please sponsor me…

I’m doing a Blogathon this Sat (7/31) to raise money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (http://www.barcc.org)! My blog is at http://adriannebrennan.blogspot.com/ and I will be blogging every half hour for 24 hours.

My posts will include my thoughts and advice on writing, never-before posted excerpts of my works, and answers to any questions you pose to me beforehand.

To sponsor me, go here: http://tinyurl.com/AdrianneBlogsforBARCC then email me your receipt at adrianne@adriannebrennan.com so I can keep a running total.

Love & Magic,
Adrianne Brennan

Oak Man 2

Bran is on the train from London and is in process of meeting Jenni. He’s a solitary soul but is opening up slightly with her.

She’s intrigued by his battered fiddle case and asks him what “itinerant” means.

He talks of travelling, moving around but it’s the word gypsy that hooks her, although he claims to have no gypsy blood …

Elen Sentier http://WWW.elensentier.co.uk

Oak Man

I intend to do a brief resume of the plot-so-far of my new novel “Oak Man” that I’m currently writing. I hope this update will go out about once a week on a free-for-all day :-).

Here is the first …

Tumulus Dawn

The accompanying picture is by a super artist-friend of mine, Wendy Davies. The story also uses (with her permission) her teenage adventure of finding three 4000 yr old gold torcs on the farm – again in the Wels Marches – where she grew up.

The story is a mystery/magic/romance … as usual for me 🙂 – and set here  in the Welsh Marches, based around the legend of the place where I live.

Elen Sentier

writer artist gardener shaman
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Oak Man … the beginnings of the plot