Friday, January 30, 2009

Final Deconstruction of Hafan Deg

Well, I guess I've completed my down-sizing. Hafan Deg is sitting at around 95,000 words, which is the best I can do. I figure somewhere between 90,000 to 100,000 words is the accepted norm for first books, so I'm happy to leave it as it is. Once I have interest in the work, I'm sure an agent won't reject my submission for the sake of a few extra pages.

I'm going to spend the weekend finishing my research on agents. There are so many truly delightful ones out there, and I'll approach them in order of my enthusiasm for them. The British agent search is more difficult. For some odd reason, few of them accept email submissions. 95% of U.S. agents do, celebrating the era we live in. That's not to say I won't submit hard copy, but it's an unwieldy, inefficient way to do it, I think. I wonder how many of you have decided email is the only way to go. We are all so thoroughly spoiled now. I'm not even sure what the cost of a postage stamp is these days.


It's possible that my little readership includes some Jane Austen fans. For you, or someone you know, there is a British competition for an Austen-inspired, 2,000-2,500 word short story . I enjoy her books, but never had the inclination to try to write in that style or particular romantic genre. (I'm a died-in-the-wool Thomas Hardy nut. Sorry to mention the wool - Far From The Madding Crowd, remember?)

For those of you who'd love to show how familiar you are with her writing, give it a shot. You have until the end of March, tons of time to whip something together. It doesn't have to be a period piece, but it should reflect the Austen theme, from a character, situation, location, even a sentence, derived from her work. There is a nice little prize - One Thousand Pounds Sterling, although I think you Austen lovers would do it just for the love of it. You can find all the details at Chawton House Library Competition.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Query

I've reduced Hafan Deg by another 1000 words. More would have been achieved yesterday, but it was a running-around day with grocery shopping, dentist, house-cleaning - all those things you can't quite picture when you think of the literary process. I mean, try to imagine Martin Amis or Joanna Trollope at the supermarket; it's difficult. I CAN, however, see Stephen King, standing in two feet of snow, packing the groceries into the back of his car, so there are exceptions.

When I first completed Hafan Deg some time ago, I received a request from publishers Allen & Unwin, in Sydney, for the full MS, as a result of my dynamite query letter. That letter is still my first choice, because the editor commented on how intrigued she was by it, and nothing has changed to warrant further refinements. I have a couple of new ones, ready to go, for agents I've since become familiar with, where I understand precisely what they need to see, over and above my first option.

So far I have around thirty agents to pursue, vetting each one as I go through my list, because I won't approach an agent I think will be a poor fit, regardless of what genre they claim as their preference. I want to know as much as possible about them, down to what kind of coffee they drink, if necessary. (We are going to have to work closely together, after all.) We could easily become too eager to be read, writing willy-nilly to all and sundry. Why waste time on that, especially as we're bound to get rejection slips from even the likeliest ones? Although my list presently reflects the U.S. market, I am actively seeking British agents, because I'm more Brit than anything else, and speak the vernacular. I know a good British agent will sell to the U.S. anyway, but I'm sentimental.

Which leads me to the word 'shilly-shally', a good word that Lapillus of Literary Rambles wanted to know more about in her blog yesterday. I explained it to her. Brits have no difficulty understanding Americanese, because we grew up on U.S. film and books. The U.S. notoriously have never quite understood the British, whether they just haven't been exposed to it as much or are more insular in their tastes. Anyway, if you want to know how to use the word 'shilly-shally', don't mess about, don't shilly-shally, go to Lapillus's blog.


I'm re-reading 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves', by Lynne Truss, a book about the pitfalls of poor punctuation. If you haven't already laughed over this one, you must get it. I am a punctuation nut, probably from years of professional editing, and I expect the written word to be in clear, unambiguous form (English or US usage), so for me it's a case of preaching to the choir with this book, but it is just so funny. For those of you who are less particular - or just plain insecure - about punctuation, you might want to take a little look, just to remind you of how important it all is. And you'll have a good giggle.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Words That Count and Stephen King

My word count is now down to 97,000 words with around 7,000 to go, literally. It's a tiresome slog, whittling away - first chunks, even whole pages, and now sentences and words. I can't say it's been difficult to do. It just takes immense patience, looking at the work as an unknown editor would.

