Spring Cleaning Manuscripts

What a week it’s been! The sun is shining outside and I’ve actually gotten work done today, but that’s a first this week. Why? Sometimes health sucks. Not fun at all.

But I’m on the mend. Yay! Tomorrow I will spend spring cleaning my wardrobe while my husband makes pancakes and chops down dead trees, and our web developer sits at our table, eats our food and weaves his magic.

Now that I’m all healthy and my brain is out of the great fog, I have a little writers journey to share with you: the great spring clean.

We writers love to sit and weave magic, make beautiful sentences, create intriguing characters and scenarios. I’m no stranger to that. I think that every sentence in the novel I’m currently writing is fabulous prose.

Well at least that’s what I thought until I started reading it out loud to my husband. Wow. Reality check. Kaboom!

It’s not that my wonderful sentences weren’t fabulous. Its just that there were too many of them. Waaaay too many. So I’ve set about spring cleaning my manuscript. You see, one of the misconceptions about writing is that people think it is about length.

It’s not. Its about depth. I remember the first time I read Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities), I was struck by the fact that not one word was a luxury. Not a single word was idle or useless. If you thought the word was just an adornment in the beginning, by the end of the book you would realize that Dickens had to use it. There was a purpose in absolutely everything.

A good writer (which I strive to be, rather than claim to be), won’t use three words to describe something when one perfectly chosen word will do. They understand that descriptions don’t have to be melodramatic to be good. It’s like accessorizing an outfit. Don’t wear all your good jewellery at once when one sublimely chosen piece will set off your ensemble perfectly.

So I’m spring cleaning my manuscript. It’s got some darn good action sequences and some fascinating characters that I’m even enjoying learning about. But brevity in the short term leads to good story tempo in the long term. I don’t mean you should under-describe. I mean you should show rather than tell. I mean you should be intentional in the use of every word, and at all costs avoid repetition. A pet hate of mine is when the author doesn’t trust me (the reader) to understand what they are saying, thus feeling the need to remind me every two pages that the protagonist is hot/angry/in-love/etc. Trust the reader. Explain once. Explain well.

Footnote: You can’t expect this to happen on the first draft. It takes time and edits. You have to do the crap writing first so that the good writing can be polished and extracted later.

I know it can be painful to hit delete on a sentence you adore. It’s even more painful to hit delete on a character you love but don’t need. It does make for a better manuscript though.

So be courageous, dear writer friend! I promise it will be worth it.

Happy Friday friends!

Cheers

C

 

Unbreaking My Brain – Part 2

Morning (Ooops! Hang on, no its not! Good afternoon!)

A few months back I posted a blog-piece titled “Unbreaking my brain.” It was all about my battle with adrenal fatigue and the fact that I can’t for the life of me wrap my head around cooking when I’m that tired.

Adrenal fatigue (for the newbies) is something that sits at the subclinical level of health. It is not an autoimmune disease like Cushing’s or Addison’s, but a health issue that faces people who have been running a million miles an hour for too long, or who may have faced illness, trauma or prolonged stress, leaving their adrenals under the weather and running out of puff.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue (though many of these can have other causes) include: tiredness  that isn’t relieved by sleep, foggy brain, unusual weight gain, difficulty getting going in the morning, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, reliance on stimulants to get through the day, susceptibility to colds and flus, increased effort required for normal tasks, feeling tired and run down, and the list goes on. As it progresses, this syndrome can lead to more serious health conditions as the body loses its ability to recover from (life?) and handle inflammation.

Now, after a good stint in adrenal rehab (as I like to call it), I was feeling great. Back exercising, functioning in the mornings, still battling the afternoon energy crash and a few other symptoms, but I was out of the severe category and into the manageable category…

Until we had some mishaps with medication side effects, and few nights of missed sleep and things unraveled fast. Turns out it takes time to come out of adrenal fatigue and stay out.

I got an email this week from a lady named Fawne Hansen. She’d walked a similar path to me and had written a book with one Dr. Eric Wood on how to get out of adrenal fatigue. Just when I needed it, it popped into my inbox! So I thought I’d pop a quick shout out to my fellow AF sufferers to say this one is worth checking out.

There are two books in the adrenal fatigue solution package. While the first one has a lot of technical information in it (that a foggy brain may take a few go’s at digesting), it also has this fabulous section at the end for what to do about adrenal fatigue. Then there was my favourite bit: the recipe book. If you get to the point where you can’t think through the foggy brain, there’s nothing better than having someone spell it out for you. This is what to do. This is what to eat. This is how to cook it (Winner for a terrible domestic failure like me!)

Anyway! I’m not a blog that advertises stuff. I’m certainly not a blog that does paid reviews, nor do I intend to become one. But there was such a strong response to my adrenal fatigue posts that I felt obligated to post this. Obviously there are a lot of people out there who, like me, battle this thing.

AF sucks. So its really nice to have someone spell out the solution for you. The research has already been done for you.

Happy recovery people! It can be done 🙂

 

Writing Tip: The Clunky Dialogue Fix

Afternoon!

