Friday, 17 October 2008


My private resolution to post on a more regular basis is staggering a bit. Already.



At once.

So here's one I made earlier, posted on someone else's blog (waves at Alison).

I try to keep my inner editor gagged and tied to a chair in a different room; work right through a first draft. Well, that's the theory. The guy is a regular Houdini, turns up out of nowhere and starts pointing things out. Scares the hell out of me.

Revision. These have worked for me:
1. When you've finished, give it a few weeks before you back to it. Let your head settle. Go get some fresh air. Your subconscious mind will still be working on it.
2. A recent tip from a friend which did wonders. Set the text up on and print yourself a private copy. Reading it as a book (rather than on screen or in manuscript form) is great for the ego and it helps you see things you might otherwise miss.
3. Read the whole thing as if it was a book, just to get the feel of the shape of the whole story. Make notes on major issues, but don't get into detail.
4. Get into detail. Correct typos, eliminate repetition, watch out for words and phrases you use a lot (paste the text in here: and it will give you a word use frequency chart, compare the results with a list of the hundred most frequently used words, cut those from the list and see whether you use particular words a lot).
5. While you are doing the above, you will start to see if there are structural problems (which you may also have noted in 3). Note these down but don't try to fix.
6. When you have finished the superficial corrections, look at structure and make any changes you think are necessary.
7. Do step 3 again.
8. Really get into detail. Start with the assumption you can make your work leaner, fitter, and sharper. Go through sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph making sure every word and punctuation mark is pulling its weight. If it isn't necessary, cut it.
9. Read it out loud. You'll find awkward cadences that screw the rhythm. You'll hear repetition that the eye hasn't seen. Fix these as you go.
10. Put it away for a couple of weeks. Catch up with the real world.
11. Read it through. Fix minor glitches (but resist the temptation to overdo it). Print up. Start sending it to agents/publishers.
12. Prepare your Nobel acceptance speech.

Disregard any or all of the above. It's what works for me. You will find ways that better suit your approach to your work.


Papoosue said...

I found that all very fascinating and very useful, Graeme. And some interesting sites for me to investigate whilst avoiding other things. Thanks!

Vague said...

Real world - wassat, then? :-)

Lane said...

Great post Graeme. Very useful. I like the idea of a private copy to see how the pages scan in a 'real' layout.

So have you prepared your speech yet?:-)

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Thanks for the link to the word count thingy, I'll be running my WIP through that. I'm with you on a lot of this but particularly number 9, it's amazing what you spot from reading aloud that you can't detect with the naked eye.

Graeme K Talboys said...

papoosue: Glad you liked. Not sure if adding to your list of distractions is a good thing or bad thing.

vague: Real world. Er... I refer you to the drawing Father Ted made for Father Dougal, hoppy bunnies and all.

lane: I sent a copy to a friend who normally reads my stuff and she loved having a book to hold (rather than 500 pages of manuscript). And it really does feel as if you have achieved something. The speech is all prepared for the Fred Nobel, door knocker prize.

zinnia: The word count thingy is amazing. Apart from being really quick, it provides a fascinating insight into your writing. I was amazed at how little I used some words.

Pom said...

Useful tips and links. Now if only everything I wrote didn't read like crap. I'd feel guilty wasting the paper printing it off.

Love your book 'Way of the Druid' and wanted to pop in to say thank you for writing a thoroughly readable book that demands responsibility without frivolity.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Hey, Pom.

Many thanks for the kind words. I'll wander over your way later and have a look.

ChrisH said...

Good tips, Graeme. I'm quite an impatient person and I know you're right about letting it rest for a while so I'll try to take your advice and not peek too soon.

I was alarmed by your comment on the third level CW course as I was also thinking of going on to that next year if A 215 works out. Sorry to hear that you're disappointed in it - I watch with interest to see if you feel it picks up at all.

Pom said...

Wow, Graeme, wish I'd have known you were going to pop over to my blog - I'd have tidied up. I'm a bit embarrassed!

Take care and be well.

Graeme K Talboys said...

chrish: I have real trouble staying away from a manuscript for any length of time. Two weeks seems and endless amount of time, but it does give your brain a rest if nothing else.

As for the course. It may just be me. A lot of people are enjoying it. It might be worth you taking a peek at the course book once it is published next year.

pom: Ooh. No. Don't tidy on my account.