When we read our own work, we often skim over things, perhaps a bit of dialogue that's not saying much, or paragraphs that are oh-so-familiar that we hardly see them. Our eye jumps to the next important bit. Well, it's those skimmed-over pieces that need to come out.

We even skim-read our favorite writers, and it's a pity it's necessary. It's fine for text books, articles, blogs, when we're just looking for the facts, but it shouldn't be true of fiction. I do it with many novels, and I don't resent it, hold no grudge against the writer, because if the good stuff is really good I'm forgiving of the superfluous words. A great book holds our attention the whole time. We feast on almost every word. Heck, we even go back and read the introduction and acknowledgements. THAT'S a good book.

So that's what word reduction is about. Despite some regret at the exclusion of what I considered remarkable passages that took hours to write, much of it will be used in other books. I have cut the equivalent of around 100 pages - almost a novella in itself. It's satisfying to know that I have all this other material tucked away, ready for the next manuscript.


I've just finished re-reading Stephen King's, On Writing. This is a must-have for writers, written in such an entertaining way that you're sad when it's finished.

I'm not a King fan, because I don't particularly care for blood-curdling, graphic violence. I read all of The Shining, despite how I felt about some scenes, because this man is a great writer (and a humorist). I recall reading the first chapter or so, thinking how perfect the setup was for a thriller, how beautifully he set the scene for us. But then everything went King-Crazy, weird and way too over the top for me, so that I read the rest with my head half-turned away, scared about what would come next. Okay, so I'm a wimp. But I love his writing, not necessarily his subject matter.

On Writing is a really good read, whether you are a writer or not. Stephen King comes across as a genuinely nice guy, full of wit, wisdom, and a down-to-earth approachability. He has a sort of 'Oh, shucks,' humility about him. This book reveals so much of his guy-next-door voice, it's hard to imagine how he can be as wealthy as he obviously is. Perhaps he's given most of it away. I urge you to read it, whether for the first time or again.

I closed this book, once more, with a smile on my face. How could Stephen King possibly achieve that with me, wimp that I am?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Calling All Tuscaloosa Cat Lovers

Ok, this is not my usual writers' posting, but I was so moved by a blog I read early this morning that I've just spent the whole time trying to connect with people who might be able to help. I've done everything else I can think of: Etsy convo-ing, forum links, twittering, and my blog is my last resource.

Just saw a sad blog that is totally obsessing me. This poor woman, Victoria, has an aunt who must go to a retirement place, leaving her house AND her CAT. Victoria hasn't been able to find anyone to take it, and it seems she will have to drop it off at a KILL shelter today.

Do you have any contacts in Tuscaloosa, Alabama? I'm trying to reach as many people as possible.

If you have any forum links, can network, or twitter, could you put the word out?

Her blog is http://accrispin.blogspot.com/

If someone could even give temporary shelter until a new owner could be found, it would be wonderful. They should leave their email on her blog for her to contact them.

Sorry to do this to you. I don't usually do things like this, but I am an animal lover and this really upset me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

That Darned Word Count

Well, folks, if you've been looking at that little counter up there, I've got my MS words down from 126,000 to 105,000. Feeling pretty good about it, in fact. Still more to go, but it's reading well, and I don't think any characters or major points got dropped off accidentally.

Sue H commented that she's done 400,000 words! Oh, my! Look, Sue, it's okay to have longer books for fantasy, and, as you used Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon (what a great book that is!) as your example, it's probably okay. But that book of yours had better be pristine and wonderful, to capture that agent's eye. Second idea, why not make it into two or three books? If it's a hit, you're into the Potter Series money. I did note that Rowling's first book was the slimmest. Even she had to build up to really thick volumes.

Also, agents like writers with other books up their sleeves; it means they're not one-offs, and can deliver the goods long-term.

Oh, and I know about all those first novelists with huge books; my favorite writer, Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections), is one of them. But we must assume they are anomalies and, with the economy the way it is, and the skittishness of the publishing industry, not easily repeated today.

Out of the blue, as a result of a spur-of-the-moment pitch I sent off this morning, I received a request from an agent for twenty pages of Hafan Deg. This is good. This is my first. It would be nice if it were the last. But I am nothing, if not a realist.

Oh, and I received an award from dear Kit, in England. I get these from time-to-time on my art blog, but this is the first for my writing blog. Very nice. Thank you, Kit.

I'll put up the details tomorrow, and let you know who I think also warrants it.