Today has been one of those days. I sat down at my husbands desk instead of replugging the computer in at mine. That was mistake #1. Work spaces are important. I opted to power through catch-up work instead of my usual ritual of going out to do something in the morning and then working the afternoon and evening. That was mistake #2. I did the catch-up work, but it took me many more hours than it should have. Oh well. Distraction, you have been my master today. You shall not have tomorrow.

BUT! There is this one thing on my to-do list that I can check off: Writing a blog post on how to not write clunky dialogue. So here goes. (This isn’t going to be a long blog post. I’ve only got two points. Two good ones, but two points). Its a massive pet hate of mine when the dialogue in a book is clunky. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Fortunately, the fix is nice and easy.

1. Don’t over-use names. Next time you are with friends, have a listen to the way they talk to each-other. They don’t use each-others names all the time. If the conversation is one on one, they barely ever use names. It just isn’t a thing we do. We already know who we are talking to, so we don’t feel the need to address them all the time.

“Edward, blah blah blah blah.” “Yes, Jen Blah blah blah” “Well Edward blah blah blah.” It just doesn’t happen. It would sound very odd if it did! Hence, a wise writer is best to stay clear of name over-use.

2. Read your dialogue out loud. This is a nice little fail-safe to incorporate into your dialogue writing. It may sound weird, sitting at your desk talking to yourself and answering back (a sure sign of madness so I’m told. Apparently only the answering back is the problem), but it means you pick up on the unauthentic sounding dialogue as it happens. When you go through the edits, its not a bad idea to read out loud either. What sounds right when you are riding on the wind of inspiration may not sound right when you are sweeping in with your red pen/scalpel to rip your manuscript to shreds.

So those are my two dialogue tips. Enjoy!

Rebrand Step One – Check!

Thank you to all the supporters of Smile Click Write! I just wanted to pop you a quick line to let you know that I have now changed over to Clare McIvor (.com). My personal branding was all over the place with multiple blogs, author pages, business pages, blah blah blah. It was time to streamline, and I just couldn’t ignore the love I get from the WordPress Community.

The homepage of the website needs a bit of work. That will get all primped and preened in the next week or so, hence I’m not done yet.

I just wanted to acknowledge that, if you’ve seen a new name in your news-feed and wondered who it was, its me! Smile Click Write. Only my name is Clare McIvor. I’m an indie author specializing in young adult, supernatural fiction (for Christians or anyone who doesn’t like all the vampire, sex stuff!)

That’s me! Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll hang around as its the same sort of stuff I usually blog on (life, writing, photography, self publishing, marketing) just with a few book updates thrown in.

Looking forward to presenting you with some short fiction soon too! Yay!

Happy Friday people!

Over and out.

Clare

Offices and Writing Places

Morning!

I’m sitting in my husbands study, enjoying the clean desk in my favourite room of the house. Yes, I let him have my favourite room for his study when we converted from a 3 bedroom house to a 1 bedroom 2 study house. That’s love for you.

It’s my favourite room because my piano sits against a rich forest green wall, accompanied by my cello and this fab brass vase I found while antiquing. (I don’t go antiquing often. In fact, I’ve been once! But still…) On another wall sits a fabulous dark wood bookshelf that holds some of my favourite books.

But hubby gets to enjoy this study. Mine is the one with the plumb coloured (read: girly coloured) wall. Mine looks out into the front yard.

I never really appreciated the value of good office space until I started working from home. On about my third day doing it, the novelty of not having to listen to the chatter of colleagues wore off. By the end of the first week, the luxury of not having to keep ones desk clean to impress anyone was well and truly gone. I’ve realised I only concentrate well in a clean space. So (Pictured above) is what I gaze at while I’m daydreaming:

– A globe to tell me the world is a small place and a big place all at once. Whenever I get stuck in a mental rut, I stare at that and realise my problems or hang-ups aren’t that big.

– A box brownie camera that has been made into a clock. This one reminds me of two things: 1 – that I need to make time to do what I love, as well as what I’m obsessed with. Photography is the former. It energises me and focuses me on pretty things instead of mentally exhausting things. Writing is the latter. It is what I feel I was born to do. But if I only focus on this, it wears me out. Hence the need to take a break and shoot pretty things with the camera. 2 – that there is always time for reinvention. No matter how unusual the change. I don’t feel the need to reinvent yet. But when I do, that box brownie thats now a clock will remind me I can do it.

– A painting. This one was done by my mother-in-law and gifted to hubby and me as a wedding present. I love it. Not only does it match the wall, but its got a bit of the outdoors on it. A bit of God’s sweet creation. So that kinda tunes me into a greater purpose.

So thats my office space! I think the real point of this blog post was to share a bit about what motivates me and reminds me to stay on purpose. Ahhh its the simple things in life.

Hope you have a fab day!

Cheers
C

P.S. Thanks for your patience with my site reinvention. Its a pain but I’m getting there! Web design ain’t my thing and hubby is super busy doing his thing on other peoples websites. It’s like the cobblers son with no shoes! The builder with an unfinished house! But it will get there…soon!