Archive for the ‘work in progress’ Category

Edit Write Tiffle

Thank you to lovely writer Christina Hollis for inviting me to join the My Writing Process Blog hop. It comes at an excellent time for me, as I am just considering how to edit the first draft of the longest novel I have every written. (About 5 Mills & Boons in wordage.) So it has concentrated the mind wonderfully.

Currently I’m writing a story set in 1938 when nobody knew there was going to be a war, though lots of people suspected it and tried to work out what they would do if it came. There is a love story – a big one, with problems of integrity, class and sexual morality all mixed in – but the theme, I suppose, is conflict of loyalties. In the end everyone has to work out his or her own solution. We are all answerable to our own consciences, when the lights are out.

My writing process is best described as close your eyes and jump. That’s what happened when I started this book. As a result, I went in a number of wrong directions. When I was writing 55,000 word category romance, with one story, two major characters and a guaranteed happy ending, this was not an issue. Now, with a multi-character world and at least four story lines, I have to keep my eye on the landing zone. Basically I think it is going to work like this:
• Write  – tick
• Read  – tick
• Edit
• Write the missing stuff
• Tiffle – more politely known as polishing.

Done in pen or pencil plus highlighter pens on printed ms, with accompanying notes in a bound notebook. Loose sheets get lost. I have proved this.

1 NOTE incidents/reflections/dialogue that I need to insert to make sense of later developments. Note both where insertion is needed and where it is picked up later. NB Use reference points that Word Search will find. I am now about to kick hell out of Draft 1’s pagination.
2 UNDERLINE, sideline, highlight stuff I need to take out because it doesn’t make sense in this story.
3 CIRCLE stuff where I go on too long, repeat myself
4 QUESTION MARK anything that strikes me as odd, either because of consistency, plot, character or historical fact.
5 BRACKET anything which could be better expressed. Remember less is more.
6 THEN CUT 2) and 3). This is very satisfying! Keep outtakes for future use. Also, some editor further down the line may want them back in.
7 CONSIDER QUESTION MARKS I find this takes me back into the creative process.
8 SAVE ms as Draft 2


I now know the new material that needs to go into my story (1 above), plus the issues that I need to resolve (7) and any Notes To Self that I make as I go along, especially as I approach the end. They are a focussing mechanism, not a shopping list, Essentially I am now back in the writing zone again. From now on I need to fly, not plod.

The main difficulty here, I’ve found, is seamless joining. What works best for me is to find out where the new piece has to go in and then go back and cut the preceding paragraph (or more). This gives me room to get into the writing voice I had when I first wrote that chapter. . If I read the preceding paragraph aloud and then keep speaking as I write on, it starts to feel like the spontaneous flow it should do, and not just a patch and push job.

The difference between the two

Editing is like a builder tidying up his brickwork, chopping off excess putty, filling the odd small hole. Re-writing is like removing a damaged brick and replacing it – you have to make room for it, then smoothe the joins so they don’t show.


This is where I deal with 5). It’s the beauty treatment – clarify, tighten, exfoliate, buff.

Word of warning here: this can go too far. From my past:

ED     You said the book was nearly finished. Why isn’t it on my desk?
ME     I’m just giving it a last tidy ….
ED     (howls) Stop tiffling.

Tiffling is where you can go through your book and replace one word or phrase with another because you like it better. This may be good if you a) know why and it’s a good reason and b) you’re consistent. If you replace ‘silk’ with ‘satin’ and then next day change it back, you’re in a bad way.


That’s the theory anyway. But it’s a BIG book and I have miles to go before I sleep. So I’d be very grateful for suggestions.


Recent contributors to My Writing Process Blog Hop

Christina Hollis    Bee-keeper and best selling author of historical fiction and M&B Modern Romance/Harlequin Presents  

Jean Bull has loved books all her life.  She has worked in everything from teaching to the hotel industry and lived all over the UK, which has inspired her writing. 

Margaret Mayo author of scores of successful category romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon

To come:

Cara Cooper writes short stories for women’s magazines, and novellas for People’s Friend, My Weekly and Ulverscroft.

Lucky 7: From Work in Progress

Social Media keep throwing me new challenges — or a curveball (‘a deceptive pitch, in which the ball dives downward as it approaches the plate) depending on your point of view. Today Janet O’Kane twittertagged me to take part in Lucky 7: Seven lines from new works.

Rules are:

  1. Go to page 77 of your current MS or WIP (simples)
  2. Go to line 7 (got that)
  3. Copy the next 7 lines, sentences or paragraphs (um . …)  and post them as they’re written (runs away screaming)
  4. Tag 7 more writers and let them know. ( glug)

So here goes with the Work In Progess. I’m not going into  context or character thumbnails. As Shakespeare said, good wine needs no bush. And if it ain’t good, well it’s a draft and, anyway, John Wayne does it for me—  Nevah apologaaaahse; issa sarna wikn’ss.  So I’m delegating the PR to my characters.  Off you go, guys:

‘The Countess was a Pre-Raphaelite  – well a fellow traveller, anyway – so our Paradise Garden is a mish mash of Garden of Eden and the Thousand and One Nights.’

‘Gabby –’

‘She wanted a cloister as well but her husband put his foot down.’

‘I’m not surprised,’  muttered Marek.  ‘Gabby –’

‘Apple trees for the Tree of Knowledge, of course, and roses for the Persians– and the Victorian bulldozer in the picture was to build a  mini canal because water symbolises life.’

‘Gabby,’ said Marek very loudly, ‘shut up.’


Now you may now want to go and read, or even listen to, something classy. SYLVESTER,  a book in which the palpitating writer finds just how bad it can get, is read by (be still my beating heart) Richard Armitage. You can even hear a sample on Naxos’s website:


And Friends, forgive me, I’m tagging you because I want to know what you’re writing now. But I don’t think you get struck down by palsy or even writer’s block if you don’t come up with 7 lines. The luck has already happened and it’s all on my side, knowing you and your lovely books . . .

Anne McAllister 

Anne Gracie

Barbara Hannay

Bex Leith

Elizabeth Bailey

Jan Jones

Lesley Cookman