Today was a lovely Sunday of swimming, dog walking, family visiting and playing dressing up with Mummy’s wedding dress. (Not me, obviously, I can’t get it on any more!)
My little babies managed to walk all the way to the top of the field behind my parents’ house and back without being carried. That’s a first. We saw deer and rabbits and the kids and dogs had a great run in the sun.
It made up for getting to the pool this morning to find a Gala on. We had to drive to the next town and suffer an inferior swimming experience. At least we’ll appreciate our local pool all the more next time we get there, especially a dry changing room floor! It’s the little things.
Self-doubt came swooping down today, through the medium of Social Media. I read two things that reminded me not to get too cocky or over confident, although neither was intended that way or was even directed at me. (And I can’t imagine being cocky or self-confident in any universe).
The first lesson came from a thread on a LinkedIn Group I follow and it was about self-published authors not having their manuscripts properly edited. Lisa Tannier wrote:
I see so many complaints lately from Indie readers about lack of editing. It is like the author is in such a hurry to publish that they skip over a crucial part of writing the book.
Guilty! I can’t afford an editor and I know I should probably have done at least one more revision on Dragon Wraiths before I stuck it on Kindle. Lisa’s comment was followed up by one written by an Editor (although I did note it had a couple of I-wrote-too-quickly typos, which wouldn’t endear me to an editor!) Caryl McAdoo replied:
And, thing about self published authors, many DON’T have a good story told from characters from their Point of View – their work is full of passive to-be verbs, attributions, too many ‘ing’s and ‘ly’s, and unnecessary prepositional phrases.
I confess I didn’t even understand all of her comment: my grammar is pretty poor and mostly I’ve focussed on getting my punctuation right. I know full well my writing is too passive and I don’t use enough punchy verbs, instead of littering ‘ing’s and ‘ly’s through my prose. It made me shiver to read her comment because I fear a slating review (though with only 4 Dragon Wraiths copies sold I don’t think anyone is going to bother writing one!)
The second chastening lesson came via a conversation with Charlene K Blackwell on Twitter. She mentioned that she’s reading Orson Scott Card’s craft book Characters and Viewpoint. I have a copy on my shelf, it’s a great book. But I haven’t read it in at least a year, possibly more. I bought my craft books when I taught Creative Writing briefly to an adult education class (much to my shock and terror as I never expected to get the job.) I also studied craft with the Open University while pregnant with my first child. I confess, though, that I rarely open a craft book these day. They sit on my shelf next to my print-proofs and that’s probably as close as they’ve got to each other.
The thing is, I’m impatient. Terribly, terribly impatient. And easily bored. I can cope with two, maybe three, revisions of a manuscript then I’m sick of the sight of it. Part of the reason I put Dragon Wraiths live was to get some critique on it because I don’t have the guts to join a critique group. How nuts is that? I don’t want honest feedback from a small group of fellow writers so instead I’ll put it out for any random stranger to tear it apart!
Actually I have spent more time editing and rewriting my Claire instalments than any of my manuscripts. I used to think I had to plough through a first draft and then edit it after the words were out. Now I suspect the new way is better for me. Write a little bit every day and then polish it until it shines because chances are I won’t have the patience to do it properly when the book is finished. It’s a lowering thought.
So my new aim is to start re-reading my craft books and to incorporate bits into my Claire posts. I’ll relearn the things I’ve forgotten and maybe I’ll manage to eradicate some of the passive verbs and ‘ly’s. Here’s hoping.
Claire paced through the milling crowd of passengers and tearful family members without registering them. At the back of her mind a nagging sense of loss itched like nettle rash. She patted her pockets for the fifth time, convinced she must have left her phone or keys in the café.
The sound trickled through the hubbub of noise and brushed at Claire’s cheek. She half turned her head then carried on walking.
Even the memories are taunting me now. Thanks guys, impeccable timing.
Stronger this time; more stream than trickling brook. It cut through the swaying trees of strangers and curled around her feet. Her heart stopped and her body followed suit, frozen in place by an impossible sound.
Not impossible though. Not even unexpected. He practically lived in this place when he wasn’t at mine.
Glacier-slow, Claire twisted her head to locate the source of the sound without giving away that she’d heard. Except of course her body had betrayed her by standing still. Stillness gave you away in a place of perpetual motion and Michael was by her side before she’d even had a chance to locate the direction of his voice.
“It is you.”
He stood too near for comfort but too far for touching. His hands hung loosely as if they had already reached out for an embrace and been repulsed.
Claire kept her head low, allowing a wall of hair to shield her. She could tell Michael was itching to reach forward and brush it behind her ear as he always did: to laugh as he always did when it fell forward again with the irresistible pull of gravity.
His breathing was fast, as if he had run across the Arrivals hall to catch her. A hurrying man with a case on wheels and a laptop bag pushed between them, oblivious to the tight cord his movement had severed. The wave of his passing swirled the scent of Eternity round Claire, weakening the joints of her knees and making her tummy wobble.
They smiled then, sharing a moment of humour at the severance of their precious moment. As always, his smiled jolted her heart and warmed her skin like summer sun.
Oh Michael. Damn you for being here. Now. When I desperately need a hug.
She raised a foot to step towards him, reached a hand to clasp his arm and lean in for a continental greeting. Another voice called out; spewing forth like a burst pipe.
“Michael? Where are you? We’re going to miss our train. Oh…” The voice approached and stopped short of where Michael and Claire stood face to face.
“Claire. How lovely to see you. Michael said you were in the Outer Hebrides or something.” The clipped tones could cut glass. Or hearts.
Claire heard only half the sentence: the remainder was drowned out by the roar of blood in her ears. She felt it rushing to her face, heating the skin until it glowed like blacksmith’s steel.
Michael’s face drained of colour in response, as if she now had all his red hue too. He opened his mouth to speak but Claire raised a hand to fend off his words. She blinked at the tears welling in betrayal and spun herself round before he could witness them.
As she stalked away she heard Debbie’s strident tones curling after her.
“How rude. She never did have much grace.”
Claire broke into a run, not caring who saw, the need to escape stronger than her sense of pride.