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firsts (or the red pen awards)

There are a small number of firsts going on for me at the moment; I have had runner's nipple (both of them), I have run the furthest I have ever run, I am about to break my mileage record for a single month and I had a short story of mine (The Fall) edited by a true-to-real-life editor. I have to admit that I am not great at editing my own stuff. Give me somebody else's work, be it corporate or creative and I am relatively fine. My own? Lost. Unsure. The voices and story in my head seem to conflict with the clarity of thought needed to objectively slice and dice.

So Ciara offered to have a look (I may have coerced her, I can't remember, but being a gentleman I shall do the honourable thing and blame her). And she did.

Back when I was a young lad I struggled to read, the words just didn't make sense. It took my parents moving to Papua New Guinea for the pieces to fall in place, courtesy of our contact there, an enforced six weeks in Port Moresby and The Phantom: the Ghost Who Walks. Whereas I was previously content to just look at the pictures I suddenly needed to understand more of what the story meant, and before long I was beginning my life-long obsession with reading.

Like the above, where I sort of knew how to read but couldn't put it all together, I have been struggling with the editing of my work. I sort of know what I need to do, but the doing and the how lay beyond the boundaries of my full comprehension.

So Ciara (coerced or otherwise) stepped in and wielded her red pen.

Oh bloody hell my.

It was clear that there were a number of things to think about; inconsistencies, contradictions, tautologies, a predominance of 'and's and commas (she threatened to break my keyboard). There were also questions about the story, about what elements meant, clarifications needed. It felt unfinished, the characterisation unsure or unclear. She wasn't sure what archetypes were being hinted at/used. Sentences were shortened, alternatives suggested. Words, sentences and paragraphs were tightened up, each change making the whole much more robust and readable.

Some of what I had done was intentional (wrongly in some cases). I tried to write this story with a flow and rhythm that can, on reflection, be both an embodiment of a bad grammar and an imposition. I hadn't looked at the individual elements to see if they fitted within the context of the whole. These were pointed out, leaving me to think about their comparative worth. If it doesn't add anything, or confuses, should it be in?

The characters are fully formed, but in my head. Not enough of their personalities and motivations had bled through for the reader to fully identify.

Here is a man who has abandoned all courses of action, has watched a world die, his friends, family, race destroyed. And yet he has not acted, until now, abandoning all his beliefs and principles to carry out one act of violence.

Here is a woman, an angel, who has been involved in an eternal war with her own kind, and at the last, victorious, she lies broken. She has killed a world to do so, and has only just begun to realise the cost of it.

They come together, and the journey, the back and forth viewpoints, the narrowing down and increasing sparsity of language are meant to convey this moment of imminent collision with tension. And I think that works.

Unfortunately not enough of the (back)story comes through. As Ciara stated, it doesn't need to be laid out, but it needs to be understood.

All in all this was a massively positive experience, from which I have learnt a great deal. I have much to think on; about how I write as much as how I edit.

In the end I accepted pretty much all Ciara's edits and suggestions. The resulting piece was much, much stronger. Yes, elements need to be re-written and fixed but it is getting there, and more importantly, I now have an idea of how to get there myself.

Thanks to Ciara for all her hard work - it is hugely appreciated (I owe you a pie, or cake, or something).

Random stuff

some thoughts in anticipation of a long run (cross posted)