Sunday Update 21/07 – Productivity!

Last week I wrote about using an arbitrary deadline to power through and finish the FIGHT SCENE FROM HELL. I finished it as planned and sent it to my friend. That’s not the important bit. The important bit is that finishing the scene unlocked a whole bunch of other scenes allowing me to fix several continuity problems and change the order of earlier scenes.

Sometimes that’s the thing with creativity. Sometimes what you need is to try something different, sometimes you need a break, and sometimes what you need is an incentive to care less about quality and just finish the thing.

Finishing one thing allowed me to go back and care about the quality of the other things. Project Kindness isn’t finished but it’s a lot closer than it was two weeks ago. Of the seven parts I’ve divided it into, five are finished and polished, one will be finished tonight and the remaining one could be finished in the next couple of weeks. There are two or three scenes that need to be written or extensively rewritten and everything else just needs smoothed out and possibly reordered. Then it could actually be finished.

I think. I’ve been wrong about that before.

The weird thing about looking back on your own writing is that it’s one part ‘this is brilliant, what genius wrote this’, one part ‘this is trash, what idiot wrote this’, and one part ‘this makes no sense, what the hell was I thinking,’. Or that’s how it feels. If I were capable of being truly objective it would probably be mostly fairly competent, some absolute rubbish and all the continuity problems associated with making shit up as you go along.

Going back over the old stuff is a little like collaborating with myself. Sometimes I just have to have faith that old me knew what she was doing when she laid down this plot and picked those characters and wrote that dialogue. And sometimes she clearly didn’t and I have to clean it up or delete it and come up with something better.

I’m so close to the end of this thing but I have absolutely no idea if it’s any good. I can point at individual lines and say that they’re good, sometimes even whole scenes, but when it comes to the plot or the premise or the character arcs I just can’t tell any more. I’m too close to it.

That’s why it’s so hard to finish stuff. And why it’s so hard to show stuff to people. Both of those steps involve confronting the painful truth that your stuff may not be any good while at the same time requiring you to believe that it’s good enough to finish and show to people.

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Sunday Update 02/06

This was going to be a post about The Mummy (the recent one which is currently on Netflix). I was going to do an in depth look at the plot structure and talk about how I think some of the story telling decisions lead to it being less successful than expected and potentially putting the kibosh on Universal’s proposed “Dark Universe”.

Then I got distracted by thinking about some of the writing difficulties I’ve had this week and how I probably needed to talk about that instead. I also realised that If I put off talking about The Mummy it gives anyone who’s interested the chance to watch it themselves and see if they agree with me.

So that’s your homework. Watch The Mummy (the 2017 one with Tom Cruise not the 1999 one with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, or the 1959 one with Christopher Lee, or the 1932  one with Boris Karloff).

This week I have actually done some writing and some writing adjacent activity and I’ve been dealing with a couple of recurrent problems. One is a technical writing problem, well a bunch of problems really. The other is an extremely on brand confidence/panic problem.

Let’s talk about the technical problems. I’ve been back at the rewrites of the big fight scene at the end of Project Kindness. It’s not the only thing stopping me from finishing Project Kindness but it is the main thing. Normally I’d count fight scene amongst the things I’m good at but this one is a special case. I’m unsure about how to handle almost everything about it.

The first problem, which I’ve mentioned before, is that it’s a super important scene. There’s a lot of story stuff that has to come together at the same time.

The second problem is how many of the cast are present. There’s three people participating in the fight and a bunch of people watching. One of the participants and four of the spectators have been PoV (point of view) characters in previous scenes and the spectators have stuff that they need to be doing during the fight. That means that I need to manage multiple PoVs within the scene. There’s nothing stopping me breaking it down into smaller scenes but i don’t have much else going on so it’s hard to cut from the fight to another scene elsewhere and then back to the fight with a different PoV which is how I prefer to switch PoV. And since I’m switching PoV I need to work out which characters to focus on.

The third problem is that I’ve made so many attempts to write this scene that I keep getting lost. Did I actually write that bit or did I only think about writing it? Which of these four slightly different versions of this bit is the best?

The fourth problem is the knowledge base problem. I know what butterfly swords look like but I can’t rely on my readers knowing that. How much detail do they need in order to know what’s going on and at what point does all the detail become overwhelming? Am I introducing some of this stuff too late? Should I go back and add additional fight scenes earlier on so that I’m not dumping a bunch of exposition this late in the story?

