If you’re a long time reader of How To Do Everything and Be Happy this might seem oddly familiar. And so it should. The original book jacket for ‘Happy’ was very similar – different colours, different silhouette, but the same basic layout and iconic star burst background. It proved a popular cover, but when Della and I came to think about this book there was another very good reason why it was time to dust off the old design and give it a new lease of life.
Just like it’s predecessor, throughout the new book you’ll come across various ‘Action Points’. The idea is that you stop, address the action, and then continue. But where ‘Slim’ differs is that each of the Action Points has a ‘star rating’.
You earn one star just for buying the book (did you spot that line of blue text along the bottom?), and with every additional star you acquire you will steadily increase your chances of being able to eat loads AND stay slim. Collect enough stars (thirty or more would be a good target to have) and Della and I personally guarantee that a slim figure, coupled with a healthy but satiated appetite, are yours for the taking. And all you have to do to earn a star is complete an action point.
Back to the cover though. Della and I can’t really take any credit for what you see before you. Both covers were designed by my good friend Ellen – who having taken our suggestions into consideration, ignored them completely and blew our socks off with the colourful creation you see today.
Ellen is an extremely talented young woman. Together with her business partner and fellow wordsmith Dan (hello Dan), they work for an advertising agency that’s going places. As well as the rather funky clothing company extragged.com
To finish up I thought I’d share with you the following video that Ellen helped create for Sir Paul McCartney (to be played behind him and the band during the American leg of his world tour)! It basically involved locking Ellen in a room for two weeks with a huge blackboard and getting her to draw whatever came to mind to the song Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, with occasional input on the phone from Sir Paul himself. The result is pretty stunning. Like I said, talented young woman.
If you’re reading this in your email or you can’t see the video – click here
Author Della Galton explains why she’s drawn to write about controversial subjects, and shares the motivation behind her latest novel ‘Ice and a Slice’
I’ve often wondered how we choose what we write. Do we choose to write short stories or novels because we love them, or do we just drift into the form? And what about the subject matter? Why do we choose that?
The first short story I ever had published was called Second Chance, and it was published in a teenage confession magazine called Loving (I wish that magazine was still around, it was excellent).
Second Chance was set in a doctor’s surgery, and it was all about a teenager who was planning to have a termination – blimey, I don’t think I’d sell that story now – it’s quite a controversial issue, even today. But then I’ve always liked writing about controversial issues. I don’t have a copy of Second Chance any more but I can remember the last line, which went something like this:
Throughout her life she would give her baby many second chances, but none of them would be as important as the one she was giving him now…
The first novel I ever wrote was called Prisoners. It was about a woman who works in a pet shop and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (her married boss). There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.
If this sounds like an immense muddle, then that’s because it was. I’d had four or five short stories published when I wrote Prisoners. I thought writing a novel was simply a matter of writing 70,000 words.
Moving swiftly on, my first published novel, Passing Shadows, was about a woman who works in an animal sanctuary and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (the father of her best friend’s child.) There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? So why did this novel work and Prisoners not work? Well, partly because I knew a bit more about what I was doing. I was passionate about the main characters, Maggie and Finn. Also, this novel had some strong themes, friendship and betrayal being two of them.
My latest novel, Ice and a Slice, also has some strong themes. It’s about friendship, beating the odds, and love.
It’s also about alcoholism, which is a theme I’ve explored in short stories too, but I wanted to take it further and the only way to do this was to write a novel.
The main character in Ice and a Slice, is called SJ, and she drinks too much – although she would argue until she was blue in the face about that! And if you don’t believe me, then do check out her Facebook page here or her Twitter account here, where she is surprisingly active!
So, why did I write about alcoholism? Well, as I said earlier I’m big on issues. I like writing about things that matter, and alcoholism is a subject very close to my heart. Many of my family suffer from it. Some of them are in recovery and some of them are not. And some have died needless premature deaths.
An alcoholic is not someone, as I once thought, who drinks meths on a park bench. Alcoholism is not a moral issue for weak minded people – it’s a disease that can affect anyone – it can strike doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, vicars, secretaries, taxi drivers, anyone. It’s a disease of our time.
So, yes I feel passionate about alcoholism and that’s why I wrote Ice and a Slice. SJ – or Sarah-Jane Crosse to give her full name – is deeply flawed, but I love her to bits. I think she’s probably the most three dimensional character I’ve ever created. Hence, she has her own social media pages. Do check them out.
