Sunday, 30 November 2008

Is there an echo in here?

Word echoes, how I hate them.

When I started writing, I had no idea I had a problem with inadvertently repeating words, until it was gently pointed out to me by my peers on Youwriteon. I was appalled when I realized just how bad I was - entirely capable of using the same word three times in the space of ten lines. There's also the common variant of starting successive sentences with 'He' or 'She' - one YWOer started thirteen sentences this way, in one paragraph.

I an still prey to word echoes, but constantly check and re-check in order to remove them.

Indeed, I'm now so aware of it that I notice repeats in published books - John Le Carré writing 'it occurred to her' in successive paragraphs in The Little Drummer Girl, for instance. So I reckoned I'd got it licked, until I read this excellent article, The Ten Mistakes. Oh my God, 'There was'...I'd got 61 of them in 51,000 words, including 'There was a pause' and 'There was a silence' really close together.

It never ends.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Wrong season, darn it...

I started writing Catch a Falling Star in June, and set it then - though I don't specify the date anywhere, I'm using a 2008 calendar. The events of the book cover five or six weeks in the lives of the characters.

The scene I'm currently on has my heroine, Caz, at 3am on July 19th, searching for Ric who is breaking into a lavish country house. And the point I'm making is this: I'd find it a lot easier to get the atmosphere if London wasn't so wintry, cold, and dark by teatime. Or if Caz was circling the house on an icy night. I could get right into her numb fingers, her visible breath, how the cold claims her as she crouches in the herbaceous border to watch the people in the house.

Instead of which, the hood she wears for concealment makes her hot, and the balmy night air is fragrant with summer flowers.

The old imagination is creaking under the strain.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Online Novels is back!

Online Novels, the site which provides links to novels available to read on the internet, is back.

Its owner took it down briefly in response to vituperation from some authors who feared they would lose first publication rights - improbable, since Harper Collins lets writers load entire novels, and gave permission for the links to the site - or that their novels, for which they have not found a publisher, would be stolen and passed off as someone else's work.

Carlie Lee and I once joked about novel theft on the Authonomy blog:

Carlie said...

What if a huge publishing conglomerate had a stable full of super-star writers, who (due to excess engendered by disproportionate earnings) lost all of their plots, and they were forced to prey on fiercesomely intelligent but sweetly naive unpublished authors such as ourselves and steal all of our ideas. Really, it is all quite concerning...

Lexi said...

Interesting thought, Carlie...

Hey, it would make a great plot for a novel!

The heroine, sweetly naive, poor, yet feisty, is determined to confront the handsome, dissolute author who has stolen her book. She borrows a dress and gatecrashes the book launch.

Their eyes lock across the crowded room; for both of them it is true love; but the novel, stolen by the unscrupulous publishing conglomerate, stands between them.

Will he be able to give up his drink and drugs-fueled lifestyle and write once more? Can she ever forgive his plagiarism? Will the huge publishing conglomerate get what's coming to it?

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Rack: thoughts of a pedant

One of the most frequent typos I come across while reading unpublished writing is wrack when it should be rack. I've come across it three or four times in the past month alone, in expressions such as:

racked with sobs/coughing
to rack one's brains

I think it happens when writers reach for a word or expression without fully imagining what they are describing, because of course the reference is to the torture rack; a horrific device for extracting a confession by subjecting the victim to graduated pain and destruction. Just looking it up to find an illustration for this post made me feel sick.

And I had an additional thought; why is torture viewed as entertainment, if it happened long enough ago? Surely no one would regard IRA knee-capping or the torture of American soldiers at the hands of the Vietnamese as ghoulishly fascinating? But otherwise normal parents take their children to the London Dungeon, or the basement of Madame Tussaud's, for a merry outing learning about the ingeniously cruel tortures humans devised a few hundred years ago. Very odd.

(N.B. An interesting case is rack and ruin, where the reference is not to torture, but to wrack, an old spelling of wreck. But it's still spelled rack.)

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

When God made time, He made plenty of it... just doesn't seem like that right now.

I'm up to 46,000 words of Catch a Falling Star. I'm aiming for 80,000 words. I can't spend as much time on it as I would like, because apart from my day job, Authonomy is keeping me busy.

Catch a Falling Star is currently at number 14 in the Editor's desk chart, and like a shark that has to keep moving or die, the book has to keep attracting new voters just to stay in the same place. To move up you need (roughly speaking, because the value of votes varies according to the rank of the reader) more than one a day. The best way to entice people to read your book is to read theirs, and comment. I enjoy doing this, but it's terribly time-consuming.

Why bother, I hear you ask, when Harper Collins has not yet (as far as we know) made an offer on a single book on Authonomy?

Well, the best thing about Authonomy, for me, is the huge quantity of enthusiastic comments that have been made about the book. People genuinely seem to enjoy reading it. This has given me real hope it will be publishable when finished.