Sunday, 1 February 2009

Review of January 2009.

So, the first month of the year has whizzed past. So what is my summary of the last month?

Well, things have been interesting on the writing front (and I mean that in the Chinese-curse way). I had intended to get my latest novel up to a standard where it is publishable. The working title of this piece is 'The Tin Plot', and it is based in a Cornish tin mine in 1827. The target appeared achievable at the beginning of the month; I had a good, sturdy draft and what felt like a good plot.

However, I had niggling doubts about the opening of the book. The last two-thirds of the book were fine; a rip-roaring storyline and increasingly faced-past events led to the finale down in the depths. This was not the case for the first third, however. In comparison this felt too slow-paced, and dwelt too much in the details of Cornish tin-mining which, whilst fascinating to me, were probably not to other people.

These niggling doubts weighed heavily on my mind for some time. Then, in the middle of the month, I set about doing something about them. I felt that the form of the book was imperfect, and what was the point of submitting something that I was not happy with? So I created a spreadsheet of all the scenes in the book (I tend to write on a scene-by-scene basis), with a synopsis of each one. I then skim-read the book and allocated my own values for various attributes, including tension, to each scene.

This showed me that I did have a problem. Aside from the prologue, the start of the book was very descriptive, but also contained very little action. If someone was interested with the minutiae of tin mining it would please them; otherwise, it may not keep their interest. And losing a reader's interest is a no-go. So I sat down and worked out what scenes needed improving. I shuffled some around, and created new filler scenes.

As a consequence, I think that the new format is much better. In the process I've moved things around to create tension. Some superfluous scenes that did not really move the action on have been removed or merged. I don't believe I've lost too much in the process. Someone reading the book should still get a good feeling for the characters and the period.

I say think, as I have yet to re-read it. I've been editing the book for so long now that I've lost any detachment from it. I know the story too well, and that makes it hard to remain objective. For this reason, I think I'll put it down for a month and work on my next novel, working title 'Salutations and Valedictions'. This has been planned in detail and, although I want to do some minor changes to the plot, is ready to be started on. In the meantime I'll probably do a read-through of 'The Tin Plot' with ┼×encan if she is agreeable.

I have reasons to feel positive about the walking that I have done this month. In January I completed 106 miles, which, although under the 125 miles I need to complete every month to reach my 1,500 mile target for the year, is still good for a cold and wet winter month. I have also started the long process of getting myself fit again after my injury of last year.

In February I'd like to get seven days walking done - somehow I doubt that I will, but it's a good target.

The big news if that we have finally set a date for the wedding! Our plans for the entire year now revolve around a solitary, joyous day in August...


Adrienne Dines said...

re your mining minutiae - did you read Captain Corelli's Mandolin? 50 pages of history to start. If you are passionate enough about the detail it carries over so don't strip it too bare. Sounds as if you're thundering along anyway - good luck.

David Cotton said...

Hi Adrienne,

Goodness, it's years since I read Captain Corelli's Mandolin - as I recall I quite liked it, although it was a little dense in places. I didn't go and see the film, though.

I'm trying to be careful in the sections I remove from the book. If a section has a purpose in relation to the plot, then it remains. If it does not take the plot further, but increases the sense of character or place, it stays. If it serves no real purpose except to include information that I find interesting, then it goes.

For instance, in one place I have the protagonist studying a church for a couple of paragraphs. The reader does not need to know what the church is like, and it does not take the story forward. However, the protagonist is an engineer, and it is the sort of thing he would note. Therefore it stays.

On the other hand, I had a page where I described the usage of a theodolite. It told the reader how it was used and gave an impression for the protagonist's professionalism and skill. However, I felt that it was far too detailed for most readers, so I removed it.

What I'm trying not to avoid is dense paragraphs of descriptions. This book has a fair amount of action (and romance...), and I don't want the pace interrupted too much. I've only removed about 5,000 out of 125,000 words, so hopefully it's not been stripped too bare. Much of it has been moved to other areas where the pace needs slackening.

I should also say that I read your book 'The Jigsaw Maker' last year, before I started this blog. It was an excellent read, thanks. I particularly liked Jim's character, and the ending was suitable roaring.

I've got 'Soft Voices Whispering' on order. Have you got anything else coming out soon?

Many thanks for your comments,