Friday, 30 March 2012


"Some days you have to get outside..."

I've been stuck in front of the typ-o-matic machine  for what feels like ages; so I escaped out on the last good (forecasted) day of March and visited Clumber Park.

Although the manor house is long gone, the rest of the property remains, including the walled garden and glasshouse.  This part of our recent history is fascinating to me; how Victorians built on medieval traditions of enclosed growing spaces, and used them to sustain new plants brought from the most exotic reaches of the empire. 

They're growing rhubarb for the Rhubarb Festival at the moment- looking forward to getting a bunch of Red Champagne, or some of this:

It's exciting to see the cast iron mechanical technology still in working use after over 100 years; the levers, rods and moving panels echo the progressive positivity of science and engineering at that time.  I resisted the urge to try them out (I'd like them to last another 100 years, please).

I'm sure it's one of the aspects of the Victorian era that influences Steampunk writers; and it's been the inspiration I needed to forge ahead with the final edit of Coalface, my YA Victorian adventure.

If my box brownie snaps have inspired to you visit, details are all here - have a good weekend.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Danger/Action: essential office-based poe
Been a bit of a rollercoaster week, all told;  States of Independence on Saturday was excellent; some great sessions (including the chance to see Adrian Reynolds' play 'Breaking In').  And I finally got my copy of Robin Vaughan William's poetry pamphlet 'The Manager' after seeing him perform it at the Jam Cafe last year.

Then another night of new work at Antenna Nottingham last night; Word of Mouth's film night was an intense mix of films, and film related poetry; if I'd known I was going to a premier of Graham Lester George's film I'd have dug out my tux...

And a lot of positive feedback about Coalface, my YA victorian adventure, which is keeping me motivated as I continue with the edits.  A big thank you to everyone who listened to me chatter about it this week - I promise I'll get on now.

Oh yes, and I made avocado and prawn risotto; which tasted nicer than it looks on the pic - recommended.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Unstuck with glue.

I reached another milestone with Coalface last week - I completed the rewrite of the story.  I did what every writer should do at that moment- enjoyed a nice cuppa (sun wasn't quite over the yard-arm), then went back to the start and began look at it again.

That's when I discovered something wasn't right.

It's no big surprise - Coalface is a work in progress; as I learned new things about my young hero in the rewrite (his name is different for a start) I knew there were things that would change again, to make the story work harder, to draw the reader in.  To make them read 'just one more chapter'.

Trouble was, I was too close to see what was wrong.

Cut and paste: Old Skool style.
Computers are amazing- the ability to create and store and organise page after page of information in something that's smaller and lighter than a ream of paper is a marvel - but it's hard to see all of the story at once.

I needed to looked at it a different way.  Change the perspective. I took the story off the screen. 

Using yWriter, I printed the scene list of Coalface (yWriter lets you write in moveable chunks,called 'scenes'), then cut up the bits and spread them across the kitchen table for two days. 
When you have to stick something in place, unsticking it is a lot tougher than hitting Ctrl-Z.  Making it physical stopped me thinking about typing, and focused my thoughts on editing.  Exactly what I needed to do.

After a lot of shuffling and paper glue, I now have a seven foot tall story, that works, stuck on the tallest cupboard door I could find.  I've moved all the elements back inside yWriter with purpose, not apprehension; and now it's time to make Coalface work harder.

If you're in the same position, give it a go - I hope it works for you as well as it worked for me; if you've got a system that's even better, let me know - Book 2 is waiting in the wings after Coalface...