Why every writer loves a library

novel choices

After a shaky start to my writing day, I was ready for a break this afternoon.  Where better than the library for a chance to indulge myself in fantasies that one day, my novel might find a home on those shelves.

What writer does not love a library?  Upon every shelf is another idea for your next novel.  Need to do some research – forget Wikipedia, get thyself to the library my friend.  And it’s all free.  Free, I say.  With book prices here in New Zealand through the roof, it makes more than sense to avail yourself of this most lovely of all public services.

Before I talk you through my haul, I should just mention my word count.  For those of you who are following my Month of Pantsting challenge with bated breath.

Today’s Word Count:  3200

Total Word count since the challenge began: 14 750

Which is, you know, not too bad for five days work.  I have noticed that I am taking a slowly, slowly approach.  Tackling it Pomodoro style, I suppose.  You know, the Pomodoro method where you set a timer for 25 minutes and then write solidly for that time with a five minute break at the end?  Only I don’t have a timer, I have my stomach which is kind enough to rumble loudly at about the right interval level!

Any way, my writing was done, the rain had put a mocker on my beach walk plan, so library it was.

Today’s haul:

As you can see from the above photo, I always like to issue far more novels than is humanly possible to read in the time given.

The Novel Choices:

  1.  This is Life by Dan Rhodes:  I was attracted by the cover because I am a sucker for whimsical little watercolours of cityscapes.  Not a book I had heard of but the blurb promises a rip-rollicking tale set in Paris with a rather charming sounding cast of characters.  Could be fun.
  2. The Light Behind the Window by Lucinda Riley.  This is the first of the two novels by Riley that I picked up today.  I adore novels that slip between the past and the present.  This is such a novel, the past being 1943 Occupied France.  It is described as a ‘breathtaking and intense story of love, war, and, above all, forgiveness.  Sounds good. (Note that this is called The Lavender Garden on US Amazon – go figure!)
  3. The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley.  Another ‘time slip’ novel where the past weaves into the present.    This one encompasses India and a remote estate in England.  I just finished writing a novel set in Raj India, so this could be a nice way to revive my passion for that manuscript.  Dark secrets and  a family’s past – all the ingredients of a good read, I hope.
  4. The Collector of Lost Things by Jeremy Page.  Gorgeous cover which reminded me of my novel vision board.  The Year is 1845 and a young researcher is sent to the Arctic to find the remains of the Great Auk.  It’s a love story and a quest ‘whose protagonists are driven by obsession, love, and ghosts.  I have a passion for ghost stories so this looks like it could be very good.
  5. The Sealed Letter by Emma Donaghue.  Haven’t read anything by her but hear lots of grand things so this is the first of two novels by her to read.  This is set in Victorian times which is just about my favourite literary period.  It’s about affairs and marriage culminating in a courtroom drama.  The blurb reminds me of  Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale, which I read, and loved, last month.
  6. Frog Music by Emma Donaghue. San Francisco 1876.  Smallpox, Chinatown and exotic dancing.  Sounds like a fabulous mix for a novel.  Inspired by true events which makes it all the more beguiling.
  7. The Son by Philipp Meyer.  Bit of a wildcard choice.  Sweeping western epic which is not normally my bag but I seem to remember reading a good review of it about a year ago so, if I have the time, why not give it a chance.  It’s got over 100 reviews on Amazon and 4 stars so it must be quite good!

Research for my novel:

research for my novelMy novel is set on a remote Scottish Island so it made sense to get a few visual books to get the literary juices going.  These three are full of sweeping photographs and will I am sure prove really useful for helping to bring a more enhanced sense of place to my writing.

Fairy Tales:

myths and legends booksI have always had a weakness for fairy tales and my novel draws upon myths and legends so I thought it would be nice to reconnect with some old, and new, favourites.

Virago is hands down the best source of fairy tales in the modern canon so I was delighted to see The Virago Book of Erotic Myths and Legends by Shahrukh Husain.  Soon I might talk a little about my brief foray into the murky world of erotica writing but suffice to say that I rather enjoy reading something saucy but WELL WRITTEN.  This looks to deliver on both fronts.

I also picked up The Maid of the North – Feminist Folk Tales From Around the World by Ethel Johnston Phelps.  A real mix of stories here and I love getting ideas and inspiration for my next novel, or the one after that.  I am entertaining the idea of writing my own volume of fairy tales so this might give me some inspiration to try some short fiction once this novel is done.

Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales.  Picked this up but when I came home, I realise that I already have one of her fairy tale book.  Absolutely in awe of everything this woman ever wrote.  Love love love Carter.  Nights at the Circus is my hands-down favourite book.  Inspirational writing guaranteed.

Mermaids – an anthology by Steve Dobell.  Illustrated collection of verse and prose.  My novel is not about Mermaids per se, but I am fascinated by these creatures of myth (or are they????)  The cover is beautiful and this will be a lovely little book to dip into for some mermaid love.