You’ll have more luck getting a sensible answer from her when she’s sober – so mornings are good!
Della Galton is a freelance writer and tutor. She is best known for her short stories, and sells in the region of 80 short stories a year to magazines both in the UK and abroad. She is a popular speaker at writing conventions around the UK and is also the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum. Her third full length novel ‘Ice and a Slice’ is currently available for all kindle enabled smart phones and e-readers from amazon (.co.uk | .com) and will be available in paperback shortly.
A few days ago I met up with the very fabulous Michelle Ward, singer and presenter on Phoenix FM, as well as writer, journalist and fellow author Sylvia Kent. We talked in general about books, book titles, as well as How To Do Everything and Be Happy, How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim, and How To Start Dating and Stop Waiting. The conversation span off into dating disaster stories where, perhaps fortunately, we eventually ran out of time.
I’ve just finished writing the first draft of How To Survive Online Dating.
Some explanation is needed.
When I say ‘first draft’, I mean the version of the manuscript that came into being, whilst I sat here, bashing away at the keyboard, with one eye on my outline. I can tell you now that it’s the very best thing I’ve ever written, and that there’s probably only a couple of minor things that need fixing – perhaps the odd smelling mistake, or formatting error – and then it’ll be ready to be released to the world. Part of me wonders whether I should skip my usual editing process and upload it directly to amazon, once I’ve cobbled together some sort of cover.
Another part of me knows that what I actually have is a nothing more than a collection of loosely associated words. And by words I mean a letters arranged into groups, because many of these so-called words won’t actually appear in any dictionary known to man. Where a genuine word does appear there’s a very good chance that it’s not the one I actually meant to type, or that it appears several times in the same paragraph, or it’s part of a phrase that I’ve used over and over and over again. There will be punctuation and grammar mistakes everywhere. Jokes that don’t work. Formatting errors galore. In short – it’ll be a train wreck. A disaster. And I realise yet again that ‘finished’ isn’t a word that should ever share a sentence with the phrase ‘first draft’.
My mate Vikki Thompson is in a similar position. Having taken part in NaNoWrMo this year she’s looking at a 50,000+ word ‘novel’ and wondering what to do next. And whilst there’s a whole host of writing advice out there, here’s what I do to take my manuscript from first to final draft.
Let it rest – This is a luxury that I can’t always afford, but the truth is getting a little distance between you and your WIP (‘work in progress’ – I hate that expression) helps you to lose the rose-coloured spectacles you were wearing when you found yourself thinking, “hey, this is pretty good stuff.” And by you, I mean of course, me.
Print it. Read it. Mark changes – for reasons that I’ve never been able to fathom errors are easier to spot on the printed page. Once you’ve invested paper and ink into something those stupid swelling mistaks will leap out at you and blow raspberries. But more than that, it’s easier to navigate through a printed document. I take a red pen and start ringing words, striking through whole sentences (and paragraphs), and putting wiggly lines in the margins (which is short hand for ‘meh – probably needs a re-write’).
I make changes.
Print it. Read it (aloud this time). Mark changes – Oddly, reading something aloud is the only way I know to find out if the ‘rythmn’ of the piece is right, whether my sentences are too long, and whether it’s clear who’s speaking. Sometimes I’ll even take a chapter to my local writing group and get someone else to read it whilst I follow along on another copy and mark where things don’t sound right.
I make changes.
Give it to Jules – my assistant Jules is usually the first person (after me) to read anything I’ve written. Having worked together now for many years I know I’ll get a brutally honest opinion. Gone are the days when she’d write a long diplomatic note about how she got a little lost, or “perhaps it could be better still”. Now she’s more likely to strike through an entire page and scribble “bit poncy” in the margin. Often Jules won’t be able to tell me what’s wrong with a particular piece, only that it doesn’t work for her. And that’s fine.
I make changes.
Give it to first readers – I’ll print a couple more copies and send it to people I’ve identified as my trusted ‘first readers’, a crack team of operatives who will give me their honest opinions on anything and everything. For this book that’ll be Wendy Steele and Della Galton. Together they’ll pick up on anything that Jules missed; jokes that still don’t work or can be misinterpreted, bits that ramble on too long, are hard to follow, or simply don’t make sense. Like Jules both ladies know better than to spare my feelings. I’m not looking for encouragement – I’m looking for things to fix!
I make changes.
