Tag Archives: toni jordan

Say it isn’t so :(

I’m a little bit in mourning, yesterday was the last day of my Refine Your Novel course. I am going to miss it so much, I enjoy looking forward to it and I enjoy the work while I’m there and I love the motivation in the days after it.

I’m also going to miss the tutor. I did this course with Toni Jordan 3 years ago so this is my second go around with her and she was just fantastic. This last day is possibly my favourite. In my favourite exercise she gives us an early draft of her debut novel, but a version very close to what she sent to her publishers, and then a photocopy of the printed book and she gets us to mark up the changes, of which there are many. This is incredibly brave of Toni and so helpful to us writers. It’s all well and good hearing about the things you need to do to a manuscript to whip it into shape, it’s another matter entirely to see and create a real life example.

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That’s a lot of green pen!

While we work on this, Toni takes a sample of our manuscript and line edits it for us. Most of us provide our first 1500 words, 3 years ago she marked up the first page for me (of a different manuscript) this time she marked up three pages. It’s such a fantastic opportunity, to see where it is you need to concentrate, where you’re going right and where you’re missing the mark.

20150726_152903And in a bit of a fan girl moment I got my copy of her first novel signed.

There’s much to be done, so much…

Little update

Maxine Beneba Clarke (Foreign Soil) and Emily Bitto (The Strays)

Maxine Beneba Clarke (Foreign Soil) and Emily Bitto (The Strays)

So I saw these two fantastic authors recently at an even put on by my local library. It was a brilliant talk that I’ll review shortly (as I’ve left my notebook elsewhere!). But I will encourage you to go out and purchase or go online and purchase both their books – Emily Bitto The Strays I selected as the next book club read when I host, and Maxine Beneba Clarke’s short story collection Foreign Soil I have just started.

I have my last instalment of the Refine Your Novel course this weekend. I am going to miss it terribly, there’s nothing like attending a course to motivate you in the days immediately before and after it! I am only at about 13,500 words into my rewrite, but hitting places where I can use almost entire paragraphs from my first draft, so that is nice. This is the class where Toni Jordan takes our first few pages (or whatever else you have elected to bring) and line edits it for you – humbling.

And a wee note on technology. I am working out of my usual library haunt today and have a bit of a crazy set up. My lovely littel red netbook is on its last legs and works terribly slowly, it moves into glacial when connected to the library wifi, so I also brought along my flash work MacBook that is only about 2 months old. The sleek Mac I keep for work use, not my personal stuff, but I keep it open for a quick web search, check of email and also to answer the odd work email (gotta quit doing that on writing days!). Then I realised I had some photos on my phone I needed for something so I opened that up to email them across. And my Koko ereader is on charge.

I look pretty ridiculous, I’d find me annoying! Gonna close the Mac, the ereader’s probably charged enough to put back in my bag.

Ah, that’s better 🙂

Getting closer, I think

This redrafting process is throwing up unexpected challenges that are taking me time to work my way toward a solution.

Challenge 1 – While others in the Refine Your Novel class seem able to fix portions, add scenes, ramp up tension in existing scenes and shuffle stuff around, my redrafting means starting from scratch. Writing the entire manuscript over. This didn’t take me too long to figure out, a couple of hours tops. Trying to fix an existing opening chapter is tough, writing a new one the way it should be written – hard but in a different way, slaughtered darlings and all that.

Challenge 2 – Rewriting is massive. The task befor me seems so huge, I keep finding other things to do than to get the job done. This is a biggie and something I’m still figuring out. I think I took decent step today towards dealing with this one. I have been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast on my way to work (as well as The Moth and Dear Sugar Radio – get into those,  they are awesome!) and a couple of phrases really rang true for me today.

Remember the fun – it’s not a chore, remember how fun it was to write the first time, it can be that fun again. Sounds obvious, but I’d been approaching the rewrite (because that is my means of redraft) as something I have to do, rather than something I want to do.

And quit looking at the end product, the task look huge from up here, but get up close and start telling the story. Start with chapter 1. I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the enormity of writing this novel all over again, it’s a huge thing to write a manuscript. But I need to stop looking at the end point. Like eating an elephant – one bite at a time.

I emailed my tutor and said that the chapter and a half I’d rewritten felt like filler until the story starts, that maybe I needed to start with chapter 2. I figured that the act of asking this question also answered it, go with your instincts, start with chapter 2. So I started another rewrite, wrote 120 words and stalled (this was yesterday). Tonight I went back and reread the first rewrite, 3700 words. And you know what? It’s good. I really like it. I think the doubts were another manifestation of procrastination, of not doing the work.

So, I’m renewed, refocussed. 3,700 words down, about 70,000 to go. One bite at a time.

Quite the literary weekend

What a buzz of a weekend it has been! I hosted book club at my place on Friday night, it extended into the wee hours and was such a fun night. I then had to get up and shake the hangover from my head and head into the city to attend day one of my Refine Your Novel class with the incredibly fabulous Toni Jordan.

