Notes on Drafting

Wow…it has been a while! You know how time sometimes seems to have extra minutes, hours in a day, when it drags on and on and each second becomes an hour?

Well, that’s not how the past few months have been. If anything, Spring has raced by, a blur of moments. And now it’s May and I’m not sure how time unravelled so fast.

Today I want to talk about drafting. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a writer and I’ve recently completed a manuscript for middle grade readers (9-12 year olds) which is inspired by the islands I live on with a spoonful of magic! I loved writing it, revising it and getting to know the characters so much, it’s been a tumble of ideas and sketches, which I’ve spun into a story all about a girl called Violette and the start of her grand adventure!

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Photos copyright free from Unsplash

 

So now I’ve finished Violette’s story, I’m starting something new. It can seem daunting, starting with a blank page, a blank notebook, a blank mind, but it can also be exciting.

And this is how it always begins for me, with the tiniest glimpse of an idea. Not a whole idea, an almost-idea, an image or a line which I can’t get out of my head. So I write it down, usually in the note section of my phone…and I begin to wonder where it will go.

For me, this is the simmering phase. Some books hit you fully formed like a tempest, some emerge more slowly. If an idea keeps coming back, and I collect more ideas around it, that’s when I get excited and begin the opening page. I don’t plot it out for weeks on end first, if I did that, I would lose interest. Instead, I want to hear what the character has to say, why they’re so eager to tell their story. So I sit down with my laptop, and I see where the opening page takes me.

If that goes well, I’ll keep going. If the ideas keep on flowing, then I’ll open up a spreadsheet and create a rough outline, so I know where I want this story to go. But always, I’ll keep the main character at the centre, driving the plot with their actions and decisions. I’ll think about the theme. What am I trying to say? what’s this story about? and what is holding my main character back?

Once I have a first draft, I try to let it sit. I really do. This is the right and best thing to do. But honestly? by this point, I’m so consumed by the world I’ve created, that I want to dive back in and fix it. I imagine this step as a painting. If I step back and look at the whole thing, where are the knots of paint? where could I make things clearer? have I allowed my main character to lead the plot, rather than the other way round?

At this point, other readers are the mirror I need. If they read it and ask questions, provide critique, I can identify places I need to work on. This step is utterly crucial. I wouldn’t have got to where I am today as a writer without the support and guidance from my critique partners and readers. If you work together, you all grow.

Once I’ve listened to feedback, revised my manuscript and polished each sentence until it sparkles, then I’m ready. Then the fun really begins.

How do you draft? are you a plotter, a pantser, or something in between, like me?

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A Week Well Spent on…Tresco

Tresco is one of the five inhabited islands in the Isles of Scilly, home to shell scattered beaches, windswept walks, castles to explore and the abbey garden.

We go here every year (sometimes twice!) for a week of family time. Outside of the main season, the island is a calm, quiet paradise, the perfect place to recharge and revive after a busy summer.

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The view from our cottage was spectacular! with a balcony to curl up in a blanket with a hot chocolate, we watched the jet boats speed back and forth up the Tresco channel and the colours change along the stretch of white sand. The cottages are all supplied with the beautiful Portmeiron range of crockery by Sophie Conran – perfect for hot drinks, cosy meals and light lunches!

One of my favourite things about Tresco is the spa – it has a pool, a jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and gym, as well as lovely big changing rooms fully kitted out for families! There is even a list of spa treatments, great for a winter treat.

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The abbey gardens are a maze of winding paths through lush trees and plants, opening out onto wide lawns. Golden pheasants strut around and if you look really carefully, you’ll spot the red squirrels scurrying amongst the undergrowth! It’s a paradise to visit in the summer months, but as you can see from the photo above, it’s no less lovely over the winter.

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Perfect place for a writing session

 

On one of the days we explored Cromwell’s Castle towards the north end of the island. You can still go inside, explore a place full of history and stories. It’s amazing to see somewhere so well preserved that’s still open to wander about and imagine what life was once like.

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If you fancy a relaxing few days, filled with fresh air, brisk walks, trips to the spa and cosy suppers – Tresco is the place for you. We will be returning soon for a family fix before the busy season begins, I can’t wait!

You can find out more about the island, how to get here and where to stay here

Have a brilliant week!

Rachel x

 

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

Have you ever read one of those magical books that just stays with you? Enchantée is one of those books for me. It opens with Camille working La Magie, it’s Paris 1789 and revolution is in the air…

Camille and her sister Sophie have fallen on hard times. In desperation, Camille reaches for a dangerous form of magic that her mother warned her against. As she works La Glamoire, visiting Versailles, she is enchanted by what she finds there. But just as she is captivated by Versailles, so La Glamoire takes its toll on Camille, digging its claws into her and never wanting to let go.

One of my favourite things about this book is the realistic nature of the portrayal of the times, the feverish energy leaps from the page! You are truly in Paris, revolution on the tip of every tongue, bread scarce and people desperate. That the author has woven magic through this time in history brings it to life all the more, Camille ‘s troubles are at the centre of the narrative.

If you loved Caraval or The Night Circus, this gorgeous tale is for you! Thank you to the lovely people at Macmillan for this book proof, it’s beautiful inside and out 😍 

It’s out in the UK on 21st February from Macmillan and you can pre-order it through amazon UK now!