There are so many of you...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

First Novel Word Count

Marsha's comment on my post on maximum word counts for first novels proves that I wasn't alone in my ignorance. Of course, nothing is set in stone here, just solid recommendations for an easier (if it can ever be easy) path to an agent's door.

The following two blogs are worth reading: Blood Red Pencil and Fiction Factor.

For a very detailed account of all things related to this, along with hundreds of other tips for making your manuscript agent-worthy, you must read Author! Author! Anne Mini's amazing blog. You name it, she covers it. You can spend hours poring over her postings, but every one of them is a gem. I challenge you to find one thing that you didn't find of value to your writing journey.

I set my Word Counter to show the maximum 90,000 words as the goal, and my newly reducing word count which results from the daily pruning. So now I still show 100% complete, but each day the current words will be getting lower and lower.

Did you know that an italicized word or words should always be underlined in the final manuscript? Apparently italics don't show up well in Courier or Times New Roman, which is the font you should be using for submission. This is just another little thing I'd overlooked through all my research.

And one more that I missed: when you want to show a true paragraph break, where you include an extra line space, you should include the Hash or Pound sign # as a clear indicator for the copy editor, because if your break comes at the end of a page, where an automatic break can occur anyway, you need to be clear that this is, or isn't, a true break point. Hope that makes sense.

Stay well, out there - especially all you folks hanging around in Washington over the next day or so. Poor Kit in England still has the dreaded cough bug. When I read her posting today, I developed one, too, out of sympathy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

What Next?

The deconstruction of Hafan Deg is going fairly well and shouldn't take me very long. I am working with a much more positive attitude now. Christopher - who's such a know-it-all - seems to know it all, after all, and I am in awe of his succinct, perhaps not always welcome, suggestions.

As I remove said chunks of words, I find myself wondering what that bit was about and why I felt it was imperative to include it. Someone recently wrote that some backstory need never appear, as long as the character is influenced by it through the story, and I see that this is true. Another writer echoed this. The history of each character is a totally separate exercise, outside the manuscript itself, and will be obvious to the reader from the careful drawing of each character.

I think I always knew this. I've been writing for decades, and read everything I could about the craft. Yet I blythely ignored these writers' tips, believing - what? - that I was above it in some way?

So the streamlined version is coming along nicely. The original, larger MS is still on the website, but I will replace it when the shorter one is finished.

In this final slowing-down period, where the worst is over for the creation of this book, I've already begun to think about the next one. Should the manuscript of Hafan Deg be taken up by some agent, or publisher, it could be months, even a year or more, before publication. This isn't the time to sit back and lazily follow its journey. I intend to begin the new one in the next few weeks. I'm also considering a re-write of my first book, because it's a nice story, and no one else has done it, as far as I know.

So I feel the pressure is off for the time being. Christopher has been quite clear about my need to de-stress over it. When I began this blog, I had hoped for clear, firm, constructive criticism - mixed, I'd hoped, with some sympathy, even empathy, to soften the blows. Christopher has done a stellar job of that. Thank you, Christopher.

And I didn't mean it about McDonalds...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First Novel - Are You Saying Too Much?

Did you know this? I was advised by someone I trust in the business that a first novel should never have more than 90,000 words.

This was a terrible blow to me, having just completed, triumphantly, 126,000 words. It seems that agents and publishers have enough trouble assessing new writers, without the added problem of too fat a book; such wordiness no doubt would cause increased costs, with the possibility of insignificant revenues, should the book do poorly. I am unable to find the words to say how much this upset me. Perhaps my book will do well, but it certainly won't be doing it with the original 500 pages.

I've already begun the task of whittling away words, paragraphs - even pages, to get my MS down to the prerequisite number, and it seemed impossible, at the beginning. Now I find it's not quite as bad as I thought. There is a sense of serious spring cleaning, not just the weekly chores. I was saddened to cut sections that I saw as imperative to the story, but, in fact, they weren't. For instance, my heroine travels a lot, but I chopped out all reference to one particular country, because it had no bearing on the forward movement of the book, even though it was a nice read. I save these abandoned chunks to another document file as I go, where I can probably use them in another book, with revisions, in the future.

So, if you are in the middle of a 500-page saga, hang on a bit. Are all those words really necessary?