The non-technical problem I’ve had is with a piece of commissioned writing. It’s a guest blog that I haven’t talked about much because I didn’t want to jinx it. It’s been finished for 3 days now but I’ve been having trouble letting go and sending it in. At first I thought the problem was that it was too long and didn’t have a good title but gradually it became clear that the real problem is my twin fears of rejection and fucking up. I’m scared that it’s no good, or that it’s not what they want, or that they just won’t like it. I’m scared that I’ve written it so badly that they won’t even tell me to rewrite it.

I suspect that it’s a kind of impostor syndrome. And also an entirely rational scepticism about the possibility of anything ever going well for me. Historically things have not gone well for me. I fail at things a lot. Succeeding at things is almost worse because then I have to do more things and when those additional thing fail it’s even more painful.

I’d love to say that I’ve got some sort of insight on how to deal with this problem but I don’t. I just forced myself to hit send on an email and now I’m writing this blog post as displacement activity so that I don’t drive myself crazy with panic.

Sunday Update 19/05: A wild plan appears

This week the update is going to be a bit different. I think it’s time to take stock of what I’ve written, what I’m writing and what I’m going to write in an effort to sort out my priorities and make some kind of a plan. But first a mini report on stuff from last week. Behold my mighty bullet points.

  • No I haven’t made a doctor’s appointment yet.
  • Yes I still plan to make an appointment.
  • My new compression wraps have still not arrived.
  • If they don’t arrive by Wednesday I will chase them up (always assuming I can manage to make the phone call).
  • We are no longer super broke.
  • We are still saving for a new computer.

And now on to the writing stocktake.

Singularity

This is the finished novel that got this|—| close to finding a publisher following the XPONorth pitch a couple of years ago. Or maybe not. I got asked for a full but by the time the full was done the publisher had decided to focus on other genres.

Singularity is in that Occult Mystery/Supernatural Detective/Contemporary Urban Fantasy subgenre that nobody can agree on a name for. It’s hard to query agents when you can’t tell if they want to represent the kind of book you have. When the agency page says Magical Realism does it mean actual magical realism or does it mean a story in a realistic modern setting with added magic?

I haven’t given up on Singularity but I’m not currently querying it. I’ve had no real feedback on it since the XPONorth pitch so I don’t know if the problem is the novel, or the query letter, or if I just haven’t put it in front of enough agents. My plan is to return to it once I’ve finished the current work in progress and see if some time away from it makes it easier to work out what the problem is.

Project Kindness.

The current work in progress. A novel of sexy spies and Celtic gods. Still in the subgenre with no name but hopefully easier to describe to an agent. I’m most of the way through the current re-write. I hope to be able to stick it in front of my beta readers by the end of the summer.

I’m at the stage of rewriting where I just want the thing to be done. I suspect that if I really pushed I could have it done by this time next week. I’m just not sure that I have the spoons for that.

At the moment I’m wrestling with the final fight scene. This is the third time I’ve been through this scene (this rewrite is the third draft) and it is not getting any easier. Perhaps that’s a sign that the novel is structurally sound? A lot of threads need to tie up in this one scene. It’s like placing the keystone of an arch.

If I get it wrong the whole thing will fall apart but only because I’ve built it so that all the narrative forces channel into that one stone holding it in place and achieving equilibrium.

It doesn’t help that it’s a martial arts fight between three skilled fighters with a crowd of people watching, some dialogue on the side, and multiple weapon changes. It’s one of those scenes that will be great if they ever make a movie but is pain in the arse to create from words alone.

My plan with Project Kindness is to get this draft finished as soon as possible, put it together into a single usable, sharable file, stick it in front of my beta readers and then focus on other stuff.

Project Academy

This is the YA (young adult) magical high school/conspiratorial secret history novel that I wrote the first draft of during NaNoWriMo last year. It’s currently a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster. About three quarters first draft (some rough, some pretty clean) and one quarter detailed outline.

It’s not ready to show to people and it needs a lot of work. I still intend to finish it but I’m not sure when I’m going to be doing that. I suppose it depends on how long it takes to finish Project Kindness, how much work Singularity needs, and how much prep Project Locke requires.

Project Locke

My “brilliant” idea for this year’s NaNoWriMo novel.

