Big Smoke Writing Factory: student blog

Big Smoke students blogging! The Big Smoke Writing Factory provides creative writing courses and workshops at 7 Lower Hatch St, Dublin 2. Existing students: if you'd like access to the blog, drop us an email at, or ask your facilitator.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Reader anxiety

Hello from (thankfully) not rainy Edinburgh! (If you ever want to take a writing holiday for a few days, I definitely recommend Edinburgh--nice places to eat and lots of parks to walk around in while teasing out plot points in your head.) I'm in the middle of running around packing (has my carry on suitcase shrunk? I fitted all this in going over!), but I figured I would write a blog post before heading home.

So my biggest news is that the third draft of the werewolves has now been edited to an inch of its life and my current capabilities. In less pompous terms, I may have stuck the DO NOT DISTURB sign outside my hotel door and spent six hours going through the last of my editing lists. I had three: 'long term', 'short term', and 'arc'. For long term, I had bullet points like 'make sure Z says this because it becomes important six chapters later'; for short term: 'make sure S gets upset during Scene X as her reaction wasn't believable last time'; for arc: 'V reacts differently to scene at end vs scene in Chapter 2 as by now she's been hit by the Empathy stick a couple of times'. (I feel editing lists must have a lot of pathetic humour. It makes it all a little more bearable.)

This is awesome, you would think! A month of going through each chapter, cutting and rewriting and moving things around (I didn't have to do a lot of that last, thankfully, as most of the scene moving happened during Draft Three itself), and now I'm done! Off to readers, and they'll say it's fabulous, right?


I can't quite bring myself to email it to my readers yet. Part of it, I think, is being unable to wrap my head around actually being done for now. I started Draft Three back in late August (I think, somewhere in late summer anyway) and I can honestly say I've spent a lot of time on it. More hours than I care to think about, split between work and sleeping and attempting to have a social life. My brain keeps thinking there must be one more thing I've forgotten to fix, one more subplot I forgot about halfway through. A few of these readers have been there since I mentioned back in May 2008, "Hey, I was thinking about writing this book, and it has lesbian werewolves in it, and would anyone be up for reading when it's done?" (Yeah, didn't think it would be almost two years later. If I'd known, would I have run screaming? Who knows.)

By Draft Three, the book should be good. It should make people want to read more. What if I can't rewrite properly? What if after two years the book still sucks, and I haven't realised yet. What if everyone hates it, which will be horrible as they've followed my writing updates for years, and they will feel cheated and let down and they will never read anything by me again.

Yes, I do know most of the above is irrational to the nth degree. If some of them don't like it, well, nothing I can do if it's down to personal taste. Not everyone likes every book in the world, and a writer could go mad trying to create such a thing. I've worked on most of these drafts with input from maybe three people at most (good input, I shall add!). Even when they've suggested changes, I've been the one who's sat down, stared at the screen, and thought, "Okay, how do I make this better?" To put it simply: it's been two years, and I am way too close to this ridiculous pile of words to have any objective view. Which is why I'm giving it to people to read so they can tell me I have to stand back, get some distance, and look again.

They're not expecting a perfect draft (I hope). They're expecting a reasonably polished one, which I hope it is. I'm sure they'll have feedback and criticism, which will make it better so an agent won't reject it out of hand. I really hope they'll like reading it. I could easily do another month of fiddling (let's be honest: the book could be on a shelf in a bookstore, and I could pick it up and zone in on something I would change.) But until I press send on that email with the attachment, I won't know, and it'll only be my own perfectionist anxieties running around in my head. Not common sense and a healthy dose of detachment.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

The Joy of Colour.

I've decided my week now goes from Wednesday to Wednesday as its the easiest way to measure the shortfall between what I told myself I'd do with a week vs what I achieved. This week I managed 1 and a bit of my promises to myself. So not a great week but one of those one's were random stuff cropped up and got in the way.

I did manage to dust the bookcase and colour code my books after the painters left. None of that genre/alphabetizing stuff for me. Your bookcase is a work of art more personal than most. All those lovely pages are encased in lovely colours. Let your eye run over them and calm the mind. I can't quite fit it all in the picture and discovered I've added about 2 shelf worths since I last did a reshuffle so due to space restrictions I had to double shelve some of them. Its hard to choose who has to live in the dark.For the eagle eyed of you the bottom shelf is hardback art and anthropology books that are too heavy for the upper shelves so the easiest solution was to have a mini light to dark row.

On a side note I finished reading Meg Rosoff's Just In Case this afternoon. I put the book down, turned on the telly and at that precise moment Judge Judy was handing down a judgement to a man named, wait for it, Justin Case. There was nearly a tea disaster. Managed to escape chuckle induced burns and a trip to A+E so all's well.