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Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Kess’s review of the book proof I recently received for A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. Enjoy!

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First things first: I don’t really do book reviews.

Why? Sometimes I just don’t have a lot of feelings for a book so I cannot commit to a whole post about them. And it’s a lot of effort. I commend book bloggers for all the work they do because it is a whole damn lot and I desperately admire that. Sometimes I wish I was a bookblogger for all the reading I’ve done over the years, yet I could never do it.

This time, however, my friend and critique partner, Rachel Greenlaw, asked me to review A Thousand Beginnings and Endings because she had an ARC and she did not think she should be the one to read it. So, she sent it across an ocean over to me so I could read it and write a review for her.

And this was a book I’ve been dying to read…

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Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

If you are looking for a fresh, fantastically feminist voice in fantasy, look no further than Bree Barton.

The story unfolds as Mia Rose prepares for her wedding to the prince of the kingdom, it should be all she’s ever dreamed of, all she could wish for. But not Mia. She’s a hunter, she cannot stand the confines of the palace and she wants out. Her mother was killed by a Gwyrach, a hideous deformity of women, demons that walk amongst them, able to stop someone’s breath in their lungs with one touch. Mia has been honing her skills, learning all she can about human anatomy and she wishes to escape and hunt the creature who killed her mother.

What follows is a sweeping tale of love and betrayal as Mia discovers the many secrets that were hidden in plain site all along.

What I loved most about this book was the attention to detail, the careful way the author describes human anatomy and weaves it into the plot. The reveals were also excellently executed, I found myself racing through the final third of the book to uncover all the hidden secrets alongside Mia.

But this book also holds a pretty powerful message, by examining the effects of a heavily oppressive setting, it explores how women cope. How they survive. And ultimately, how they fight back.

Thank you to Harper Collins for this gorgeous book proof and if you would like to read it yourself, it’s just been released and you can find it here

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Notes on Revising

Revising.

Everyone approaches it differently, everyone struggles with it to varying degrees. Recently I completed a revision pass on a manuscript and after madly googling revision planning, scouring author websites for all their tips and tricks, sending out emails to writer contacts and chatting it over with my critique partners, I came up with a plan.

First, I started by pulling apart the revision notes I had received. What were they looking for? Why did they ask for that? How much did I need to change – small twists or huge chunks?

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Having a plan made it pretty fun, I knew I was making the manuscript better! So I poured the coffee, set up my spreadsheet and got cracking.

I worked out where I needed to add scenes to give the manuscript the depth it needed. I opened up a new word document and created page markers with short descriptions of scenes and sequences that I felt needed adding.

After that, I worked my way through the manuscript, page by page to see where I could add or take away text to streamline and focus the scenes. There was a danger of losing the pacing, so I kept an eye on that whilst I pulled it to bits.

If you’re a writer, you’ll have had this feeling during the revision process. The point at which you don’t know if you’ve made it better…or broken it completely. When I hit that wall, I panicked a bit, took a deep breath (drank more coffee) then plowed on.

Eventually, I had a manuscript that was longer, yet had more of the detail and information it lacked before. The characters felt more real, the descriptions were more true to my voice than before.

So I did a final line edit, checking for little mistakes, errors and anything that didn’t flow quite right.

And after that….I checked it again.

I would probably still be checking it and rechecking it again now if I hadn’t asked my lovely critique partners for feedback, then tweaked and changed from their comments.

Then edited it again to get it how I wanted it.

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So this is what I’ve learnt from the process…

It’s worth taking your time over. No need to rush! If you give yourself little pauses during the process, it will give your brain time to catch up.

You’ll probably hate it at some point. Then love it! Then want to chuck it out of the window. This is normal. Pour more coffee.

If you have to delete a whole section? It’s ok. You’ll rewrite it much better tomorrow.

And never be afraid to hit ‘The End’ and really mean it. Have courage.

Hope you’re all enjoying your writing journey!

Rachel x

The Gift of Silence by Kankyo Tannier

How many of us take a moment of silence during our day? With work, family life, house renovations, reading, blogging, social media, shopping, cooking, eating…life can sometimes run away with us and become a series of moments.

So what if you stopped?

In The Gift of Silence, French buddhist nun Kankyo asks us to take a breath, pause and find the gaps in the silence. She encourages everyone to take a small space in our day for ourselves in a world full of noise.

In this guide, Kankyo talks about her own life as a 21st century nun, she writes, she blogs and she travels. Her voice is like fresh air, it’s a warm smile and welcome break to read a few chapters and soak up her calmness. She invites her readers to silence the noise around them, feel at peace with quiet then reconnect with the external world in a more meaningful way.

With her extensive knowledge and experience, she’s ideally placed to write this book, it makes me want to book on one of these spiritual retreats in the French countryside! Just holding the book in my hands made me calmer, more relaxed, as I focused on her stories and ideas for meditation and silence.

If you feel inspired to read a work of non-fiction and take some time out for yourself, pick up this book! You won’t be disappointed.

Thank you to Yellow Kite books and bookbridgr for this lovely book, it’s become a firm favourite already.

You can find it on Amazon UK here

What’s your fave non-fiction read?

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