This is in the really early stages. So far all I have is two pages of notes. I have a pretty clear idea of the central characters and I have a plan for the plot but the setting is still really hazy. It’s like my mind’s eye can’t focus on it. I know what the texture and colours are but I can’t see any of the fine detail.

I know it won’t be set in the past or the present so that leaves the future or an alternative present. At the moment it’s feeling like about 100 years into a future that’s recovering from decades of war and a slow apocalypse. But I could feel differently about it tomorrow.

The nice thing about this project is that it’s not linked to anything I’ve worked on before. That’s what I promised myself for this year’s NaNoWrMo. I’ve decided that I need to diversify my writing to give myself the best chance of writing something that someone will actually want.

The big problem with this project is that it’s shiny and new and I want to think about it all the time and fill in all the holes and start writing it NOW! That’s not because it’s any better than anything else it’s just because it’s new so I haven’t had the chance to fuck it up yet. I can’t allow myself to be seduced by the new idea. I have to finish the other stuff first.

Assorted other projects

These are the things which I am currently not working on but which I will probably come back to at some point.

Project Cecil – faux true crime novel. An experiment in writing something grounded in the here and now. No plans for this currently but I might well come back to it at some point.

Generic Fantasy Novel – yes that is actually the name of the novel. It’s a comic fantasy novel that needs a lot for work because it’s heavy on jokes and far too light on plot. This is one I do want to come back to but I don’t know when.

The Dune Sea – A series of novels/RPG setting that I did a lot of work on and probably deserves to be resurrected in some form. There’s a lot of good stuff in there I’m just not sure what to do with it.

Underneath – the sequel to Singularity. I can’t do anything with this until I decide what I’m doing with Singularity.

Project Dingo – the same setting as Singularity and Project Kindness. I hope to get back to work on it but I need to either sell or self publish one of the others first before it’s worth the effort.

When I lay everything out like this it seems like a lot of stuff. No wonder I’m having difficulty fitting it into a plan. Particularly when I have so many days when I can’t do much. This whole plan thing is a bigger job than I thought.

Sunday Update 12/05

This week has been worrying. I’ve only left the house twice and I’ve spent a lot of time in bed. I even had to cancel a visit from a friend. I did manage to make it out to a medical appointment so now I’m looking forward to some new compression wraps.

I’m worried that I seem to have so little energy. It’s pathetic, even by my standards. I probably need to see my doctor but that means actually phoning for an appointment and I am super bad at that. Let’s see how many weeks it takes me to actually make that phone call.

We’ve been super broke this week. It’s down to poor planning on my part mostly. It’s been particularly frustrating because we do have money but it’s all savings put aside to buy a replacement computer for my other half. Being an adult and doing the right and sensible thing is such a pain in the arse sometimes.

One thing that went right this week is that I managed to actually write some of the thing that I’ve been trying to write for months. It’s not complete but the part of it that I just could not write is done and the rest is mostly adding in the research that I did weeks ago.

I haven’t added much to my novel in progress but I do now have a kind of deadline. I’ve had a brilliant (well it seems brilliant now but give it time) idea for this year’s NaNoWriMo novel. Every year I like to start a new novel in November and I was planning to write something completely different from everything I’ve written before. Now I’ve had an idea that fits that plan but will need some prep before November. That means that I really need to get the current work in progress done and ready to query by October at the very latest.

All of which means that I need to find a new working title so I can talk about the new novel. In the tradition of naming things as Projects I name this thing Project Locke. It’s too early to say much about it because I have some characters and I know how to find the plot but I don’t have a setting yet. It’s going to take a lot of work.

Sunday Update 24/03

This week I have been struggling to get stuff done and for once it’s not because of my innate procrastination. It’s because my Fibromyalgia has been particularly irritating. I’ve been in even more pain than usual and muscle spasms have made my left arm pretty useless. It’s been incredibly annoying. Nevertheless I have managed to get some work done.

I’ve been staring down the barrel of my big fight scene for several weeks but now that I’ve got to it I’ve discovered that I’ve got much more already written than I thought. There’s still a lot of editing and some rewriting to deal with the change in cast but I might be closer to the end of this draft than I thought.

The downside to all this is that the work that I do have ahead of me is much more finicky. It’s much more about working out who is standing where and who knows what and who can see whom. Some of it is the kind of thing that you just don’t think about while you’re on the first draft. Exactly how do you draw butterfly swords? And how do you describe how you draw butterfly swords. I know what I mean by a reverse grip and thus a reverse grip draw but is that what it’s actually called?