Thanks, Christopher, my writing buddy, for pointing this out to me. I'm not happy, and the writing ego is somewhat crushed, but I get it.

I have a cunning plan up my sleeve, however. I'm keeping the original 126,000-word MS in its original state. If some agent gets really excited over my work, and is full of huge optimism and grand plans for me, I can always whip it out and say, "I just happen to have a larger version. Want to check it out?"

We moan and whine at writers' block; we blog excitedly about our daily word count; we agonize over revisions; we use a lot of expletives during proofing; we expect to squirm at the query stage. And all the while, we are blissfully unaware that we're writing too much. Who would have thought it?

 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hafan Deg - The House

Having photographs on this blog is a first, but I came across these as I was sorting through my writing files. I thought you'd find them interesting.

This is the house in Wales that inspired Hafan Deg. It's the large one, close to the water. You can see why it captured my imagination. Add to this the fact that the place was becoming a ruin, not visible in these pictures, and you might understand how I reacted to it as I did.





I have always been obsessed by houses. Naturally, some of them were my own; there is nothing I love more than buying an old place and re-doing it with whatever limited funds I have. I've owned a few houses, over the years, but once they were redecorated, improved, I moved on.

However, I love all old houses, particularly if they appear unloved. Going for a drive in the country, seeing so many derelict places, I long to just wave some magic wand and make them all whole again, with people living in them. In fact, if you've ever looked at my website, I've painted this kind of house more than once.

My first novel involved an empty house, eerier than Hafan Deg in my current book. But that house had a ghost. I don't believe in ghosts, but I love to write about them. How silly is that?

I think that I'm saying that I believe in the energy of a house, something that perhaps scientists can, or have, explained at one time or another. When I walk through a place - again, when it's empty - I feel the breath of it, somehow. For a woman who is extremely pragmatic, and not into fantasy at all in my non-writing life, this is very odd. Of course, I imagine that we all get that feeling in ancient churches, and it can be overwhelming in some of the grand heritage houses run by the National Trust in England, but, in those places, we already know their history, as the plaques and booklets are right there as we walk around, revealing their sagas.

But it's strange that a very ordinary, sometimes extraordinary, old family home, in its abandonment, can carry that same sense of story, hint at the previous lives spent there.

I'm not complaining about my eccentricity. If it's a psychological problem, it's a gentle one, unlikely to cause harm to me or anyone else, and definitely helpful to the old houses I sometimes buy.

Perhaps there are others who feel this way - practical, scientifically-minded, non-fantasy kinds of people who also get that gut reaction to a place.

I said I don't believe in ghosts, but I know I couldn't spend a night alone in, say, Hampton Court, or the Tower of London. What's that about? Is this a case of 'I-don't believe-in-ghosts-but-I-wouldn't-want-to-meet-one'?

Whatever it is, it makes for a good read, and certainly makes me write. I wonder what you think about it.

 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hafan Deg - First Three Chapters Only

On Friday, I said I would be leaving my complete novel - all 500 pages exactly, how weird is that? - on this blog for one month - well, I said until the end of February. I received a nice comment - very positive about the book, by the way - suggesting I was unwise to show the whole MS online.

I've thought about this a lot during the time I've been posting, and wondered why so few others seem to do it. I simply figured they weren't brave enough.

The book was copyrighted in December through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, Registration No. 1063562. So that, you'd think, does away with the fear of plagiarism, which, in itself, seems a rather arrogant fear, considering my amateur status. But, you never know...

It's more likely that my helpful reader was concerned that an agent would have no interest in a book that was available free online. I think this is what he meant. I've asked him to clarify, by the way, but nothing to report to date. Whatever his feelings were, I felt that he was right, and I took his advice. That's why there are now only three chapters here.

So, for all of you who genuinely enjoy Hafan Deg, who are Followers of this blog, I'm happy to give you the website where you can read it all to your heart's content, possibly without ever feeling the need to read this blog again, which might be a bonus for you. Just comment and I'll respond with the details.

I have a bit of tidying up to do with my writing docs. I'll probably spend the day fiddling around with them, dumping a lot of stuff, archiving material I didn't use - yes, there was quite a bit that I left out, believe it or not.

And next week I'll begin the query process. I kept the original synopsis and query letter that got this MS into the hands of Allen & Unwin, in Sydney, in the first place. It was successful in piqueing their curiosity then, so I'll undoubtedly incorporate it into my current submissions. Oh, and the book was only 385 pages then. I certainly had a lot more to say. Let's hope it's an improvement.