Send it to my agent – finally, my lovely agent Becky will cast her beady eye over the book. If I’ve done my job well she’ll complain that she couldn’t speed-read the manuscript because she kept slowing down to read it properly. She’ll then send me her changes which are usually more structural in nature, moving elements she feels a publisher would particularly like to the front of the book, and generally making the book more commercial.
I make the final changes.
This entire process will usually takes me longer than it took to write that initial draft, but what I’m left with is usually something I can feel mildly proud of. And for the first time I can finally say, it’s ‘finished’.
A few months ago I was asked to give a talk as part of the Essex Book Festival. It wasn’t my first talk, but it was quite a significant milestone in my career as an author, and the first time I realised that talking about writing was almost as much fun as doing so, and significantly less effort. You turn up, smile a lot, tell the audience a little about yourself, maybe read an extract, and then ask for questions. If nobody says anything we can all go home early. Job done. But that never happens.
I’ve been asked some pretty interesting questions over the past few months.
Here are a few off the top of my head:
How long did your book take you to write? (Six months)
What do you think your wife would make of it? (I think she’d like it.)
Are you happy now? (Yes. Happier than I’ve ever been.)
Are you still working in Credit Card Banking? (No.)
Were you the first choice to read the audio version of your book? (No – I had to audition for the part)
Have you got any other books coming out? (Oh yes.)
Have you met ever the real Peter Jones? (Hang on – am I somehow not real?)
There was one Gentleman at the EBF gig who asked if I was like other authors he’d heard of, and rise each morning at 4am to write – to which I laughed and said that was a ridiculous notion, and I didn’t get out of bed a minute before five.
That was back in March. Four months later and I’m astonished to report that I am indeed getting out of bed at 4am on a regular basis, and sitting at my desk, working, a few minutes later.
I have to say I’m a little perplexed as to why this should be the case. Initially I thought it was something to do with the sun rising around that time – but this morning it was so overcast and dark, it might as well of been October. Then I thought it might be my cat wanting me to let her out, but since I’ve relented and reintroduced the cat litter tray my dawn door opening duties are now surplus to requirements. It was only whilst I exchanged emails and text messages with fellow authors Della Galton, Wendy Steele and David Kendrick – all at around six this morning – did I realise that it might actually be something to do with the job. Authors it seems, are larks rather than owls.
Now why on earth would this be the case?
Is it that we love the work so much we can’t wait to get started?
Are you kidding me!? There have been times recently when working on my current book has felt like trying to wrestle an octopus into a paperbag!
Is it that it’s the only time of day when we won’t be disturbed?
Maybe – though the internet never sleeps and facebook is only a click away.
Is it that our brains are so chock full of exciting ideas that they wake us up in the morning so that we can write them all down?
Unlikely. In my case my brain is probably so sick of dreaming about formatting errors and kindle sales that it’s waking me up in the hopes I’ll do something more interesting!
The truth is I have no idea why my body clock seems to have shifted. All I know is that daft-O’clock in the morning now feels right somehow, and if I happen to lie in till seven or eight, half the day has gone!
But perhaps myself, Dave, Della, Wendy, and the unknown authors that the Gentleman from the EBF knows about, are in the minority. Perhaps it’s nothing to do with being an author. I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, it’s 2pm – time to call it a day!
Last week I formally announced the impending publication of my next book, How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim, co-written with author Della Galton. This week, for those of you who haven’t figured out that the book has already got it’s own website, I thought I’d share with you the opening chapter.
To Begin With…
When I was a much younger man, ‘size’ wasn’t a word that I ever had to worry about. ‘Height’ on the other hand…
It was (and still is) extremely hard to get trousers that didn’t flap about somewhere above my ankles, or sleeves that don’t stop several inches before my wrists. But I never had to breathe in to button a pair of jeans, and I never put on a shirt only to find that the buttons and button holes were no longer on speaking terms. Even in my twenties, when I was mostly living on a diet of pizza and beer, where people have a ‘bottom’ I had a ‘place where my legs met’. Girls would tell me how lucky I was. Guys would question my ability to lift a bag of sugar. I’d just shrug, convinced that I’d never lose my ability to hide behind lamp-posts or squeeze between railings.
How wrong I was.
I met my wife-to-be in my mid-thirties. The fact that I met Kate at all was something of a minor miracle, but her arrival in my life coincided with another miraculous event: I’d started to put on weight. In a matter of months I somehow went from ten stone eight (148 pounds) to thirteen stone (182 pounds). People started to tell me how ‘well’ I looked. Occasionally I was described as ‘cuddly’. And as Kate and I curled up in front of the TV to munch our way through a family sized bar of Dairy Milk, she’d rub what she fondly referred to as the ‘Buddha Belly’. It was almost enough to put me off my chocolate.