The other thing I’m working on with this novel is the transitions of one scene to the next. I’ve found myself spending ages just staring at scrivener trying to work out if I really need to add another couple of sentences to this scene. Should I break it here and move to other characters or just go straight on with these characters? How much time should I skip? Should I attempt to follow them on this long walk from one scene to the next?

I’ve also been focusing on better ways to track my writing practice. I decided that I needed a spreadsheet to track how many words I write and how much time I spend on useful reading or on editing. However this means that I have to face how terribly I now am at using spreadsheets. Way back in the day, back when computer skills were still quite rare, I used to be ok at using spreadsheets. It was part of my job back when I worked in a lab. But I’m out of practice and technology has moved on and I had to download one that sort of does some of what I want. I think I need to do a course.

This week I’ve also been contemplating the many ways in which I am really quite bad at the internet. I’m ok for someone who was an adult before the World Wide Web was a thing but compared to the younger generations I’m terrible. I don’t really engage with it properly. I think it’s partly because I don’t like being judged and that’s not a great trait to bring to online spaces.

I belong to a lot of craft based Facebook groups but I almost never post on them. I’ve just never got into the habit of documenting the things that I make. Most of what I make never gets photographed. Even when I remember to photograph things I often don’t post the photographs and when I do post them I usually just post the photograph and the fact that I just made this thing. I don’t do the helpful thing of including links to the materials or the pattern.

With crochet in particular I often adapt patterns or create my own but I don’t document the process so not only can I not pay that back to the crochet community but if I want to make the thing again I have to start again from scratch.

I’m not sure how to be less crap at this. All suggestions gratefully received.

Sunday Update 17/03

This week I have been mostly struggling with the limitations of my conditions. I’ve been out and about but every trip comes with an unpleasant hangover during which I’m useless both physically and mentally. Even when I’ve been mentally able to write I’ve been struggling with spasms in my arms that make typing difficult.

However, in spite of all that, I have still managed to get some work done. I’ve started tracking my fight against procrastination on twitter (look for #procrastinationwatch to see what I’ve been up to) and that has helped me to be more productive. It’s also forced me to think about what counts as productivity.

So what do I count as productive? Writing is productive and it’s easy to track – more words equals more productivity – but at some point you have to edit it. Editing is productive but it’s harder to track – do I count hours of editing or words cut or what? Beta reading for other writers is productive because it teaches me to be a better writer and it’s how I pay back into the writing community. I think that reading for pleasure also counts as productive but I’m not sure that I can make the same argument about consuming stories via TV, video games or movies.

Brexit continues to be a clusterfuck. Watching it from Scotland is a weird experience. Is there a word for experiencing a jolt of schadenfreude followed by the stab of realisation that you’re probably getting dragged into hell too? We might still avoid it. The whole thing might fall through or Scotland could go for independence. However it’s looking increasingly likely that there will be a period of chaos and deprivation whatever happens. I genuinely have no idea when Britain will leave the EU and what the immediate result will be. I also don’t know how the Scottish Government will respond or how the UK Government will react to that.

I suppose it’s a good thing that I have a couple of computer games and some books to take my mind off of real life.

Sunday Update 10/03

This week I have been facing up to my procrastination. Since I need some kind of focus or deadline in order to write I’ve decided to start posting my progress on twitter. At the moment my focus is finishing the current draft of the book I’ve codenamed Project Kindness and on doing more reading.

In the coming week I plan to start constructing a complete MS of Project Kindness with all the scenes in roughly the right order and the rewrites of the earlier scenes. Hopefully that document should be ready for the beta readers by the end of the month.

After that my plan is to focus on the completed novel, Singularity. I haven’t had much in the way of feedback from the agents who’ve seen it and I’ve learned a lot from working on Project Kindness. I’m going to take a detailed look at it and then I have a friend in mind for a Substantive Edit. So if you’re one of my friends who reads a lot of Urban Fantasy and can be trusted to tell me if there are major problems with it then you might be getting an email from me asking a favour.

This week I finished reading, The Tattoo Thief, by Alison Belsham, so look for a review post about that next week. I also took my son to see Captain Marvel and there will be a review for that. The book I’m currently reading is the period whodunnit, Death Will Find Me, by Vanessa Robertson. I’m only 50 pages in so far but I’m already mentally casting the inevitable ITV drama in the style of Poirot. Surely that can only be a good sign.