I was thinking it might be cute to put up some sort of meter, showing the number of submissions, and the number of rejects, with dates. If that sounds coldblooded, well, the publishing world is, isn't it? I'm not so naive as to expect less than a dozen, fifty, or more rejections.

The one thing we don't talk about, the thing that is always uppermost in my mind, is how much all of this is going to cost! 500 pages has to printed many times, I hope, so there's the cost of ink casettes (I'm running it off myself), paper, boxes or sturdy envelopes, stamps. Sheesh! That could add up.

Once again, my thanks to all of you who have been following me. I hope you'll continue the journey with me. I really enjoy knowing you're there.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hafan Deg - my Novel-in-Progress - is Complete

I finished Hafan Deg today, well, about half an hour ago. I'm not putting up the final four chapters until Monday, because I'm tired, and slightly punch-drunk that it's done. I can't trust my own judgement right now when it comes to the proofing. It looks perfect, but we all know what that usually means.

Another chapter emerged from the three I thought I had left. It was necessary, and I think that's why I was baulking at reaching the end. I knew I had something else to say. Well, as writers, I hope we always have something else to say, although not necessarily for our current manuscript.

Writing this blog was so helpful to me, although I knew there was just a handful of people out there actually reading it, but it gave me the resolve to complete it, more or less in front of you. You were the teacher to my homework, if you like. I see my little group of followers, and there are perhaps others who choose not to join the group, but still read the blog, and I am grateful to all of you for being there. I wouldn't have finished this without you, honestly, because there would have been no obligation. After spouting about "flow" and so on, how could I just let the blog slide? Without you, at the tricky points, particularly this past week, I might have stopped again, put the ms away for a bit, until I was ready. And we are never really ready to finish our books.

I intend to leave the whole book up for about a month, through February, let's say, but then I want to start getting it into the hands of an agent. I'm not sure what the etiquette is for novels-on-line, but it's possible some agents could find it a bit difficult to sell, considering I'm flogging it for nothing through Blogger.

After that, I'll send you the website, if you request it, so you can complete the read, if you haven't done it by then, sort of invitation-only.


I joked on Wednesday about how a Mac might have done all the clean-up work, and wouldn't that be nice if they really could invent a program that could do that? Our technology is oh-so-clever today that someone really should have done it. It would be able to deal with the usual punctuation problems, recognize when a semi-colon is the only way to go, know when italics are called for, when "she said, he said" are superfluous, know the spelling of every word, including foreign ones, and proper names. It would advise when to finish a paragraph, when to end the chapter. And it would remind you that you forgot to mention that Jeremy had his teeth cleaned in Chapter whatever, and you had never mentioned it again. Stuff like that. My dear Kit in England said she would like such a program, so I know there's a market for it.

Oh, and at the end of the book it would tell you if this is Women's Fiction, Women's Literary Fiction, Old-Hen Lit, or pure Horror. It helps to know what genre you write in. It could even have little faces, you know, a happy one, a sad one, and a really sneery one for when you've just written a bit of utter tripe.


Through all of my ramblings, including that nasty review I got a couple of weeks back, no one has actually commented on the book itself, which is a bit alarming. One or two of you were following me at my writing site, and you were always more than generous with your praise, but the rest of you...well, what are you getting out of it? Is it a good read, so-so, or what? The whole purpose of this blog was to get feedback, to recognize when I was doing something right, or way off the mark. I would still respectfully ask that you send me your comments. Perhaps you're waiting until the end to give your final verdict.

I remind you that this book is intended for women of a certain age, women who have been-there, done-that more than once, possibly several times, women who've struggled with love, making ends meet, bad marriages, working 9-5, unsympathetic men, and the huge sacrifices of motherhood, all the while trying to keep houses clean, serve appetizing meals, whip up a little something for the church bazaar, remain perennially attractive and sexually fascinating, brilliantly read, and young-ish.

My novel salutes you all.

