#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

More To Moles – Week 50 #52weeksofnaturepoetry: RSPB Fundraiser

Underground shadows,

excavating with spade-like paws,

redistributing nutrients,

aerating, creating

vital drainage in otherwise compacted ground.

Above, we see marks of their passage –

mounds of well-turned earth,

from clearing their intricate tunnels.

Occasionally, they emerge,

noses appearing first

like eager bulbs shooting up debut leaves.

But tunnels don’t dig themselves;

back to work,

shifting between activity and sleep

every four hours.

Shy creatures, they disturb few.

Still, they are called out,

considered ‘pests’,

driven away.

Caught. Killed.

Bodies strung on fences to prove the count.

And all to protect land

reserved for nothing more

than human pastimes

and profit.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 24 – Sky Dancer

The poem below is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

Sky Dancer

Snagging the updraft, she glides high.

No fuss, no theatrics.

Just drive.

Her next meal awaits below, somewhere unseen for the moment.

Not for long.

With due perspective, she’ll pinpoint her catch.

In a quiet spot, she might be able to leap from perch

to extract a tasty morsel,

yet close to ground, disturbances always threaten.          

Other predators, rowdy humans, her own hunters –

the ones who claim she kills their game

as if she is playing as they do

rather than being fuelled by pure survival instinct.

When she rides the air, deep eyes alive,

everything becomes clear.

Nothing can hide.

She’s looking for her main course,

no mere snack this time.

Her mate circles close, nothing yet for him.

His luck is his own.

Her skills deliver: mottled brown fur, a speck to our eyes.

A prize for her.

Talons poised, she bullet-dives.

Faster than an arrow meeting its target, near soundless

and every bit as deadly.

For her prey, that is.

Snatched in a blink, life extinguished by her grip

and several nips from her beak.

Devoured quickly.

Precious energy not easily gained.

Uncategorized

My work caught up to me (as always).

It’s been a while since I posted something other than one of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry poems, so I thought I’d rectify that with a ramble about what’s been happening lately.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been busy with various writing projects this year – drafting, revising, going through major edits, most of which came back to back. In early November, I finally managed to finish the ‘final’ revision for the book I wrote last year in order to get it ready for querying (which I’m currently doing).

Shortly after completion, the weight of all the energy I’d used up doing everything hit me hard: my sleep, which has never be good, got worse, and I couldn’t handle much physically or mentally. I probably should have seen it coming, because it’s happened before, but even if I had, I’m not sure what I could have done about it. I’m terrible at taking breaks and resting. I’m not even sure if I know how to rest – no matter how hard I try, my brain won’t stop chiming in with all the projects I’ve got lined up, and if I don’t have any, it ‘helpfully’ comes up with some.

The thing is, the longer I put off resting, the worse my energy levels will be affected when I do get to it. So I had to force myself to slow down, because my body was telling me I had to. So I spent a while playing games, which I rarely do otherwise despite how much I enjoy them, went out for more walks, cared for and added (substantially!) to my houseplant collection, and only worked on my fundraising project.

This did work for a while, but then I got a few emails about being part of a story festival, which meant I had another project to prepare for. And it seems that, if I have any sort of deadline, no matter if it’s ages away, my brain will not let me settle until whatever it is is done.

I ended up doing it all as fast as I could so I no longer had to think about it, and I felt so much better afterwards that I even managed to do some small festive crafty things (I like the idea of making things, but generally I’m too impatient and get bored halfway through, which then means I end up resenting it while being too stubborn to give up. Conundrums, conundrums.)

But then I got the itch to rework an older book, and though in some ways, I probably would benefit from taking a few more weeks to recover, when I started taking a look at the story and began tweaking, I felt like I was achieving something again. It’s an odd headspace to be in – I’m tired as I’m still not sleeping well, and I can’t really handle more than one activity a day (I disregard general cleaning, as that’s part of my morning routine, and I get so badly thrown off if I don’t do it that it’s just not worth skipping it. Also, I have birds, and their care comes well before mine). Yet if I don’t have some sort of work on the go, apparently I feel unfulfilled.

I do wonder if other creatives, especially those who are neurodivergent, have the same problem?

Uncategorized

Just an update

Hi everyone, I know this blog has been quiet recently, and the reason why is that I’ve been weighed down with edits on my upcoming book.

