In Dreams Awake

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

(Henry David Thoreau)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Back on the Path

  Hi everyone, and first of all an announcement. TROY: A Brand of Fire is now available via Smashwords, at So now you can find it in pretty much all online book stores and almost all formats. Just $0.99, too.

  OK, plug over, now onwards.

  I read out a sample of my work at the monthly authors' meeting at Barnstaple Library last Saturday (the 7th). It's the first time I've read in that group, and I picked a new piece - the opening of Kaprikorn - because it's a first draft, and still pretty raw. I thought I'd be better able to make changes as suggested than with a more developed piece.

  Well, that was a good call. The other writers liked it, generally, and some parts they thought were very good. But I still came in for some criticism - all of it deserved, too. Some of the (justified) comments were that the story starts too slowly, that the 2nd passage ought to be 1st, and that it's not immediately clear that Mani is the main character. People liked my use of language and my characters, but not the structure of the story.

  Someone once said that we write first drafts for ourselves, and only think of readers when we reach the second draft. Well, maybe. But I think writers often write for ourselves even when redrafting or editing. It's natural enough, since we spend so much time planning and writing on our own, that we'll listen to our inner voices more readily than we will to outsiders. Bit by bit other people's voices fade away, while our own remain clear. We end up losing sight of the goal.

  That goal is, of course, to publish a book that will sell at least reasonably well. Structure is very important in achieving that. What galls me a little is that I know it: I critique others in the Library group (constructively, I hope) on the same grounds. Throw the reader into the story from the first line, set up the dramatic tension right away. Simple things, but critical too, as important as cutting out adverbs and keeping a limit on your metaphors.  Writing isn't just about inspiration. It's about knowing how to put one word atop another and then another atop that, paragraph on paragraph, building the novel layer by layer.

  It's also about support. I'm late coming to that realisation, perhaps, because I've tended to think of authors as solitary folk - and we are, that's still true. But we're not entirely solitary folk. It does us good to meet up and chat, exchange experiences and triumphs, and commiserate over setbacks. At the same time we help remind each other that the fundamental things apply, and we can nudge each other back onto the path when our feet stray a wee bit from it.

  The guys at the Library are right, Kaprikorn needs to be reshaped. I can do it easily enough, I think I know how already (though TROY II has to be finished first). But without the honest advice of Rebecca, Michelle, Sue, Colin and all the others, I might not have seen it until so late that a total rewrite was needed. So thanks people, you saved me some work and you led me back out of some treacherous ground.

  It's good to have friends.