See you on Monday.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Winter Blahs

I know it's very early winter, but already I have a case of winter blahs. Born in England, I can deal with cold weather, and, growing up in Australia, I expect sunshine, but when it's cold and gray, it's horrible. Nobody minds tons of snow when there's brilliant sunshine, and Canada is usually that way. Not today. It's horrible outside, a sort of half-light, as if the sun is going down, and it's only 3 p.m. So I once again admit that I am adversely influenced by light-deprivation. I have all the symptoms. All I want to do is cuddle up on the couch with my cats, and half-watch TV or doze. Not good when I'm trying to complete my book.

As to the novel, I just can't put more chapters up yet. The thing is just not going the way I want. It's baffling to me that I can't handle my own characters, but, everytime I tell them, 'that's it, this is what's going to happen next...' they just ignore me. The latest words look all flat on the screen, uninspiring, so I delete them all, go back again and tell them (my characters), 'that's it, this is what's going to happen next...' and then I go through it all again. I've been doing this for three days. I no longer spring out of bed to get to them. I no longer rush back in here after making a coffee, or eating my lunch. I sort of wander a bit aimlessly towards the computer wondering if they are ready to behave yet.

I feel that I am on the verge of something. It's not what I planned, but it's coming. In the meantime, I will prattle on here, and try to find inspiration in other blogs, which often help.

Sad thing just happened. My newly acquired and much-loved digital notes, which I have been using wildly since I installed the program, suddenly disappeared from my computer. No sign of my bulletin board, my notes on future blogs, my chapter action summaries, chapter page numbers, etc. They've just gone. Usually a little tab just sits on the bottom waiting for me, but no more. So I opened the program, and it asked me to agree to all terms and conditions, etc., as if it had never seen me before. At least the book is more or less finished, and I don't really need to refer to those notes, but I know there were other things...

Much earlier, I mentioned to my son that I was enjoying this new digital notes program. He sort of said, 'ho-hum', because he has a Mac, and apparently Macs have this program built in; I know what I'm going to buy when I replace this aging computer. I used one years ago, but then every office I knew switched to PC, despite my protests. When you freelance, you use the programs and hardware the client uses, and no one was using Mac. I no longer have any clients to speak of, so I'm free to choose my own computer.

Mac wouldn't have eaten its own digital notes.

I bet a Mac would be able to help me pull those characters into line, too.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chapters One through Thirty-Four Today

Well, you can see that I now have just one place for you to click to gain access to the novel. I think the site looks a lot cleaner, and certainly makes it easier for you.

Only three chapters (I think) to go. I've been avoiding it, this last part. It's as if I am getting ready to say goodbye to an old friend. Of course, it will always be with me, and certainly still be driving me crazy when it reaches the submission stage. But the completion of it, the final resting of it, I hope, in my brain, should make for more normal days. I have been obsessed with it, as I think I told you.

I wanted to comment on something that has occurred to me at numerous times since I've been doing the revisions. I belong to another writing site, where we all critique one anothers' work - although I've been shamelessly lax, being so involved in this manuscript - and I've received suggestions for improvements to the ms there, which I mostly took on board. I also read a vast quantity of blogs and writing How-To sites, and, from all this wealth of information, it came home to me just how terribly complicated the process of writing a book is, way above and beyond the actual creation of it.

It stands to reason we must be very careful with our editing - proofing and proofing again - to make our words perfectly clear, not muddled. This, in itself, is the worst job of all, as far as I can see. I would pay someone else to do it, had I spare cash, but I don't.

On top of that, today we have to be terribly clever with our query letters, composing them like works of art in themselves. We need to have brilliant 'pitches', breathtaking synopses, and all typed very carefully in Copperplate Gothic, they say.

Thinking back to all the biographies or newspaper snippets I've read about famous writers of much earlier years, particularly those of the forties and fifties, it seems their publishers weren't so absolutely perfectionist about the condition of their manuscripts. Those writers, admittedly tops in their field, were famous for their sloppy pages, seemed to almost take pride in that eccentricity. I've seen some of them reproduced, their original submissions, and they were just filled with ink blots and scribbled-out words, hand-written, a lot of them, with misspellings and poor punctuation.

In those days, editors permitted this, humored their great talents, allowed them to be - let's face it - incredibly difficult reads, at least, at that stage. So the editors and proofreaders did the awful slogging, all the tweaking, with what must have been hundreds of blue-pencil marks all across the pages.

It could never happen today, could it? Unless someone like J.D. Salinger really did present that mystical new novel, all messy and awful because it's been sitting around for so many years. I guess they'd take it, whatever its condition.