My publisher had a few…shall we say, hitches…with their editing team, in that at the moment, they don’t appear to really have one. I had a message from them saying my manuscript came back clean, and the majority of writers know that brilliant as their work may be, very rarely is it so perfect that no tweaks need to be made whatsoever.

So, I asked to take a look at my manuscript before they proceeded to the next stage, and as I suspected, it was littered with errors. (I wrote and redrafted this particular book about five years ago, and though it was accepted not only by this publisher, but one before {the company changed hands and I decided to part from them before the book had any work done to it}, the writing was well and truly terrible. For some reason, I’d tried to emulate the style of old time fantasy books, and what I ended up with did not hold up to today’s standards.)

I wasn’t particularly happy, but as the entire writing style needed updating to reflect my current one, I decided to revamp the whole thing, which took a month of hard work (and when I say a month, I mean it — I don’t have another job, so my time was spent wholly on that).

Now, it’s very true that editing your own writing (with publication in mind – self-edits and re-drafts before querying publishers and agents are essential) is not the best idea as generally, you’re too close to see the things that need the most work. However, because it’s been so long since I looked at this book, when I first started going over it, I discovered that it was like reading someone else’s manuscript, giving me the confidence to believe what I was attempting to do might actually work.

Having now done the major edits – I don’t think there’s a single line that hasn’t been tweaked –  I’m now on the proofreading stage. For this, I switched up how I was reading, choosing to upload the document to my Kindle and note down errors on paper as I go. This seems to be working fairly well, as the large font makes typos and grammar issues jump out at me, and allows me to do it at a decent pace and not get caught up reworking the same sentence ten times on the document. Every few chapters or so, I take my notes and apply them to the document, and when I finish the read through of the whole thing, I have a master list of overused words to check and give it that final polish.

All this work came right after doing a revise and resubmit for an agent (who ultimately passed, but in a very encouraging way) and finishing my latest work in progress, so it’s been a long time since I’ve had a break. But I’m close. Really close.

That’s all for now, though upon reflection, it’s a lot more detail than I initially planned on writing. Oh well. (Also, if there are typos in this, I apologise, but I’m too tired to correct them at the moment.)

 

Uncategorized

In case the New Year brings that dastardly task of editing your novel: Kathryn’s Guide to Editing Fiction

Knowing what to do after you’ve *finally* finished the first draft of your manuscript and have mopped up all the blood, sweat and tears that went into it can be a bit of a mystery if you’re new to the game. You know editing comes into it, and you may have heard about beta readers, but what comes first, and more importantly, how do you go get started?

To help with the cacophony of questions littering your head, I’ve made a general guide to help you get going. This is very much based off my own experience, and is not an exhaustive list:

  1. After you’ve written that last word on your manuscript, put the whole thing away somewhere and leave it for a good amount of time (I personally leave it for about three months, but others leave it for longer) and get on with other things. Start a new project; finish any others lurking around; if you’re thinking about publication, research which avenue might be best for you and what that entails; basically, anything to keep your mind stimulated but doesn’t involve that first draft. This is to make sure that when you do eventually go back to it, you can view it with fresh eyes – meaning that plot holes, weak characters or lack of world building will jump out at you and therefore be easier to fix.

 

  1. Don’t focus on spelling or wording on this initial edit. Look at the big picture instead. Are there any holes in your plot? Do your characters feel flat or serve no purpose? Does the story start in the right place, or are the first few chapters unnecessary? What scenes work, and what don’t? If you’re finding it hard to tell if certain points of the story are unnecessary, try removing them and see if it affects the overall plot. If the plot still flows, then those scenes (however beautifully written they are/despite how much you personally love them) have to go. Nothing ruins a good book more that scenes that jar the pacing by adding nothing.

 

  1. Once you’ve fixed the big issues with your manuscript, you can either put it away again, or continue on to the next stage. Again, I personally leave it for a bit because I know I get far too close to my work.

 

  1. Now it’s time to really focus on your characters and world building. Your characters need to feel like real people – give goals and dreams, flaws and bad habits, and don’t hole them up into stereotypes. If they’re from very different backgrounds/circumstances to you, make sure you do your research – not only to make them realistic, but to avoid being insensitive to readers. (If you’re worried about your representation of people from different walks of life to you, you can always hire a sensitivity reader at a later stage.) When working on world building, think about the social structure of each place, use all five senses to describe things and make sure you don’t fall into the pit of info dumping. Also, in dialogues scenes, look out for ‘white room syndrome’, when no description about where or when the scene takes place is included.

