Still writing… slowly

Long time since my last blog post I think.

Despite the lack of contact, I am still writing, albeit very slowly. My main WIP is fighting me every step of the way, and my complete mastery of procrastination isn’t helping. But I know if I keep working at it, and accept that a lot of what I’ve written might need to be thrown away and the plot rethought, I will reach the breakthrough it needs.

It’s not the first time a book has proved difficult. In fact, most of my books hit that wall at some point – The Village Witch (published last year by Omnium Gatherum) hit the wall numerous times during its creation. Plot lines changed, characters came and went, thousands of words were written, dumped and then rewritten. It’s all par for the course. The one exception was Hard Winter: The Novel (also from Omnium Gatherum) – that one just flowed. But it’s unusual for it to be that easy.

I still write the occasional short story, because it’s nice to see something completed in a relatively short time. I’ve about 10 or 11 out at the moment, waiting for acceptance or rejection (mostly rejection based on experience) and I keep an eye on upcoming themed anthologies in case one just catches my interest. But I can’t deny that my main focus is on the longer pieces of fiction – novellas and novels. That’s where I get the chance to develop characters and more complex storylines. It’s the type of writing I enjoy the most.

In a potentially soul destroying decision, I’ve engaged the services of my son and his English Literature degree to rip my writing apart – which is something he takes an inordinate amount of pleasure in doing. The hope is it will improve my overall writing, if my ego allows me to survive it! Through working with the excellent editing skills of Omnium Gatherum’s Kate Jonez, I have become completely convinced in the usefulness of having someone who knows what they’re talking about look at my writing. A good editor, and I’ve been mostly fortunate, can really help improve the writing and the flow of a story (I’ll ignore the bad ones who think editing means rewriting – they can crawl away and die). Both my wife and my son are very good at improving the readability of a story, finding those lines that are clumsy or just suck! But my son currently has the time, and can bring the skills he picked up doing his degree to the task. If nothing else, it should be interesting.

If you’ve liked some of the books I’ve written so far, stick with me. More are on the way. It just takes time…

Revised and Updated versions of classic novels… a mini rant

It’s about time for a mini rant. Been a while. Today’s mini rant comes courtesy of this morning’s delivery of the second-hand book Pearl Maiden written way back in 1903 by H Rider Haggard. Perhaps I should have been warned by the fact this edition was published by “Christian Liberty Press” in 2003, but I made the mistake of thinking I was getting the original text as written by H Rider Haggard. The following quotes are from the Editor’s Note at the beginning of this edition…

“I have thoroughly revised and edited the original text to make the story clearer and more enjoyable for modern readers. Grammar and word usage have been changed and updated, and much of the dialog has been rephrased.”

“…readers familiar with the 1903 edition will also note two new scenes near the final pages of this version: The preaching of Bishop Cyril to Marcus, and the final storm that threatens to sink the Luna.”

The Editor has also corrected some “historical errors and inconsistencies” and some “fundamental biblical inconsistencies”.

I know it’s not that unusual for old works to be edited to make them more readable for a modern audience, although in my experience it’s normally done in children’s versions to make the stories more accessible – most adults are capable of understanding old writing styles (shock horror!) – but to add two completely new scenes!!??? Surely this is  arrogance by the Editor, and the Bishop Cyril scene is pure Christian propaganda. H Rider Haggard was, indeed, Christian but he also had a great tolerance of other faiths and a welcome cynicism particularly towards missionaries and other evangelical strands of his faith. This re-imagining (more than revised) edition changes that.

When I buy a book – any book, be it from a current or a long gone writer – I want to read the book that writer wrote, not someone else’s interpretation of it. The only person who can revise a work is its original author in my opinion. The one exception to this is, as I said previously, children’s books where there is an argument for simplifying language to make an author they would not otherwise have read accessible to them. Even here I think we need to be very careful. I have nothing against Editors – far from it. An editor working WITH the author is an often vital ingredient of the final published work – but once the work has been published and especially if the author is no longer around to contribute – leave it alone! Apart from anything else, it’s highly unlikely you are as good a writer as the original author so to think you can in some way improve on the original or, as in this case, actually write new scenes to push your own agenda… words fail me at the arrogance.

Finally a quick word about buying this edition. I bought it from an Amazon seller and I do not in any way blame the seller for my mistake. The listing was Amazon’s and did not in any way make it clear that I was looking at an edited and revised version – if it had I would not have bought it. I now need to source a different edition – one that has the original words written by one of my current favourite authors.

Ok, so not a big rant (I’m feeling surprisingly calm this morning, mostly thanks to some very strong pain killers running through my system making everything just that little bit remote) but just something I wanted to say. Now, back to Amazon/ebay/play/abebooks to find an authentic edition that doesn’t cost a fortune 🙂