News Monday

Hey kid, how’s it going? *gun and wink*

I drove for a total of 9 hours on Saturday. I’ve only just passed my test, so this was big news, you guys. The results are in:

Passenger Deaths: 0/4

Sugar-Mallow Pigs Consumed: 11/30

Current DriverRank™: Jr Trolley-Pusha

When I level-up I’m pumping all my stat increases into stamina. I was fine for the entire journey, but holy crap did I go to pieces once we got home. I couldn’t sleep all night because every time I closed my eyes I thought I was about to crash the car. My wife had to reassure me I wasn’t a murderer. Yet again.

This week, I have gigs in Chester.

On Friday 16th, I’m doing a poetry pub crawl around Chester, delivering verses in a range of boozers. Is this a safe and responsible booking for a teetotaller? Only time will tell, my friends.

On Saturday 17th, I’ll be writing a poem live, in Chester, working in lines and suggestions from you, the public. That probably makes it sound a little dull, but trust me, it will be action-packed. You will come away adrenalised, trembling, pumped full o’ that sweet poetry contact-high.

This Week, I Have Been Mostly Reading

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. So, in my alter-ego as monomanic editing gobshite, it’s important that I sharpen the saw from time to time. I think any good writer needs to be at least a little nerdy about the mechanics of their craft. Good prose isn’t just a delivery system – it’s an end in itself, and while I’m not advocating the triumph of style over content, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t recognise the pleasures of accomplished style, and its ability to compliment and enhance rock-solid content.

Several people had recommended this book to me, but I still approached it with a degree of skepticism. I’ve read a lot of how-2-rite manuals, and though a few contain robust principles, far too many are either written by people who are not good writers themselves, or by competent authors who are more interested in grinding axes and showboating their own literary credentials than getting down to the meat and potatoes of what makes a good sentence.

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers is one of the best books on writing I have read. It is unpretentious and practical. It doesn’t bite off more than it can chew, instead limiting its focus to a range of common problems, helping writers diagnose weaknesses and prescribing practical solutions. Every writing manual has a section on show, don’t tell, and most do a bad job of articulating what it actually entails, and why it is important. This book uses The Great Gatsby as its example, and has the chutzpah to edit out redundant exposition from a passage at Gatsby’s party. I’m not sure I agree with the edits, but this sort of practical, example-led work, rolling up sleeves and getting under the bonnet, dismantling sentences and putting them back together, is the only true way to develop as an author.

So yeah. I endorse this book. Have a peep.

EDIT: ok, so it’s a couple of weeks later and I’ve actually finished Self-Editing For Fiction Writers now. Turns out I was a bit premature to describe it as ‘one of the best books on writing’. After the first couple of chapters it rather peters out – in fact I found a lot of the later examples of editing practice to be actively bad. The book has a few useful lessons to be extracted by the discerning reader, but they’re padded with clumsy hackwork. What a shame!