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Today marks my fourth year anniversary of giving up smoking. At times, particularly three or four months in, I didn’t think I would make it, but I can truthfully say I haven’t smoked any cigarettes, or attempted to, in the last four years.

Before then, I had tried to stop many times, but failed.

So what was different this time?

  1. A proper reason for wanting to quit – in this case, a true lung age test gave a disastrous result, enough to force me to face the damage caused from years of smoking
  2. Help from Nicorette products.

I pay close attention to the fact that “just one cigarette” usually leads to another, and then another, and so on, until the ex-smoker has taken up the habit again. In other words, no cigarette is safe for an ex-smoker – a case of, don’t do it.

Looking forward to many more years of not smoking.

Word processing packages offer a lot. Some like Microsoft Word cost. Others, like LibreOffice, come free. In the old days, authors would have typed on a portable or electronic machine, occasionally made errors, and either repaired the errors by using a liquid solution or torn the offending paper out and started again.

Nowadays, using by word processing suites, people can hit spell check. They can also cut and paste sections, an advantage when it comes to structuring a novel, as editors often tell their authors to place chapter two before chapter one. In the old days, the author would have had to retype; now they can highlight the section in question and cut to another place in the story.

Although the software packages have many advantages, they have the potential for fresh problems. Too much cutting and pasting results in general chaos and the reader feeling bombarded with too much information. As authors don’t read their own material objectively enough, they often overlook errors, both simple and major. Moving sections of a story around through cut and paste can also interfere with the original chronology of events; if the author fails to make the relevant corrections, timings, names and locations become confused, leaving the reader questioning whether the publishing house did enough editing on the book.

So what’s the best way of self-editing a novel? Personally, I think taking a short break before returning to the manuscript will the writer a fresh perspective. Also, dividing the story into sections (maybe quarters or sixths even) enables an author to pay closer attention to all the details.

Just a few of my thoughts.

 

A common scenario. A writer works on a manuscript.  The writer accepts constructive criticism and revises sections of the story. The writer finally accepts that the manuscript is ready to submit to an agent or publisher, and other people agree. An agent or editor either likes the story or thinks it has potential and suggests changes. Develop this theme. Develop that character.  More of this, or less of that. The revision goes on.  When does one finally stop?

I don’t know. No one would have published anything unless they’d persevered against the odds, but the disappointments can be crushing at times. Also, the more a person edits, the more readjustments they need to make. Other sections in the writing may lose their original meaning and immediacy as a result of the revision.

So I suppose it’s a question of balance.  Do the necessary work, but don’t deviate from the true story that you – the writer – wish to convey.

Just a few of my thoughts.

 

A Piano Soiree

Last night, I gave an evening performance at a house in north London and included the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, along with the 19th Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt. Both works include virtuoso and stormy/loud sections, perhaps not generally suited for a performance in a living room, but on this occasion, the programme worked.  That’s because I love performing, and this must have come across as I played.

Over breakfast this morning, I was thinking about a well-known phrase relating to dancers and wondering if the same applies to classical pianists.  The phrase goes something like this: “if you don’t practise for a day, you notice.  If you miss a couple of days, the other dancers notice. And if you miss three days of practise, the audience notices.”

Does the same to piano performers?

No, I would say.  Standing back from a programme for a few days gives the pianist a fresh approach and results in a more convincing performance, in my opinion. Obviously, one shouldn’t miss more than a couple of days before a performance, but I think the generally accepted advice to dancers doesn’t apply to pianists.  Of course, people shouldn’t/mustn’t forget to warm up before the performance. Personally, I favour the Czerny 8-bar exercises op 821 for warm up; scales and arpeggio don’t work.

Just a few of my thoughts.

 

“You hear a sound.  Hesitate.  Nothing.  You continue on in the darkness.  There, that sound again.”

Creative writing tutors call this type of narrative second person viewpoint, as opposed to first person or third.  However, like with other viewpoints, variations exist. Taking the opening sentences – would you say that the writer is teasing the reader to a point, trying to create an atmosphere of tension with the hope of scaring or thrilling them?  Probably.

Authors sometimes try a different technique using “You”.  Writing to a fictitious family member or friend.  Or ex-lover.  In these cases, the narrative tends to shift to a more intimate/personal tone.

In my current novel in progress, I address most of the narrative to the main character’s childhood friend in a sort of eulogy, in order to sort out problems with inner monologue and help shape the more subtle aspects of the structure.

And, of course, to avoid the “Show, Don’t Tell” problem.

Hope it works.

 

A Muggy Spring

After a grey winter, sunshine finally came and temperatures soared over the weekend, equalling those in exotic places abroad. Since then, the greyness has returned, along with rain and an overcast sky, creating a muggy atmosphere. No one knows what to wear.

As for me, I’ve been polishing another manuscript, a psychological thriller, and trying to focus only on what the central characters wishes to tell the reader. The whole writing process (that includes the writing itself, revisions, feedback from an editor or agent) seems to take for ever, and at times, I question whether it’s worth it. Obviously, it must be, otherwise I would have quitted several years ago.

Apart from that, little else has happened.  I continue my languages studies and have sold more CDs of my piano playing.  Everything feels a bit grey and muggy at the moment, like the weather.

 

 

Yes, definitely feeling the pressure. A couple of weeks have gone by since I last posted an article here, and I’ve found little time to keep up the blog. At present, I’m focusing on my music career, learning several languages, and reworking a novel, a psychological thriller – i.e. trying to balance a tightly controlled narrative (action) with events occurring solely in the character’s mind (paranoia angle). Pretty difficult.

Hope to be back soon.

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