Reality Hits – Editors and the Creative Process

If you have spent any time reading or looking at things about actual writing then you might quickly notice that the reality is not what is sold in books, TV, or film. Perfect prose does not slip easily from pen or keyboard, no matter how inspired you are, and there is a certain type of prolonged effort (some might even call it pig-headedness) that you have to embrace in order to reach the end of your first draft. And this is just the beginning.

In my last blog I wrote about finding a self-publishing company, which I am happy to say is 2QT up in the Yorkshire Dales. The manuscript has been sent off to their editor and this is where the fun begins.

There is a certain trepidation in showing your work to anyone, but for me there is also an excitement about working with an editor. I am lucky enough to be working with Karen Holmes who is an editor, copywriter, and author. She works with 2QT amongst others, and has certainly given me plenty to think about already.

I can’t claim to be an expert, but knowing how involved we writers are with our words, and how hard it is to both to get and take good criticism in any creative endeavour, I would imagine there is a certain level of trepidation for an editor when a new person’s book hits their desk. Sure there is a whole new book to explore, but is it any good and more importantly, will the author engage with the process? I won’t make any bold claims about the quality of my writing as my route into the craft does not have an academic underpinning, but I think I may have one advantage over some.

One of the many reasons that writing wormed its way into my life is that enables me to express things that are simply not possible from behind a drum kit, no matter how hard I tried. However, twenty years of being a musician has taught me a thing or two about the creative arts. I know how much work goes into producing seemingly effortless results and how to maintain that effort, but being a musician has also shown me with how to navigate a collaborative creative process. In the early days it can seem to some like every suggestion, every deviation from what you originally brought to the group, is a criticism or failure. However, all of the most successful bands that I have been in were based on everyone having an equal say, taking the best ideas and moving forward with them. The important thing is to create the best work possible utilising everybody’s skill and interests to the fullest extent possible. It is also one thing to read about this, or even write it, but having real world experience is what gives you faith in the process.

I knew writing for children was difficult. The choice of word and idea has to be carefully made to hold the interest of your reader and be of the appropriate complexity for the age you are writing for, all without talking down to them. I am also aware that the first draft of anything is really about getting the idea down. Everybody’s process is different; some like to have everything planned out, whilst others sit down and write to find the story. I am somewhere in the middle, but my big thing is always to get that first draft down so I can polish it later. The difficulty here is that it is very easy once you are deep in a draft to lose focus, either on plot, language, or both. This is where an editor is so helpful, because they read the draft without any of the baggage you bring having written it. Not to mention they are very likely better than you at writing in the first place.

It was not my first or second draft that headed off to be looked at, but having got the results back, it was certainly not my last either. I am still processing what Karen and I discussed, but the important thing is to have faith in process and not to be afraid to cut things that you truly love, or fight for the things that you believe are essential. It is not always easy to know which is which, but by talking it through and working hard they should become apparent. About the only thing I am sure of right now is that there will be questions heading to Karen in the coming weeks, but the pig-headed masochist in me is looking forward to the challenge of working over a new draft.

Time for me to get started.

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Heroes, and the Divisional Weekend

I have been given a gentle nudge that the main body of last week’s NFL Blog , which is about Bowie, loss, and identity shouldn’t, and I quote, “…be buried on a sports blog,” so I hope you enjoy it too.

The Wrong Football

It has been a rough few days. Between Lemmy’s funeral, the Bengals’ implosion, and then Bowie’s death, I have been wandering around in something of a haze. That’s two music icons and personal heroes gone, along with the continuing twenty-five year wait for a playoff win. That’s not even a championship, but the hope that the team, fans, and the city of Cincinnati would be spared a fifth consecutive playoff loss, but I’ll come back to the Wildcard games in a bit.

In the days following Bowie’s death there have been some writing that they don’t understand the outpouring of grief over a musician, that this is someone that you have never met so why are you sad? The answer to that was put rather beautifully by Lauren Laverne on her Monday radio show, because of course it is personal, music has that strange and magical hook direct into your…

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Why Self-Publish?

It seems that the logical place for me to start this new author site and blog would be the reason the site exists in the first place. I am not exactly new to either writing or blogging, but it was only at the beginning of 2014 when I had a short story published over at the Devilfish Review that I truly began to grab the label writer for myself.

I have had my fair share of submission rejections, enquiries about representation rebuffed, competition entries disappear, and feedback concerning what was not liked when an agent finally did read my sample chapters. I have also had my successes, and I do not feel bad about this process. There has been a lot written about rejection and the inevitability of the experience if you try to be a writer. The truth is also that publishing is a numbers game, one that is not getting any easier as publishing adjusts to modern distribution and the proliferation of books thanks to the ease of digital self-publishing.

For me the challenge is that I am still writing, and apart from wanting to work on my craft, I like any other artist want my work to be seen, or my case read. In a discussion about writing earlier in the year when I mentioned having finished books, it was suggested that I should look at publishing one online. This started the process that lead to this site, but the project as I have been thinking of it has escalated over the last few months.

The idea was initially to get read, but having been a musician for over twenty years I have always been interested in independent labels and the idea of being able to do something myself was appealing. I was thinking a digital book, but hopefully with some kind of professional edit and a proper cover design. Me being me though, I wanted to explore all my options, and that is when things started to escalate. It was whilst doing my due diligence and discussing business plans with my dad that we found amongst a plethora of self-publishing businesses, a company that seemed to genuinely care about the books they produced and so I initiated contact and got a quote.

Taking into account the economics of scale, it seemed sensible to start with the most recently completed book as it felt the most finished and was substantially shorter so I got a quote, which wasn’t terrifying. As we started working things through it became apparent that it would be possible to do a bigger launch with a sensible print run of actual physical books.

As a result, here I am, announcing the start of the project that will lead to a fully edited children’s’ book of somewhere around 30 000 words depending on what happens during the edit. Not only that, but I will be documenting process here as we prepare to bring my book to a wider audience. I’ll leave you with the elevator pitch, but there will be more to come.

Everybody knows that it is a bad idea to build on ancient burial grounds, but when confronted with a pet cemetery in the back garden of a new house, what are you going to do?

For Abby and Chris’s parents the answer to this problem was to create a playhouse for their children in a new garden shed. However, when their children start seeing ghosts in and around the playhouse, it is just the start of a new adventure. As the haunting escalates, a pair of guardian witches begins to help, but when the children’s mother is kidnapped and taken to a strange parallel world, only Chris and Abby can follow to save her.