Why I like that self-help book so much

The blog I posted a week ago lauded a book I read from cover to cover as soon as I received it, then read again, more slowly and carefully: Lorena Goldsmith, Self-Editing Fiction that Sells, How To Books Ltd., Oxford, UK, 2013. ISBN 978 1 84528 504 3. I promised to explain in the next blog why I’m so enthusiastic about Lorena’s book and why I believe it reached me at an optimal time. Now I’ll redeem my promise.

As my blog readers know, I spent three or four years in circumstance-induced non-creativity, and during that period I lost my confidence and pleasure in writing. Thanks to the influence of our local creative writing group, the confidence and the pleasure finally came back to me with the delightful suddenness of a Russian spring, and in the summer of 2013 I started writing a new (surreal, nonsensical) novel manuscript – with total abandon. I was a kid in a toy shop. Of course I’d made a plan, established CVs for my main characters, concocted a back-story, and all the rest of the things a novelist needs to do, but so much did I revel in the writing that I diverged from the plan, brought in one new character after another just for the hell of it, and was generally self-indulgent. I knew the resulting draft wasn’t good enough, but I didn’t much care. All I wanted to know was whether I’d REALLY rediscovered my capacity to use the language creatively. Was my renewed confidence in writing justified or misplaced?

I did polish the manuscript sufficiently to avoid embarrassing myself, and then sent it to a literary consultancy – Lorena’s consultancy. When I received their report I was, of course, taken to task (courteously!) for the inadequacies of composition and told – not at all to my surprise – that the potential audience for the book was too limited for a mainstream publisher to risk running with it. I can handle all that; in due course I’ll rewrite as necessary and then go for e-publication. But the most important thing was Lorena’s assurance that I CAN write again. The surge of relief I experienced is hard to describe. Ever since I published my last work of fiction, back in 2009, I’ve feared I’d lost such ability as I ever had as an author. So when an experienced professional (notwithstanding justified criticisms of the manuscript) told me the narrative flowed smoothly from page to page and was enjoyable to read, I was overjoyed.

In January of this year, during the rather long interval between my sending the manuscript to Lorena’s establishment and receiving the report, I started reworking a novel manuscript I’d begun, and abandoned, when times weren’t conducive to creativity (in 2010, to be approximately precise). The adrenaline rush of renewed pleasure in writing was still with me, but I was more circumspect, making sure I stuck to my plan and kept my characters in check this time. Then Lorena’s book arrived. As a result, I’ve gone back over this work-once-again-in-progress and made several changes, making sure (as I believed I’d already done!) that I was “showing not telling” throughout, and that I wasn’t relying excessively on dialogue, and that I really knew my characters better than a reader ever will.

Thanks to Lorena’s book I’m making a better job of reworking this abandoned manuscript than I otherwise could have done. And thanks to the Lorena’s book, I’ll make an acceptable piece of literature out of the surreal “National Cake Day in Ruritania” when I get around to revising it.

So I repeat what I said in the last blog: whether you’re a ‘novice’ writer or an experienced and published one, I very strongly recommend “Self-Editing Fiction that Sells”.

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