Back To The Editing Board

Book four. Silent: a psychological thriller aimed at a younger audience.

After eighteen months, I have returned Silent with a view to submitting it somewhere.

Having distanced myself from the writing for more than a year, I can now see some of the issues that need addressing.

I would describe the main problem as meandering — i.e. the narrator straying from the point instead of focusing on the issue at hand.

Like in the past, I’ve encountered the same editing dilemma this time round — i.e. ruthless editing in the form of pruning strengthens the structure and argument, but the removal of the meandering material presents new problems, including a loss in the quality of the prose.

I expect it’s a question of balance. Every sentence must contribute towards the story, but some sentences require greater effort than others.

Till next time.

Editing: Going In Deeper

Having taken professional advice recently, I’m at the “drawing out” self-editing stage on one of my novels.

So what does this mean?

The novel itself works and has merits, but could do with improvement in certain areas:

  • Every sentence, paragraph in the work has to count.  In other words, would omitting the section have a bad effect on the story?
  • A logical, cohesive way of linking up all back story sections, and these must travel through the 8 point story-arc.
  • Story hooks at the end of chapters to keep readers wanting to go on.
  • Showing/not telling where possible.
  • Incorporating scenery as a character (extremely difficult and still trying to figure this one out).


So it’s back to taking notes and working out how to increase the pace in the middle section of the novel.  Happy writing!


Ruthless Editing: The Pros and Cons

I’ve reached that stage again, the stage of ready to polish my manuscript and send it out. My latest novel Silent, a psychological thriller, falls in the YA category of fiction, intended for teenagers and Young Adults, and I particularly enjoy writing for this audience.  As I ploughed through the various drafts, I became aware – as I had done with previous writing projects – that a major edit only goes part of the way to achieving a polished piece of work. Admittedly, much of the editing process strengthens the plot and structure of the novel. However, a noticeable downside appears to persist – namely, that in pruning or refining the writing, the author loses something of the spirit of the work.  I believe this inevitably happens.

So how does a writer fix the problem?  In my opinion, by viewing the ruthless edit as only part of the process and going through the revised manuscript after a period of several weeks to gain a fresh perspective. Often, the edit will have solved many of the problems, but not entirely. The danger, I think, lies in sending out the newly edited work without giving it a second glance.

Another possibility – my opinion, only – consists of keeping records of all previous manuscripts and occasionally reaching compromises.  For example: section A in draft One is full of potential but a bit overwritten, section A in the next draft brings out the tension and gets rid of the superfluous, but now some of the potential for immediacy has gone. In other words, flat writing. The answer, perhaps, could be using a fraction of the overwritten section to boost up the style of the more tightened revised section.

Meanwhile, I hope to finish the polish by next weekend, so I guess I will find out soon enough if I’m on the right tracks.

Promising Editing Meeting

I met the editor yesterday and the meeting went well. I need to do some work on the central character, developing the character so the reader can better identify with them. Also, there is considerable confusion over two significant characters and a problem with authorial voice coming through and interrupting the viewpoint narrations. I will revise along the lines suggested and send the work back to the editor when it is completed.

The Novel: A Step Closer

I’m due to meet the editor in person next Thursday to talk about the editing report.

In the meantime, I’m revising the manuscript away from the main computer file in order to let the story tell itself.

In particular, I’m asking myself crucial questions about each section:

  • Is the section absolutely relevant to the story?
  • Does material in one viewpoint contradict material in another?
  • How can important background information be presented without the need for constant back story?

A Sunday Ramble

There’s some news on the editing report…I should get it some time next week.  In the meantime, I’m reading through the first novel carefully, making notes on the computer.  


From the autobiography I’ve been working on.  This is an account of childhood walks in the north of England:

Most Sundays, we spent the day hiking in the country.  Often, we would hurry away in the car with the David Jacobs programme playing on the car radio.  I loved it on Sunday mornings when we were in the car and the third movement of Beethoven’s Seventh symphony – the scherzo and trio movement – burst out over the speaker, the rises and falls in the music matching the mounts and vales of the country road.  The countryside meant a lot to me – as did music. 

War memorials.  Village church clocks.  Quarries stretching out at the bottom of winding roads.  Pieces of machinery humming over the stillness as we climbed steep hills.  We walked in all weather conditions, our boots tramping in mud when it rained, our cagoules protecting us against Pennine winds.  Most Sundays, we walked about seven or eight miles, stopping for a sandwich lunch on the trail.

Dartington College of Arts

I’m still waiting for the editing report on my first novel.   In the meantime, I’ve been working on a different writing project detailing my student days at Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, Devon, where I took my music degree.   This account tells of my first visit to Totnes:

I liked Totnes immediately.  I spent a couple of nights in a bed and breakfast house in a steep lane tucked away from the main street.   On the day of the audition, I set off up the hill to the college, past fields and a river, knowing that this was where I would like to spend the next three years.  The air was fresh with the scent of the country and the unmistakable smell of animals and manure.  I savoured the feel of the mild winter chill against my cheeks, like I had done many times during my childhood rambles in the countryside in the north of England.              

The college stood near the top of the hill: three adjacent buildings for the dance, drama and music students;  a courtyard consisting of the Great Hall, the White Hart bar, admin offices, staff room, library and cinema, a central lawn.  An archway connected the library and cinema.  Further on was Higher Close, the student area overlooking the fields below. 

After attending an introductory talk in one of the studios with the other prospective students, I took another short walk to the front of the music department where the main offices were situated.  Mr Artherton had helped me prepare the first movement of a Haydn piano sonata and one of the pieces from Debussy’s Children’s Corner.  When I finished playing these, the lecturer at Dartington said, ‘you have an extremely musical ear.’

A Writing Tip

Always check carefully for spelling and grammatical errors, even if this means delaying presenting the piece of writing in question.  

  • Copy the written passage and paste it into a different word processing programme to see if any problems show up
  • Try viewing it on a handheld device
  • View a newly written blog post from the main category/tag section instead of from the individual blog itself

Yesterday, I wrote a blurb style summary on my first novel.  (That’s the novel I sent for an editing report.)  After changing a few of the sentences and doing a spellcheck, I assumed I’d eradicated all typos.  However, when I read the summary on my mobile phone later that day, I noticed a couple of mistakes. 

“Barn” had become “bar” and “random, “randon”.   

So I made the neccesary corrections first thing this morning.