Almost – but not quite.
As the months passed my weight crept ever upwards. My chins (plural) got ever bigger. Eventually I no longer felt comfortable being naked in front of my fiancé. That was the turning point. Not the naked part – the fact that my girlfriend was now my fiancé. And on hearing the happy news one of my colleagues asked me when I was starting my diet.
“Diet!?” I asked with a mixture of indignation and confusion. What had diets got to do with marriage?
“Of course diet,” she said. “You’re never as slim as the day you get married!”
This was news to me, and something of a shock. And although the logical, adult part of my brain was quick to dismiss this as utter nonsense, another part – the part that has always been ready to believe anything negative or damaging – had adopted this as a Universal Truth; I had only a few months to lose those pounds that I still thought of as ‘extra’ – or they would be mine forever.
You’ve been there I’m sure. It’s probably the reason why you picked up this book in the first place. Maybe you’re at that point now. In which case you probably know a couple of other things too, namely that diets and exercise are miserable, soul destroying ways of losing weight, and if you stop either one for a millisecond then those grams that you worked so hard to shed come straight back the moment you so much as look at anything vaguely tasty.
There are few things in life as cruel as how the human body manages its weight.
At least that’s how it feels.
And so, after a couple of years of running in my lunch hour, and returning to my desk hot, frustrated, and not the slightest bit slimmer than the day before (or the week before, or any of the preceding months), I finally threw my heart-rate monitor in the bin and went in search of a pain-free, exercise-free, scientific way to restore my trim figure. This book – or at least my half of it – is the result.
Welcome to How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim.
If you’re fed up with diets – this book might be for you. If you’ve started to wonder whether you’ll ever be able to lose weight, stay slim AND enjoy your food – this book is probably for you. But if you’re open minded, happy to make small changes to your lifestyle, and prepared to put in a little effort – or at least could be, if you had a good enough reason – then this book is most definitely for you.
Now then, allow me to introduce you to my co-author…
Like Peter, I am lucky enough to be tall (5’ 10”) and until I was thirty five, which, incidentally, is also the age I was when I got married – must be something in this “marry and get fat” theory – I was pretty slender without putting too much effort into it. Mind you, I had always been very active. I loved to go swimming and running and having four dogs certainly helped to keep my weight down.
Then suddenly I had a husband who was a foodie, which meant he liked eating out, and he liked to have wine with our meals and he liked me to experiment with cooking good food. Not that I objected to any of this! But slowly the weight inched on. I went from being the skinny size twelve I’d always been to a size sixteen. This does not sound too bad, it didn’t look too bad either because I’m tall, but I hated my extra weight with a vengeance.
I began to dress to cover up lumps and bumps. Big loose tops and black trousers became my uniform. I gave up swimming because I didn’t want my cellulite thighs on display on the walk from changing room to pool. I avoided hugging friends I hadn’t seen for a while so they couldn’t feel how much weight I’d put on. (How sad is that!) I gave up clothes shopping because it was too depressing. Nothing looked good any more.
Choosing an outfit for a night out from my existing wardrobe was also hideously depressing and would entail trying on my entire wardrobe – by this time I had three sizes in there, size 12 (dream on!), size 14 (possibly on a good day) and 16 (comfortably unflattering) – and trying to decide what made me look the thinnest.
I’d always felt a little self-conscious about being tall, but being tall and overweight made it worse. I felt as though I was turning into some huge lumbering hippo.
My mother and my sister also struggled with their weight. My mother had given up worrying about it long ago, my sister, like me, had yo-yoed along on a fat-thin rollercoaster.
In my quest for permanent weight loss I tried the following:
not eating in the evenings;
not eating certain foods;
various celebrity diets;
some decidedly cranky diets;
excessive exercise – and I mean running marathons (I don’t do things by halves).
Nothing worked permanently.
But some things worked for a while.
The answer to being slim, I finally realised, was to stick to a variety of tried and tested principles. My tried and tested principles which had worked for me. To my immense relief and pleasure, these principles did not include banishing any food from my life. They required planning, but they weren’t time consuming (I have no spare time in my life), and they weren’t costly. (I spend all my spare money on dogs).
