No actual writing this week, as I was mostly away on a group gaming holiday and decided to take a break. I could have done some over the weekend, when I was free and at home, but I had a three-day headache and not enough sleep, so I gave myself a pass and mostly just watched TV.
However, this episode is not entirely empty, as other people were working on writing projects on my behalf, and I received several communications from them that were of interest.
I received the editorial notes on the first chapter of my novel, which was the culmination of the Six Month Novel Programme. They were largely positive, praising the pacing and characterisation and expressing enthusiasm for the story as a whole. The main negative was that I over-explain and do too much world-building at the start, with the advice that I pull back and trust the reader more to figure things out for themselves. This is a common criticism of my novel (weirdly, I encounter the opposite problem with my short fiction, where readers often want more information than I’m prepared to give), and may not be a particularly easy fix. However, the editor is keen to work more with me on the full manuscript, and I’m certainly going to take her up on that.
I received my Reading Retreat prescription from Cressi, which contained some interesting choices:
Non-fiction books about the craft of writing (which I specifically requested):
ON WRITING by Stephen King - already on my reading shelf
BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott - something that has been recommended to me before but that I’ve never got round to acquiring
Fiction (for good examples of world-building and ‘showing not telling’):
HOW TO STOP TIME by Matt Haig - already on my Amazon wish list
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey - something that intrigued me earlier in the year when the film came out
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Seth Grahame-Smith - apparently just because I was re-reading P&P at the time I spoke to Cressi and she though I might find it fun
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS by John Boyne - I didn’t like the film, but it would be interesting to read the book as it is about a child, but not really a children’s book
THE EMPIRE OF THE SUN by J.G. Ballard - I loved the film, and would be really interested to read the book, especially considering it is largely autobiographical
I cannot express just how much I am looking forward to the reading retreat weekend - it will be book-ended by reasonably lengthy train journeys, which will be perfect for doing some writing, as I intend to keep to the spirit of the weekend and only read while I’m there. I have a feeling it’s going to be glorious.
Over the summer, I took the opportunity to take part in the Master’s Review workshop, whereby I submitted a short story for feedback from a professional editor, and the comments back today. The editor said he would usually provide a manuscript, marked up with in-line changes, but felt this was unnecessary for my story as the prose was already very clean and well-written. He praised both the idea and the execution, but said it could do with being developed more, and lengthened to perhaps twice its current word count. He gave some ideas of things to think about in the expansion and suggested appropriate places to submit it once the revisions are done.
As with the editorial comments on the novel, it was lovely to receive such positive feedback from a professional editor, and it has given me something to work with on a story I have faith in but wanted some guidance on improving. But, given how little constructive criticism I actually received, I do wonder if it was worth what I paid for it...
I helped Bear put together his first post about the group gaming holiday, which was fun, as always.
Back to real life next week - the day job looms on Tuesday, but I will also be able to get back into my usual routine of writing time, so it will hopefully be a more productive week.