Writing Craft

the craft of writing

Two books to keep me on the straight and narrow with my writing:

  1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  It’s a writing classic.  You can’t read a writing blog without coming across this one somewhere.  Time I found out what she has to say.
  2. How not to write a novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark.  This looks like its a fun read because I confess to finding some writing books just a little bit dry and , dare I say it, boring.  I will review this later on once I have read it.

So there you have it.  Not a bad haul, eh?  I will review some of these if I enjoy them.  If not, then I won’t – it’s really that simple.  And hopefully, I have inspired some of you to get yourself down to the library for a literary feast.

What are you reading at the moment?  Care to share, I would love to hear.

And all of the titles that appear in red are linked to the Amazon store.  Not affiliate links, just for your own reference, okay?

See you tomorrow xxx


Editing Your First Draft

I took a break from the whole self publishing circus this weekend because I figured I needed a rest from worrying about author platforms and marketing myself online.  Sometimes it feels like I have chosen such a difficult route to getting my work out there but now it is Monday morning and I need to get back in the saddle and just well, you know, get on with it!  That’s the thing about self publishing.  You don’t have the incentive of a big fat advance or a nagging editor.  It is just me, myself and I (to quote the great De La Soul).

Last week saw me printing out my first draft and realising that it was indeed, an example of SFD (Sloppy First Draft).  Reading through my book highlighted the need to play with the order of my chapters, bolster out some sections which were looking rather light and fluffy, and giving the whole product some well-needed polish.

I have read a lot of blogs which tell me in no uncertain words that I need to pay an editor.  However there is one problemo here – cost!  I cannot afford to invest the money that I need for a professional editor.  And the areas that I need to work on are glaringly obvious to me.  I read a lot of books.  Over the years of being a high school English teacher, I did a lot of marking.  And by ‘a lot’, I mean thousands of hours marking students’ work.  I am also far too self critical and hold myself to very high standards.  And I want my book to be a great product.  I am not interested in churning out any old ebook and just hoping that the price is right and that someone will buy it.  I want to be proud of my work.

But I am working within limits.  Financial considerations are very real to me.  So I have decided that I have to be my own editor and this calls for me to approach my own work with a very critical eye.  I think I put off editing my first draft for this reason.  I was so darned pleased with myself for just writing a piece of work that was over 60000 words.  The thought that I might read it through and  hate it was not altogether an inviting prospect.  But I have done it.  This weekend I went through every page.  All the typos have been underlined in red.  All the gaps have been given an asterisk and now I am embarking on the process of reshaping my book and padding it out in the lean areas and slicing out bits that felt very clever at the time but on rereading now seem unnecessary.

And here are my ten tips for editing your first draft, for those of you who have decided to go down the DIY editing route:

1) Leave it a week or two before you read through your first draft.  This gives you a distance from what yo have written and allows you to bask in the glory of someone who has written a ‘book’ on on their ownsomes.

2) Be ruthless with yourself.  Read the draft as a reader.  Not just any reader.  Read the book as a critical reader.  Look for the holes in your writing.  Spot the errors.  Get disgruntled with the bits that are not up to scratch.

3) Do not, I repeat, do not rely on spell check for your proof reading.  Spell check can overlook some pretty hilarious errors.  I had a giggle at some of mine. eg: “You want to meat yourself head on” sounds rather juicy but not quite the same as “You want to meet yourself head on”

4) Don’t hold back.  It can feel torturous realising that your whole first chapter needs rewriting and the I can’t be bothered voices will be singing loud.  However, if it needs the work, then it needs the work – simple as that!

5) Think about the overall shape of your writing.  Do whole sections need to be moved around?  Printing out your work on paper with each section on a separate page means that it is easy to shuffle pieces around and see whether that feels better.

6) Try to make it a pleasurable experience.  Write editor’s notes to yourself which include good points as well as bad.  Be kind to yourself.

7) When going back to your original draft, edit it in phases. eg. Monday = spelling correction day.  Tuesday= rewriting first chapter day. etc

8) Don’t lose sight of how far you have come.  The majority of the work is already done.  This is the polishing phase.  You have still written a book.  It’s just not publishable quite yet.

9) Don’t show anyone your work yet.  Keep your baby to yourself until you are happy that it is the best that you can do.

10) Make sure that you are doing other book related things at the same time as editing.  Keep building your author platform and researching your next work.  Just make sure that you schedule editing time into your diary and stick to those slots.

But, what would I know really?  I just know that I want my book to be a polished piece of writing.  I trust myself enough to be self critical when it matters. I like the control that I have over this process.  This is my book and I am proud of it but I want to make sur that it is the best that I can do.  I am sure that you feel the same.  As a self publisher on a budget, I am certainly not going to send out my work unedited.  I have professional pride in what I am producing.  That pride means that I will pay  attention to the details.

Yes it would be lovely to be able to afford an editor.  In fact, it would be lovely to have someone else to work with because writing is a lonely business, make no mistake.  But the reality is that I am writing this book to create an income stream. So professional editor – like Prada shoes,  I love you but I cannot afford you.

Are you in the process of editing your first draft?  Any tips on how to make the process less painful?  Any resources that you have stumbled across which might be helpful?  Leave a comment, I dare you!

My editing hat awaits.  Toodle-oo

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