Oh, how I wish it could be that way for me. And mine is so-oo clean.

Except for that little comma I missed out on page.....

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I don't usually comment here two days in a row. But it's New Year! I wanted to get down some immediate thoughts on how I see 2009.

First, I was somewhat dejected that I hadn't finished my revisions to the Hafan Deg manuscript yesterday. It was a pact I made with myself, and one I thought I could fulfil. But those darned characters, what can I say? They will NOT behave the way I want them to. They fiddle about, hanging curtains, going on about Genius Loci's and how well the furnace is working. I just can't seem to get them to go where I want them. Today, in a mighty effort, I will, somehow, take them in hand.

I have to tell you, and it's not easy to say, that I got a rather disappointing review of the manuscript. Hafan Deg appears on two other writing sites, and this particular one, from whence appeared the critique, I had earlier tried to cancel (it didn't seem appropriate for my book, surrounded, as it was, with fantasy, vampires, and gothic horror). They politely told me they can't cancel. However, despite being a reader of that site, the reviewer appears eloquent and learned enough for me to take seriously.

In setting up this blog, I told you that I would entertain any worthwhile critiques and try to learn from them. I knew I would have to be brave. I've inserted the whole thing below. I would really appreciate it if you would comment on it. The thing is, if it's true, then I should just scrap the whole book and go back to painting. Yet I receive feedback from other sites where people are following Karen with such interest and involvement, so that this one frankly hurts. My gut feeling is that this book is just not suitable for this reader; we all read totally different kinds of books. My best friend in Oz would never pick up Hafan Deg to read if she found it at the library, I know, because she prefers Harlan Coben thrillers, but the poor girl is ploughing through it out of loyalty, not riveted attention.

So I wanted to ask the critic what he preferred to read, but felt it would be unseemly to actually follow up on a less than kind critique. I must conclude that he didn't closely read the book, perhaps a quick skim, because he didn't know that Hafan Deg was a house, and that the name is Welsh for 'safe harbor', and that all appears in the opening two or three chapters, as I recall. Anyway, it's below. PLEASE comment.



'I haven’t learned what a "hafan deg" is yet

I’m slowly working my way through "Hafan Deg," and I still don’t know what the title means. I’m assuming the story itself will tell me, so I’m not bothering to cheat and look it up. But as titles go, it’s eye-catching only because it’s so different, not because it’s informative.

Whatever it means, "Hafan Deg" is the story of Karen, as she vacations and attempts to find meaning in her life, now that her children have moved on. She’s returned to her favourite vacation spot of their childhood, a place she hasn’t been to in sixteen years. Most things are the same when she arrives, time here holds still.

Not so in the story’s narration, which (while third-person in perspective) follows Karen’s thoughts quite closely. She seems lost in time, reminiscing about children and past lovers, old memories and regrets. She’s clearly a woman looking for meaning amidst the chaos of day to day life, and hopes this place of memories will reinvent a future for her.

Perhaps it’s because I’m nowhere near middle-aged yet, or perhaps because most Web Fiction is usually more fast-paced, but I find myself yawning through most of Karen’s self-reflection. For one thing, her thoughts don’t stay in any one scene, whether of current events or memories, for me to find a sense of attachment to the moment. She skims over everything, without getting to the meat of any of the moments of her life. Perhaps that says something about her character, but it makes for dull reading, because I can’t get inside any one scene and feel its emotional heartbeat.

Without that pulse, the story really doesn’t come alive for me. I’d be much more interested in her memories or current adventures if the story showed more about them, but the constant skimming leaves me skipping from chapter to chapter to find something more to sink my teeth into. Let’s hope I find something satisfying.'




Well, leaving that bit of negativity, I have just one more extract from another blog, which I stole shamelessly, because it's funny, and fitting to the day.

"Some doctor on the TV this morning said that the way to achieve "inner peace" is to finish all the things you have started. So I looked around my house to see things I'd started and hadn't finished and, before leaving the house this morning, I finished off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of shhhardonay, a bodle of Baileys, abutle of vocka, a pockage of Pringlies, tha mainder of a botl Prozic and Valumscriptins, the res of the Chesescke an a box a c hocolets.

Yu haf no idr who fikin gud I fel.

Peas sen dis orn to anyy yu fee ar in ned ov inr pece."



I'll talk to you next week...Inner Peace, everyone!