So I am writing a book review post and also a course update and what’s next in my manuscript post, but for today I just wanted to link to this article Neil Gaiman wrote about Terry Pratchett last year, he knew his friend was going to die, but he pulled no punches about the true nature of the man the literary world lost this weekend. Over to you Neil…

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Beautifying the beast

Excited!A Happy New Year present to me! I’m am so excited, I have booked in to take part in this fantastic course at Writers Victoria and I am bursting to get started!

Those long suffering of you will perhaps remember Iong, long ago I attended a First Draft Post Mortem series at Writers Victoria, run by the fantastic Toni Jordan (I wrote about it here). I LOVED it, and yet didn’t take full advantage of it as I hadn’t completed the manuscript I was workshopping. When I finished my Nanowrimo project in November I looked around and found Toni was once again running a series in 2015 – Refine Your Novel.

And I had this…well I want to say shiny new manuscript, but I have this grotty, misshapen beast of a manuscript that is just waiting for a blowtorch and some plastic surgery.

It was meant to be. Yippee!

 

My darlings are strangling my sweethearts

So in my fabulous writing course I’ve found some of the participants have provided a couple of aha moments. One in particular had me nodding sagely in agreement, how wise I thought, how insightful. Right up until two hours later when I found myself in the same situation and I was far less understanding.

One of the other writers was relaying how she had followed some of the plotting and structure advice we’d received in the previous class and as a result had been forced to get rid of some of the writing she was most proud. We know what that’s called don’t we fellow frustrated writers, yes, she’d had to kill some of her darlings. However, she assured us that it turns out she wasn’t killing her darlings, it was her darlings that were strangling her sweethearts.

Ah, yes, sage nods, wise, knowing acknowledgment.

Later in the class we did a writing exercise. And strike me if it wasn’t a good one, it worked really well for me, unfortunately it probably means I’m about to lose the first 10 pages of my manuscript. Ah crap. There’s some seriously good stuff in those pages. Aww man.

Those darlings, can I really kill them off, are they really strangling my sweethearts?

That’s 10 pages people, 10 pages single spaced, 11 point. Just shy of 5,000 words. Sure some of it I can rework a bit and reposition but I may lose some great lines, like

I steel my shoulders and my nerves, remind myself that I love my mother, and weave my way through the tables, catching the eye of the sommelier as I go.

And

Let’s face it, my participation in this conversation is not really required, or perhaps even desired.

and

When I tumble into bed at night, exhausted at the effort of yet another day not writing, there it is blink, blink, blink.

I’ll live, I’m sure, even if some of, even a lot of, my early pages don’t.

I am in love with…

Toni Jordan.

and my most recent favourite bit of advice, forget about the editing…for now.

I am currently taking part in her First Draft Post Mortem course with Writers Victoria and think it is just brilliant. It’s a four week course where we dissect our manuscripts and reassemble them (taking the postmortem metaphor way too far, we are becoming Mary Shelleys I guess, although hopefully creating something far less monstrous 🙂 )

I missed the first installment of this class when the family and I were jaunting about in New Zealand, I had considered flying back early to attend the class but the cost was just crazy. After attending the second class, I kinda wish I had.

One of the things Toni spoke about that stuck quite firmly in my mind is not to consider the editing process at all when writing your first draft. The first draft should be the draft of your heart, the one that you love/have to write. Don’t think about story arcs, about character development, about internal, interpersonal and physical conflict, about three or five acts, about the creation and resolution of tension. Just write the damn thing. If you spend your time rereading and editing and being concerned about producing the perfect saleable or publishable manuscript while you are creating it, you run the risk of removing all your freshness and creativity.

It was such a nice thing to realise, to release myself from the pressure of editing until the story is written.

the draft of your heart

The frightening thing I next realised ws how vastly different my finished manuscript will ultimately be to my first draft. It’s incredible to think I will practically rewrite this entire thing! Holy moly!

Another little snippet I found reassurring was when I highlighted the fact that as my story evolved the voices of the two narrators have become more and more similar and I suspected I would need to rewrite narrator 2 in close third person. Toni revealed that she writes first in first person and then rewrites into third person, that way she finds she understands the character better. The rewrite will be a big job, but I now feel approaching it from this perspective, that it doesn’t need to be polished just yet, it has freed me up to finish writing the draft, continue in first person but not worry about the distinctiveness of the voices quite so much.

But woah nelly is there some work ahead of me!

On the bright side it is just one week to my self designed mini writers retreat. Ok the writer isn’t mini, the retreat is, but you know what I mean 🙂

Any suggestions on how to structure my weekend? I intend to greatly increase my manuscript’s word count, but think I also need to have a few other writing exercises – maybe some flash fiction (perhaps something from the previous challenges set by the brilliant Chuck Wendig), maybe a little rewrite of the first person 2nd narrator into a third person – open to suggestions.