Now I have to get back to wrangling my characters. I’ve got a big fight scene to choreograph.

Procrastination update

I have finished reading The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham. I’m not going to do a full review yet because I need to let it settle before I can put my thoughts into words. However I will say that if you enjoy a grim and gruesome, deviously plotted, police procedural then you need to read it.

I had coffee with a writing friend today. She dealt me a stern telling off for not finishing the current draft of my spy novel, the one I’ve been calling Project Kindness. It’s probably fair. I’d be the first to admit that my working process is rather chaotic and going back and fixing the point of view for earlier scenes before finishing the draft is possibly a bad idea. I’ve probably been putting off finishing it because I still have no idea how to properly wrangle all the characters in the big fight scene.

I’ve also just learned that my finished novel, Singularity is too long to be commercial so I need to go back and cut it down before attempting to rope someone in for a substantive edit.

I’m thinking about dealing with my procrastination by making regular posts about my progress. Would posting my wordcount and editing progress here be a good idea? Would it force me to do more while providing encouragement for others? Or would it just clog up my blog with a lot of nothing posts?

Sunday Update 17/02

This week I do not have writer’s block. Because writer’s block is not a thing. Also because writing isn’t the problem. Editing is the problem. Is there a word for that thing where you open Scrivener and jump back and forth between various scenes not changing them in any way and then minimise the window and play Minecraft instead?

I’ve reached the stage of editing where my current draft is like a tangle of yarn. When you’re untangling yarn you have to do it in the right order or you just end up making things worse for yourself. I’ve you pull on the wrong loop you just turn the rest of the tangle into a snarl. Maybe you end up with knots. Maybe some of the knots have to be cut out.

Writing earlier drafts has not prepared me for this. When you hit a problem with a first draft the solution is nearly always to just jump in and write your way out of it. When you hit a problem with a second draft the solution is usually to either change the order of scenes or write an additional scene. The worst thing that can happen is that you have a bunch of words that you can’t use in the current project or you spend five minutes fixing continuity.

I’ve already made editing errors on my current work in progress that have cost almost as much work to fix as an entire first draft. I had to rewrite a couple of scenes that I’d already rewritten once. Then I had to move one of them. Moving a scene this late in the project is not a five minute job. It causes a cascade of changes to other scenes and I have no idea if moving the scene was right.

At the same time as I’m working out how to move these scenes around and what needs to be changed to fit I still have major problems with the last part of the novel. Do I finish the rewrites of the earlier scenes first or do I fix the the last part? If I pick the wrong bit to work on then I could be creating more work for the future.

Or maybe I need to take a long hard look at my process. Maybe the real problem is that I don’t have a robust enough back up system so it’s hard to just revert to an earlier version?

The other thing I’ve been thinking about this week is sleep and how maybe I should stop trying to resist it and just go to bed every time I get sleepy.

When I first became ill, or at least no noticeably ill that I couldn’t continue to pretend that I wasn’t ill, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). When I was later diagnosed with Fibromyalgia I just sort of assumed that I the CFS was a misdiagnosis. Now I’m not so sure. The waves of tiredness that have been overcoming me recently do sound a lot like CFS. Maybe I have both. Which means I have to do some research into the current thinking about CFS and how to manage/treat it.

It would be great if the next thing that goes wrong with my body could be something simple, treatable, and uncontroversial. I am so over chronic, untreatable disorders that a significant minority of the medical profession prefer to pretend don’t exist.

Narrative blues

I’m still deep in the rewrites of Project Kindness, the sexy spies and celtic gods novel, and I am pissed off with modern narrative conventions. In theory there are many options for the narrative point of view but if you pick the wrong one you risk any prospective agent assuming that you’re a rank ammateur.

I assume that most of my readers know what first, second and third person are and are aware of the different types of each but not everyone does. Also I don’t have an English Literature degree and it’s been a long time since I passed my higher so I’m almost certainly using some of the terminology wrongly. Therefore I’m going to start with an explanation of the terms I’m going to be using. Feel free to skip ahead if this stuff bores you.

First person

“I did, I saw, I felt.” The Narrator is a character in the story. They might be the main character (Hunger Games), or they might be chronicling the deeds of a friend, (Sherlock Holmes) or they might be documenting events that they lived through (War of the Worlds).

