Two stops or one?

Since I last posted I’ve been keeping really busy. Juggling a full-time job, undertaking a Writers Course, and editing my first novel, leave little time for much else.

August is almost over, I’m well into the course now and Anita and I are almost half-way through the editing process.

I submitted my first assignment just after we got back from our trip to Le Manoir and it was returned to me by the tutor I have been assigned, just over a week later. So far, so good! She thinks my work is “promising” so I got stuck straight in to the second assignment. This involved buying and reading loads of different magazines and identifying writing opportunities in the form of readers’ letters and fillers. The modules for this part of the course are all about non-fiction really, not my favourite type of writing but the course director advises that students embrace all types of writing covered in course, just in case you find something that you didn’t realise you might like, or even be good at.

After doing my research on all the magazines I bought, I fired off a couple of readers’ letters for the assignment. They seem very easy but very short and not very fulfilling to write, and possibly hardly worth the effort in terms of generating income. We will see though, I’m keeping an open mind at this point.

The filler is another story. I’m really not sure I identified anything in any of the magazines I looked at that I was certain fell into this category. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what a filler is and how to recognise one even if it was staring me in the face. I think it is a piece that is not as long as an article but longer than letter, but that’s as far as it goes for me at this stage. I opted to write the filler for my assignment in response to an invitation from Cosmopolitan to write a short piece about “The best sex you ever had…”

Not my usual genre but it seemed like a challenge and a bit of fun at the same time. I wrote one piece based loosely on a time when I made a conscious decision to proposition a man in a way that was out of character for me. It did lead to exciting sex but when I read it back and then read some of the articles that had been successfully published already, they were much raunchier than mine, which was rather tame in comparison.

I ramped it up a bit, rattling out another story about a time when I finally got it together with a guy I had fancied for a very long time, concentrating on the sex rather than the preamble. It was better. I sent it in along with my letters to my tutor. Looking forward to getting her feedback on that lot!

My tutor is an interesting woman. She has written a trilogy of well-known children’s’ books about Vlad the Inhaler, a young vampire, under her own name, Lorraine Mace. She has also written a series of crime novels under the pen-name Frances Di Plino and I’ve bought the first one in the series to see what it’s like. What she does seem to have is a wide portfolio of writing activities that I assume, generates a decent income for her. Among other things, she writes a regular column for Writing Magazine (I bought a copy of that too), writes short stories for women’s magazines, has a blog, an editing service and a Flash Fiction competition website.

That fits with what I have gleaned already from the first few modules of the course. There is not much money to be made from writing novels alone, unless you are the next JK Rowling. Getting published seems to be as rare as hen’s teeth so, generating income from a variety of different sources seems to be imperative. I worked out that, in order to equal my current salary, I’d need to publish three or four “articles” a week. Is that possible? At this early stage I have no idea!

The last module I read was on formatting your work for publication. I learned lots of things that were applicable to the editing I am doing with Anita on my novel. For example, what to put in a cover page and headers and footers, what font to use in what size and the difference between block paragraphing and indented paragraphing and when to use each. It turned out that I have been using a mixture of block paragraphing and indented paragraphing in my book, and that indented is the best method to use when writing fiction to avoid creating lots of blank lines when writing dialogues.

The biggest thing that I learned is that there is no need to put two spaces at the end of a sentence any more. What!?! This is ingrained in my psyche and seemingly impossible to unlearn! I’m doing it as I write now! Apparently this was only necessary in the days of type setting and the practice is redundant now in the days of electronic word processing. My heart sank when I read that, if you send a manuscript in to a publisher with double spaces between sentences they are likely to send it straight back to you to remove them all!

I started the soul-destroying and laborious process of going through the 73,000 words of Wait for Me, to remove all the double spaces between sentences, on the Bank Holiday Monday. I was trying to be positive. It wouldn’t take very long. Thank goodness I had found out when I did and before I’d sent it anywhere for publication.

Anyway, I needn’t have worried, Anita saved the day, my life, and my sanity, when she arrived for our planned editing session and showed me how to change the whole document at once using the Ctrl F and Replace All functions. I knew how to do this for words and phrases but had no idea that it could be done for spaces! What a gem she is.

Well, you really do learn something new every day but I’m not so sure you can teach an old dog new tricks! My trigger happy fingers are rapidly inserting double spaces as type right now – mmm…how to find a way to stop doing it…?

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