 

  1. Next, we get in to the more technical aspects of writing. Tense, point of view and grammar. (If you feel your manuscript is shaping up nicely, you can start looking at spelling, over-use of words and continuity, but I would leave that until last.) It doesn’t matter what point of view you use, or what tense, as long as you keep them consistent throughout the manuscript – unless you have a very good reason not to, like an intentional stylistic change to illustrate a certain point. If you struggle with grammar, there are a lot of helpful books and forums, as well as YouTube guides. (I have a book on grammar that’s actually written for kids, but the language and examples are so clear that it’s the one I go to most.)

 

  1. The stages of editing can get a bit murky here – some writers have to repeat steps until they’re happy and end up with a good number of drafts, others breeze right through and end up with relatively few. However, whether you’ve done a lot of back and forth on your work or not, this part is important. Read your work aloud. I’ll say it again: READ YOUR WORK ALOUD. From start to finish, until you’re sick of the sound of your own voice. This is so you can clearly see problems with sentence structure, missing words, typos, continuity, repetitive description and all that jazz (as readers we’re always pleased to spot others’ mistakes, but are far less pleased as writers if someone kindly points them out in our own work).

 

  1. Finally, when you are happy with your manuscript and can’t find anything else to work on, it’s time to send your work to beta readers. These can be other writers, friends, family or simply people you know love to read. What is important to note, however, is that it’s far more helpful to send your work to readers who readily consume books in that genre than ones who have never read/rarely read within your genre, as the feedback you receive will be more relevant. When you do receive feedback, look for trends in what people are saying. If eight people say a scene isn’t working, then it’s probably wise to take another look and see if it truly does need revising. If one beta reader hates a character but the others love them/make no comment, then perhaps that’s just their personal taste. Consider all feedback, but remember that it is still your work, so you have the final decision on what to change.

 

So there you have it. Where you take your work from there is completely up to you. Whether you opt for traditional publishing, self-publishing or somewhere in-between (be absolutely sure you don’t head down the path of vanity publishing – an old but good rule on how to tell a vanity publisher from a real one is that money should always flow to the author, not away) make sure you do your research.

Poetry

Ramble Tangle

My eyes are tired,

it’s been far too long,

examining words

I’d long thought were gone.

 

The night draws up,

a blanket to my chin,

yet the letters reel on,

I cannot give in.

 

Searching and searching,

I sew back my soul,

catching those secrets

I’d left to grow cold.

 

Time makes it clear,

the rivers flow by,

I’ll take my chance now,

speaking no lie.

 

Poetry

Vanishing Time

It can overtake you, if you’re not careful.

That little bug, that tightly sealed jar that cracks with every move

and is just waiting for a chance to burst open

and flood the carpet with alphabet shapes that form words,

sentences, scenes, chapters,

faster than you can say, ‘I’ll just get in five minutes’ work before bed.’

Oh, what a lie. A page full of typed lies

that keep you from realising the time until

the strikes of midnight–no, I stand corrected–two in the morning.

Thank you brain, for that mad dash of creativity.

No, I mean it.

The pages would be crisp and white forever without you.

Poetry

A shelf of names

Is it an odd thing

to want to put my name on a shelf?

Pin it up amongst the other names

of other dreamers, ones who have been told many times,

probably even more times than me,

that their dreams aren’t worth following?

 

Is it an odd thing

to want to pour my mind out?

Use my blood as ink, staining the words

onto white sheets binding the dreams always to the world,

polishing until they are no longer

dreams, but real, solid books?

 

Perhaps it is.

And perhaps I’ll do it anyway.

Poetry

Little monster

We all have that monster eating us up inside. Yes, you know the one. I’ve named mine Calm. It seems to like it. Whenever someone asks when my book will be published, or ‘how’s that story going you’ve been working on for yonks?’, and I hear Calm start to stir – that’s when I say, ‘Calm, down! Don’t give them the satisfaction of making you bitter.’ Then it grumbles and goes back to sleep, and I can get back to work, unafraid that the little monster of self-doubt will sneak out.