This is brilliant!
This blog’s been quiet for over three months this time – the longest gap since I began the blog. I do have a good-ish excuse though, among other things, I’ve been proofreading and editing my biggest piece of writing to date.
(Quick side note: the ‘other things’ mentioned above include finishing third year of a combined BA, including sitting an exam which involved writing two full length essays as well as revising for said exam…)
All of the above has taught me one thing: don’t leave all the editing until the end.
I generally keep an eye on spelling and grammar as I go anyway – I cannot physically leave a typo or misplaced comma once I’ve spotted it – but a lot of writing advice blogs* say that it is best to write the whole story down as fast as possible without making any corrections or doing any proofing. This is the way I work with short pieces of up to, say, about three or four thousand words, but I’ve come to understand that this is not how I am going to be comfortable working with longer pieces.
They say that the reason for writing straight through is so that you don’t lose the flow of the story, and I can understand that. However, for me, when I have a story on the go it tends to stay fresh (touch wood!), and – as long as I don’t leave it too long – I can pick it up quite smoothly after a break.
What I do struggle with is proofing. I don’t like the tedium of going over my work critically, and I find it very draining if I have a lot of text to go through. I managed the first read through fairly easily. The second was tedious, and took much longer than it should have – I tended to start reading the story, rather than scanning for sentence structure and errors. The third – and hopefully last, for a while at least – draft is almost ready, at which point I’m going to start scouting about for an agent. Any further drafts and amendments will be in response to the agent’s (should I succeed in finding one) suggestions.
For my next big piece of writing (calling it a ‘novel’ before it is ready for publication seems a bit pretentious) I think I will write it as I did this piece, in natural sections, but this time stop to edit each section as I go. As long as I make a note of any ideas I want to incorporate into the narrative (which I do anyway) I won’t miss any important pieces of information or leave out any crucial clues.
In hindsight – 20-20 as always! – I should have realised that this would always be a better way for me to work. With my academic assignments, I very quickly learned to reference and footnote as I went along, to save the frustration and time-consuming agonies of trying to re-locate that really good quotation, or find the page number by trying to skim read the whole book again! Putting in quotes and references while the book/ article/ online source was in front of me, meant that a) I saved time and b) that when the essay was complete, so were the references, leaving just the bibliography and proofreading to do.
So there you have it: the reason I haven’t been around very much the last few months! Hopefully, it won’t be so long before the next blog post. I’ve attached a little anecdote-type flash narrative below, based on, as they say, true events… Enjoy!
Until next time
*There are many writing advice blogs out there, some good, some bad, some excellent, some awful: pick the good ones that relate to your writing style and ignore the ones that advise you to make huge and drastic changes to the way you work. Some of these bloggers seem unaware of the fact that everyone is different and that what works for one might not be ideal for someone else!
Graduate Job Seekers Training Session
We gather in a small room, with rectangular desks arranged in a square. None of us speak, except to the friends we’ve come with: business major remains with international business; creative writing with English lit. stays with English lit. and creative writing, and the criminology single honours ignores the microbiologist with an interest in brewing. Or is he a biologist with an interest in microbrewing?
We sit in near silence, and wait until 10am, when the session will begin.
The lady in charge begins, running through her planned timetable, promising to be done by 11, rather than 11:30 as advertised. (A latecomer slopes in, sits down in the nearest seat, self-important and unapologetic.)
‘To give you time to ask me private questions, should you wish to,’ she continues. ‘But for now, let’s go around the room and you tell me what sort of graduate jobs you’re looking for.’
‘Marketing, lovely. That’s a huge field. Huge. You’ll have to narrow that down.’ She writes it on the wipe-board.
‘I started in HR!’ She rattles off a potential career path that has the HR hopeful scribbling down lengthy notes. The rest of us allow our attention to drift.
‘Editing, publishing.’ The wipe-board pen makes soft squeaks.
We are interrupted by the sight of the campus cat strolling past, tail held at a jaunty angle, tortoiseshell fur gleaming in the sun.
A whisper of excitement rises, fades, swells as the cat comes into the room. We have been chosen.
The microbiologist and the latecomer bend to stroke the cat. She ignores the latecomer, favours the microbiologist. The microbiologist scratches under her chin, caresses her ears. She approves, moves closer.
Then. The latecomer, bastard, grabs at the cat. Hauls her up, undignified. Puts her in his lap, holds her there. She wriggles. He tightens his grip.
She meows loudly, fights him, scratching. He releases her, with the air of one humouring an ingrate. She runs off, will not return.
We stare at him.
The lady asks, ‘What are you studying?’
‘You won’t be a full psychologist until you have your PhD, so you’ll be an assistant psychologist for some years.’
He nods, but she’s already writing.
We all nod in silent agreement.