Revisiting ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ as a I prepare for a relaunch, I have been considering the balance between historical terms and the comfort of readers. The format for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ is Jack Hobbs as narrator writing in the early 20th century of his adventures as servant-companion to Emily Darkwood in the last quarter of the Victorian era. I had always intended it to read as though it had been written of its time, but mindful that as Darkwood was not a woman of her time in outlook and attitude Hobbs would have been similarly influenced.
To get the historical feel for the world Darkwood and Hobbs are in, I mined old expressions, ways of talking, word structures, and terms of the time. Reading through my old works I have come to decide against this to try an improve the appeal. I have also found myself uncomfortable with my few uses of outdated labels for race, and the editor of a current project highlighted a character’s derogatory reference to race and its associated religion. In light of everything that’s going on in the world at the moment around gender, sex, sexuality and race with the associated prejudice, oppression and discrimination these labels feel even more discomfiting.
I have been reading a lot about writing. ‘Save the Cat’ has stayed with me as a good approach to plot structure. ‘Anatomy of Story’, not so much. I have really enjoyed ‘On Editing’ though. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, as it largely revisited plotting and I thought it was going to cover things like sentence structure and grammar, but I found it helpful in unexpected ways. I finally have have more insight on ‘cutting’–trimming the story back to only what is essential. This has really made advice from editors and my husband of a beta-reader sink in–maybe 20 years too late. And I now have a grasp on ‘show not tell’. This has made me want to revisit everything I’ve written and to take a knife to it… That’s not necessarily a bad thing though–I want to make my work as good as it can be for readers. So, lots of writing lessons this month.
Editing is writing’. It’s my new mantra to get me through what is likely to be a year of editing with no actual writing. This is a consequence of my plan to write write write, and get a bunch of projects done so I would gain some distance from earlier projects to help me with the blindness I have through being so close to my writing. That plan’s not looking so hot now. But, after a long break from the whole writing process, I am reminded of how important the editing process is.
I had a recommendation of an editor, and we are now working on ‘The Darkwood Mysteries (9): The Rat King’ together. I read through it a bunch and sent my manuscript off… and it’s come back with edits on nearly every line. So that was… humbling lol. Cue: Writerly Angst. Ranging from ‘wow–I’m really sh*t at this’ to ‘Okay, I have a lot to learn’.
The pandemic has been a bit or a revelation to me. I think I’ve secretly wanted to live the life of a shut-in for a long time. Don’t get me wrong I like people and I like socialising. Okay, scrap that, I like some people and being around them. I like the outside world. But I like all those things in small doses. I find them tiring otherwise. The peace and quiet, the reduction in people, the order of shops, it’s really minimised life’s frustrations for me and a lot of self-directed pressures have been lifted. I’m working from home–which I’ve wanted to do for a long time as our office is so hot, busy and stressful. I don’t have the travel time to work, so I get a bit more time out of my day, and I don’t need to worry about balancing my time with family and friends–as we can’t see each other. Although, don’t get me wrong, I am missing not being able to do stuff with my family. I’ve also had a lot more time for hobbies. Lots of editing has been done, but I’ve also been catching up on films I have earmarked and been buying and not getting time to see. And I have started a new project…
After my last post despairing about having written 11 projects and the cost of editing all of these, I was recommended an editor who turned out to be reasonably priced. So it’s not all doom and gloom after all. I haven’t booked anything in yet, but due to submit a project for her to work on in May, and I have another project ready for her if she can fit that in too. Considering the cost of this it should be manageable over the next year to get all of them done. That’s if she doesn’t get sick of Darkwood in that time. Strangely, the pandemic has kind of helped out my finances to, as it put a stop to all the home improvements we were going to do–plus it’s hard to spend much in this situation!
A purchase I got in just before the UK went into lock down was a couple of books on writing. ‘Saves the Cat Writes a Novel’ and ‘Anatomy of Story’. Both had a lot of positive reviews and I’ve seen recommended. ‘Saves the Cat’ interested me–not because it mentions ‘cat’–as it has a 15 point ‘beat sheet’ for writing a good novel. I really enjoyed the 7 point writing plan and used that with the majority of my last run of stories within ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’.
So. We’re all in a bit of a pickle, aren’t we? I don’t know about you, but currently we are social distancing due to corona virus, and being one of the fortunate ones, I am able to do the majority of my job working from home. Life is indoors with occasional ‘end of the world’ runs for supplies. I actually had a head start on this as I developed a dry cough out of no where and had to self-isolate about a week before the UK went into lock down–I felt a 100% fine aside from the annoying cough and a bit of wheeziness and a burning sensation in my chest at times. I was in a bit of denial about it as I felt so well, but thought ‘what do I know?’ as these were the symptoms the government were telling us to self-isolate over, so I did as I was told. I was kicking myself though, as I had spent a couple of weeks nagging my mum to take the situation seriously as she is a high risk of complications from corona virus due to her age and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), and I saw her the very day before I got symptoms. I was worried I had given it to her. Thankfully, she didn’t get ill. Of course, I don’t even know if I actually had it.
Seeing this pandemic unfold has obviously been awful, but as an observer of people for writing characters–wow. I mean… just wow. Continue reading