But they do work. Hurrah! Finally, I am the same weight now as I was when I was twenty and I know how to stay there. And it is much, much more enjoyable. I also feel healthier, which is a big bonus. I also don’t worry if I want to go on holiday and I put on a few pounds because I know it won’t be difficult to shift them again.
If this sounds like it might suit you – then read on – and hopefully some of the principles we talk about in this book might change the way you view staying slim too.
How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim, will be available later this year as a paperback (ISBN 978-0-9568856-2-3), as an e-book, and in audio.
I’m back! Did you miss me? What d’you mean you hadn’t realised that I’ve been away. Tch! Typical.
The truth is I’ve been working on a number of things – so many things that at times it’s been hard to see the spinning plates for all the broken crockery – but finally, after many weeks, a couple of these projects are coming to fruition, and I’d rather like to tell you about them.
How To Eat Loads and Stay Slimisn’t a diet book. Not in the traditional sense. It’s a book packed full of thought provoking, scientifically-provable, ideas and changes you can make to your life to increase your chances of being slim.
It’s a mixture of hard science (eg. how hunger really works), quick ‘cheats’ (eg. how to make zero fat chips), psychological techniques (eg. why focusing on your food as you eat is really important), ingenious strategies (eg. how to cut down on sugar without going cold turkey), and easy peasy recipes (eg. my roast potato & egg smashup breakfast or my co-author’s apple ginger clafouti) – all wrapped up in an easy-to-digest, humourous read from authors who’ve been where you are now.
Yes that’s right. Authors. Plural.
I’m co-writing the book with author, teacher, editor, dog-whisperer, regular contributor to Writers’ Forum magazine and slimming guru, Della Galton. Della has had about a thousand short stories published in various magazines over the last twenty years (I’m not exaggerating – 1,000 short stories) as well as goodness knows how many books (every time I think I know about all of them she casually mentions another published under a different name, or by a different publisher, or in large print only, or on Mars). It’s a little daunting writing along side a real author. Obviously I’m a real author too, but she’s, well, you know, MORE real.
Actually, whilst we’re talking about Della I might as well mention that today is her twenty eighth birthday (hang on, doesn’t that mean that she was first published when she was… hmmmm..) And, just to prove my earlier point, it coincides with the release of a short story anthology series, ‘Daily Della‘ – bite sized chunks of fiction ideal for your daily coffee break.
Guest Blogger, Friend and Author, Della Galton, talks about the launch of her latest book (‘Moving On – from Short Story to Novel’) and explains why she wishes there’d been something similar when she was a fledgling author
Today (January 5th, 2012) is publication day of my new book, and I am so excited. Even though I know everyone else in the universe won’t know and won’t care and the momentous news will pass without comment. But I am bursting with pride, and I feel a huge sense of achievement.
I wrote this book because I needed it when I wrote my first novel, and I needed it when I wrote my second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh novels…. And it wasn’t around. So I thought I should write it!
Actually, I was a bit scared of taking the huge leap between writing short stories and novels. And, rather strangely, the more I learned about writing, the more scared I was – it isn’t a straightforward transition, at least it wasn’t for me!
I have sold my work for 25 years now, and yet each time I venture into a new type of writing, whether it is feature, or serial or poetry or radio play or children’s story, or humour, or erotica or full length non fiction or novel, I feel for a little while, as though I am stumbling around in a darkened house. There are no lights, no signposts, no familiarity. And I have had success with writing, and I know the techniques, I know the craft, but that doesn’t mean I am not afraid.
I literally feel my way. Going from the short story to the novel was the biggest leap for me. I wrote my first novel knowing nothing whatever about the form.
By the time I wrote my fourth, Passing Shadows, which was the first one I sold, I felt as though the lights in the house were on – but I still had so much to learn.
What did development of characters mean? What did it really mean? How much plot did I need? What were the differences in real terms? Were there a lot of differences?
Oh yes, there were.
This is why I wrote this book. I hope my experiences will help you. I love teaching almost as much as I love writing and I wanted to share my journey with other writers who are also making the move from short story to novel.
Thank you for all the writers who shared their experiences with me on their moving on writing journey.
Della Galton is the author of six novels, and three non-fiction books. Her short stories have been published in every major UK women’s magazine, as well as numerous short-story anthologies (available from Accent Press). She is Agony Aunt for Writer’s Forum magazine, and teaches at various writing courses and workshops around the country. Moving On – from Short Story to Novel – A step by step guide by Della Galton, is published by Accent Press, price £9.99. Find out more about Della at dellagalton.co.uk.