With some narrators the reader feels like they’re inside the narrator’s head experiencing things as they happen like in the Hunger Games books. Stories like these are sometimes written in the present tense and they tend to feel very immediate. The foreshadowing happens in events and dialogue or in the mind of the narrator, there’s never any of that “If only I’d known then what I knew later” stuff.

Some stories have the feel of the narrator having experienced events and then gone away and written about them later. All of the first person Sherlock Holmes stories feel like this. These stories can have a kind of meta narrative going on because the narrator already knows how the story is going to turn out. The Final Problem, the story in which Sherlock Holmes goes over the Reichenbach Falls, is shot through with Watson’s grief and anger.

Some stories feel more like they’re being told to you by the narrator either during or immediately after the events. It feels like you’re down the pub with them and they’re full of this thing that just happened and telling you all about it with accompanying hand gestures and funny voices. Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books feel like this, particularly if you listen to the audio books.

Second Person

“You did, you saw, you felt.” Mostly used in choose your own adventure books or in short stories. I’m sure there must be some successful Second Person novels out there but I wouldn’t have the first idea how to write one. I believe there’s a fair bit of sexy, second person, fanfic out there where the reader is a character in the stories. Taking the self insert character to its logical conclusion.

Third Person.

“He/she/they did, saw, felt.” I think this is the most diverse narration and there’s multiple kinds of Third person with actual names that writers are expected to know.

Third person omniscient – the Narrator is God, or at least godlike. The narrator knows all and sees all and they get to decide what the reader gets to know. If the narrator dispassionately describes what everyone in a scene is thinking as well as what they’re doing then it’s third person omniscient.

Third person objective – the narrator is a person reporting on the narrative from the outside. They’ve done research, spoken to the survivors, read the clippings, and if possible visited the scene and they’re telling you what they found out. Very popular for true crime and faux true crime stories. Also used by CS Lewis in some of the Narnia Chronicles, particularly The Magician’s Nephew.

Third person limited – the narrative follows a single person’s point of view, everything is seen through the lense of their experiences, but since that person is not actually narrating we don’t get to know exactly what they’re thinking. It’s as if the camera of the novel was following that person and only that person.

Third person variable – very like third person limited but the narrative isn’t always following the same person. Usually the point of view switch happens at very clearly delineated points such as with a new chapter or at the very least a new scene.

Third person multiple – like variable but the point of view switch happens inside scenes. Easy to screw up, hard to get right. When done badly it tends to read like a failed attempt at third person omniscient. Either that or as ‘head hopping’, which just confuses the reader about who’s doing what and to whom.

The Blues

So much choice. Surely there’s a narrative option to fit any story? Yes and no. If you’re writing a novel and you’re not already a respected professional and you’re planning on submitting it to an agent then you might have to stick most of those options straight in the bin.

Third person omniscient, for example, used to be super popular. A lot of literary classics were written that way – Jane Austen was fond of it for one. In recent years it’s fallen foul of the oft repeated advice to show, not tell. It’s the same with third person objective. You can’t get away from the fact that that someone is telling a story and for a busy agent that might lead straight to the rejection pile.

‘Head hopping’ is a complete no-no so it’s best to avoid third person multiple. That also means you have to be careful with third person variable. If you don’t make it clear enough that the point of view has switched then a hurried reader isn’t going to look back up the page to check. That way leads straight to a form rejection email.

I want it to be clear that I’m not criticising agents. I don’t even know for sure that they do react that way. I just know that it doesn’t feel worth the risk. It’s not enough to avoid amateurish mistakes. You also have to avoid stuff that might look to the hurried glance like an amateurish mistake. With so many other writers clamouring for attention why would they spare the time for a second glance?

There’s a part of me that thinks that the real problem is quality. I just need to ‘git gud’ and then I can write things how I want to write them. There’s another part of me that disagrees with that. That part thinks the problem is time. From the moment a reader starts reading there’s a timer counting down to the point at which they lose interest. I your story doesn’t grab them somewhere tender before that timer runs out then you’ve lost them.

The author name on the front of the book affects the starting time on that timer. My name isn’t Neil Gaiman, or Sir Terry Pratchett, or JK Rowling. I don’t have much time to prove that my story, my writing and my characters are worth sticking around for. Part of that is demonstrating that I’m a professional. And that means that sometimes I have to choose to rewrite a scene so that it’s not as good but does more closely conform to the current narrative conventions.