October 6, 2017 @ 10:03 PM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer
Step seven (continued) Ninety-five percent

As a general rule, I try to give my editors ninety-five per cent of what they ask for when it comes to changing my manuscripts.

This is not necessarily because I think they're right most of the time … although often they are, and there are many ways to express a thought correctly in the English language. That’s what makes our mother tongue so generous and flexible a tool for the writer of books.

No. The principal reason behind my ninety-five per cent practice is to keep my editors happy in order to protect the five per cent that I really wish to retain.

It’s a political ploy, if you like. A trade off.

If one is to .........


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September 30, 2017 @ 4:35 AM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer

Step 7 (continued): Taking time…

As with everything, I find it’s much better calmly to absorb what is being said by the editor about one’s precious manuscript, and to consider the point carefully from every point of view.

Always look up the reference to confirm the answer to any query that’s been raised on a factual matter. You've done the research and mostly you’ll be correct - but sometimes not, and then you'll be thanking your editor for providing another form of safety net.

Above all, take your time before deciding whether to accept or reject what is being proposed. Even in today’s world of faster turnarounds, you’ll usually have a few .........

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September 30, 2017 @ 4:32 AM

Seven Sensible Steps to success as a writer
Step 7 (cont): Your editor suggests…


It’s not only novice writers who sometimes find the business of pulling the sacred text apart on the editorial desk a somewhat trying experience.

Even those of us who have several books under our belts can still jib and argue when a manuscript comes back with various passages marked in blue pencil for amendment, or questions raised as to meaning or factual content.

‘Surely anyone with half a brain can see that what I intended to say was … Of course that’s correct … I think … Oh, I see … sorry…’

It’s always best, I find, to read an edited manuscript once through .........


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September 15, 2017 @ 11:36 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 7. Learn to love your editor

The process of self-criticism and constant revision that is the author’s stock-in-trade with each draft of a book, is similar on a smaller scale to what’s required when you come to the serious business of working with a professional editor.

It may by an independent editor you engage on a personal basis - or, more usually in my experience, it’s an in-house editor employed by your publisher. Either way, the judgement, clarity and professional detachment demanded of the author is taken to a whole new level.

And here let me say to every new author, that editors are not just necessary evils, as certain lawyers and politicians may .........


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September 9, 2017 @ 7:23 AM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success As an Author
Step 6 (continued). The wonderful wells…

A work in progress never leaves you, of course; but taking a little holiday from the desk does allow the waters to flow again into the wonderful wells of the human imagination.

It never ceases to astonish me that, just when I think I must have exhausted every idea and image in my brain, I’ll return to the source after a little while and find it brimming again with new words and possibilities.

It’s the font of all our dreams … and while life persists will always replenish itself.

So that when you return to your book, it is as one refreshed in mind and spirit. You look at the pages with new eyes, and the approach is .........


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September 1, 2017 @ 7:33 AM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success As an Author
Step 6 (continued): Taking a break

The second draft usually takes me three or four months to complete. But before getting down to it, I generally take a break of at least several weeks from the work.

Indeed, I will often do so at the mid-way point of a long and time-consuming book.

Like a baker’s loaf, I put the typescript aside and cover it over – to give the yeast time to prove itself, and see if it will rise...

Put it in the oven to cook for a while, if I may extend the metaphor, and discover if the bread tastes as well when I come back to it in the morning.

For me, this short break gives the mind time to rest – to smell the roses, as they say – and to review the book at some leisure without the urgency of the original creative impetus.

It's extraordinary how very worthwhile it can be.


Next: the wonderful wells…



Bread in oven, by Jean-Bernard Vuille. Wikimedia Commons.

Rosa Gold Glow, by Stan Shebs. Wikimedia Commons

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August 25, 2017 @ 11:46 AM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer
Step 6 (continued): How many drafts?

With the first and second drafts of the book completed, the question arises: How many drafts should one do?

Like most things involving the creative arts, there is no fixed rule about the matter. It depends entirely on the individual writer and the success - or otherwise - of each particular draft.

Some writers can do up to ten drafts before they’re satisfied. Even then, it is sad but true to realise that nothing is ever as sublime as it seemed in that first glow of inspiration. When the Muse spoke.

For myself, I usually do three drafts of a book on the computer before I send it to the publisher to read, after which it’s sometimes .........


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August 19, 2017 @ 5:58 AM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer
Step 6 (continued) A complete rewrite…?

Sometimes it’s necessary to rewrite the book from the beginning.

I believe the Australian author Patrick White, a Nobel Laureate, usually wrote out his novels three times: the original by hand, the second and third drafts on the typewriter.

Only after the third full draft would he give it to his companion to read.

It’s certainly true that a complete rewrite concentrates the mind of the author utterly on the material: reducing it to the essentials and helping to ensure the imaginative vision remains more consistent throughout.

But to be honest, in this digital age the computer makes it so much easier than the typewriter.........


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August 11, 2017 @ 10:23 PM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success As a Writer
Step 6 (continued): The second draft

With the first draft of the book completed, you can view the work as a whole. The high points and the low become more apparent, like looking at a model map of the terrain you’ve just traversed with such labour.

The strengths and weaknesses of the work become clearer. The balance between the characters, the development of plot, any redundancies of dialogue, action and metaphor not picked up when editing the first draft, all come to the fore.

It’s time to think about the second draft of your book. Time to cut back quite heavily where it seems overdone, or to add new material to fill perceived gaps in the tale. Time to see golden words .........


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August 4, 2017 @ 11:49 AM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer

Step 6 (continued): Life in death…


I can give a good example from experience of the value in talking a manuscript through with somebody you trust – and also of the significance of dialogue that has meaning and carries the story forward.

When I was writing Soldier Boy, we had trouble getting the opening pages right. I knew I wanted to use a circular structure. It’s a very powerful one: beginning at the end, with 14-year-old James Martin dying on board a hospital ship off Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, in 1915.

But somehow it wasn’t working. I kept being led into all kinds of irrelevant diversions, and the tale going off at a tangent. Telling the reader, for example, .........

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