Having sent the second draft of my novel back to the agent, here’s why I’m not prepared to wait one moment longer
So, a while back you’ll remember I was sharing with you the challenge of having to bring a 115,000 word manuscript to under 90,000 – whilst shoe horning in another couple of chapters.
You’ll be pleased to know that I did it.
Two months to the day after I sharpened my editing pencil, the novel finally weighed in at 89,532 words and was promptly shipped back to my agent.
Now – apparently – I wait.
Let me just take this opportunity to segway into a barely concealed rant about how much waiting there seems to be in the traditional world of publishing. From the moment you type the words THE END on your manuscript you actually begin a perilous journey on the road to publication – most of which involves waiting for someone, somewhere, to come back to you.
Which is quite a shock to the system for a fella like me, when up til now the only person preventing me from moving forwards – was myself.
It doesn’t help that I come from a Credit Card Banking background where hard-nosed, money-minded gentlemen want everything this time last week – earlier if at all possible – and I hate to admit it now, but that suited me just fine.
You might have gathered that I’m not a patient person. In fact, in the words of Charlotte from The Importance of Being Earnest – “I hate waiting even five minutes for anybody. It always makes me rather cross.” But what makes the waiting even more torturous (for me at least) is that I’m acutely aware that there are no guarantees. In my head, every second that ticks by is just another moment when my manuscript might be buried under something else, never to see the light of day.
So what’s to be done? How can I prevent myself from gnawing off my forearm as I sit and stare at my empty email in-box? The answer – so I’m told (thank you Wendy, thank you Della - two ladies who have said this very thing to me many many times over the past few weeks) is to start writing my next book.
And that – you lovely, lovely people – is exactly what I’m going to do. Consider this a formal announcement as such, if for no other reason than I’ll look pretty silly if this time next month I haven’t actually done anything about it.
A few gems to whet your appetite. It’ll most likely be another non-fiction book. It’ll most likely be another self-help book. It’ll most likely be written in a similar style to How To Do Everything and Be Happy. And here’s where I really lay my head on the block – it’ll be finished, proof read, formatted, and on-sale (for the kindle at least) by next April. Ish.
Because… I wouldn’t want to keep you waiting.
In the meantime though feel free to torture me with your writing-related-waiting-experiences (I think I’m going to regret asking that) OR any pearls of wisdom you may have re the publishing process and how to survive it, in the comments box below.
Let me bring you up to speed on a few things: At the time of writing I had an agent, who, having read the first three chapters, liked the book and wanted to see the rest. Which would have been fine if the rest was just sitting around ready to be sent – but, it wasn’t. Hence the flurry of activity to finish it, and the aforementioned blog post.
A few weeks after typing the words THE END, the agent got back to me and invited me to ‘pop into her offices’ for a chat. There I sat, surrounded by books written by her other clients, whilst she told me that she really liked my manuscript – but she’d like it a whole lot more if I made some changes – namely;
lose a character,
add two more chapters,
bring the word count down to 90,000 words.
The first two items were achieved within a few days, but the third… well I’ve been struggling. As my novel weighed in at 115,000 words I was faced with having to cut 25,000.
This is what I tried first
made a list of every scene in the book (actually I had this already – a great tip that I picked up many years ago)
identify any scene that didn’t move the plot on – cut it
identify any scene in my heart of hearts I didn’t actually like – try and cut it
identify the wordier scenes – trim them agressively.
Two weeks ago I was down to 103,000 words. Still 13,000 left to cut.
Out of desperation I printed off the entire manuscript (something that my friend Wendy told me to do from the off), sat down with a red pen, and read the whole thing looking for anything that could go by the wayside, and a weeks later I was down to 97,000 words.
I’d be depressed if it wasn’t for the following
- I have an inch thick pile of pages covered in red pen that I’m working through (probably another 1000 words in there)
- I have a list of seven scenes that I could cut (though god help me I really don’t want to)
- the book is actually better.
And that’s the bit that’s really taken me by surprise.
Weeks ago my friend Della Galton told me my book would be better for the level of cutting I was embarking upon – and by golly she was right. Somehow, the very act of taking out the weaker words, scenes, and in a couple of cases whole chapters, has distilled what was left, and made for a much stronger story.
But please God I hope my agent doesn’t want me to lose any more. As of this morning I’ve still got 5,497 words to find.