Archive for musings

Metamorphosis

Posted in General Musings, Personal with tags , , , , on January 19, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

Throughout the short life of this blog, there’s been a distinct series of metamorphoses in emphasis in my ‘professional’ life, for want of a better phrase. The initial idea of maintaining this blog was to chart my career as a writer of genre fiction. For a short while I did indeed write almost constantly, churning out short story after short story – I even managed to get a couple of acceptances. I imagined that my course was set.

Then, after five months maybe, came the first metamorphosis – still writing, but this time with my reviewer’s hat on. I still do a bit of reviewing now and then, but currently I am not accepting or taking any more books until I have cleared what I already have and promised to review. And since I now run Spectral Press I have found that constraints on my time are even tighter. The latter has taken me by surprise a little, although to be fair I did expect to busy and, indeed, wanted to be so.

Which leads me on to the second metamorphosis – into that of editor. Out of all the projects I’ve been involved with, I think that the editing will be the most useful, not just in terms of my own imprint, but in the broader context of soliciting editing jobs for others. There’s a deep-seated part of me that loves what editing represents – English was always a subject I loved at school and if I’d had my wits about me back then I would have opted to go to university to study that instead of art. Let’s just say that events between my art school days and my recent past haven’t stood me in good stead. Don’t get me wrong, I still love painting and drawing, but it’s tempered with a sad realisation that it’s never going to be anything other than an occasional hobby.

Words are much more to my liking – and ever since I had a go at editing SL Schmitz’s Let it Bleed novel at the end of last year I have been bitten by the bug. I’ve applied (unsuccessfully) for one editing job – of course, experience counts for a great deal and editing one or two books does not make me an editor, let alone a good one. I still look out for editing jobs here and there – I want to add to my portfolio so to speak, so that when I DO apply to a publishers I at least stand a chance. Plus, of course, any outside editing experience will ultimately feed back into what I do for Spectral (and vice versa, naturally).

I suppose this is all part of how life plays out. Just like the cells in our bodies, nothing is ever the same from moment to moment. And that’s what makes it all so exciting for me – who know where I’ll be in six months?

Some observations on editing and other things…

Posted in Writing and words with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Over the last two weeks, as many of you will know, I’ve been doing a spot of editing (as well as scanning stuff for the Mary Danby collection). Well, okay, it’s more than just a ‘spot’ , it’s actually a LOT of editing, a whole novel, in fact. And you know what? It’s been one of the most pleasurable experiences doing it. And here’s why….

As many of you also know, I ran a small record label until the very beginning of this year. I used to put 14 hour days, seven days a week, into running it, and by the last quarter of 2009 I was beginning to feel resentful of the time I was spending on the label, time which was taking away from my writing. That resentment was probably compounded by the fact that, after having spent both time and money on promotion and associated activities, sales were horrendous and I was watching the great promise that the label had slip irretrievably away. Making it even worse was that all the reviews, of both the label and the product, were all extremelyfavourable, bar one. I guess, to me, it made very little sense as to why it was failing (but, of course, there were other factors involved, like a recession, for example). So, I’ve moved on.

I still put 12+ hours into the writing/editing/publishing/reviewing/creative work I do these days, but the feeling is now distinctly different. It’s work I actually enjoy doing, and although there are still deadlines (some of which are quite tight, like the editing job), the sense of pressure is considerably less than anything I experienced when working on FracturedSpacesRecords. I actually look forward to getting up in the mornings now, rather than thinking “Oh hell! Another day of dread and drudgery ahead…. ” There were times when I just wanted it all to go away, or wished that somebody would come and take it all off my hands. That just doesn’t happen nowadays.

Anyway, back to the editing. I’ve done some editing before, short stories mostly, both my own and those of other writers, but I’d never tackled a novel. So when the client (Stephanie Tryda) asked me if I could work on her manuscript and get it all done within a two-week timeframe, I positively jumped at the chance: in effect, this was something else I could add to my skills-base. Plus, on an even more prosaic level, having a menu of projects from which to choose meant that I would never be lost for anything to do, or get bored, or be prey to distraction. And thus has it turned out.

I worked out a methodical approach. First, I read the whole book, somewhat cursorily, to get an idea of the story and the ‘meta’ aspects of the novel (flow, rhythm, cadence, style, etc.,), making notes as I went along. While I was doing that, I corrected any obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes that jumped out at me.

Then, once I’d done all that, a second run-through, this time entailing a very much closer reading. The dynamics of a novel are, necessarily, very different from that of a short story. A writer has more space to tell their tale, building up character and plot slowly rather than quickly and dramatically. The rhythms and cadences are different, too. Plus there’s style to take into account as well: how much to edit for flow and comprehensibility without compromising the way that particular author writes in. You also have to be extremely aware of the rhythms and how they affect the work in question: does it flow smoothly from beginning to end, or are there interruptions that break the flow at awkward moments? Are there parts of the narrative that can be safely removed because, in actual fact, they don’t actually add anything useful to the story, the passages amounting to nothing more than diversions, abeit sometimes very interesting ones?

Alongside that, there’s also a great deal of internet research involved. The manuscript I’m working on is an extremely complex one, stylistically and thematically. Without giving too much away, its central themes revolve around Gnosticism (which the Free Dictionary [www.thefreedictionary.com]¬†defines as “the doctrines of certain pre-Christian pagan, Jewish, and early Christian sects that valued the revealed knowledge of God and of the origin and end of the human race as a means to attain redemption for the spiritual element in humans and that distinguished the Demiurge from the unknowable Divine Being”) and Sophia (Wisdom). Necessarily, there are terms used that are unique to that belief system, which have to be researched, verified and corrected, if need be. And, of course, catching all those spelling and grammatical mistakes, if any, I missed the first time round. Finally, there’s also making sure that all my edits are consistent, so whoever looks at it after me has as little to do as possible to it before sending it off to the printers.

It sounds complex, doesn’t it? Bizarrely enough, it didn’t feel like that, primarily because this is the kind of thing I like getting my intellectual teeth into – it’s stretched me in ways that some other things haven’t. Plus I saw it as a challenge – and editing (and proofreading) is something I’ve been looking to get into for a while now. The publishing isn’t going to bring in shedloads of money (nor did I expect it to), but if I can hone my other skills even further, I could, in theory, earn a comfortable income from them as well as my artistic endeavours. Going back to the record label briefly, in some ways that was quite limiting for me, whereas what I am involved with now presents a wider spectrum of possibilities. Just for starters, there’s writing, book reviewing, editing, proofreading, publishing and the painting – a wide variety to choose from. The more strings to my bow, the broader my choices.

So, in all, the last fortnight has been a brilliant push for me, skillswise and intellectually, and extremely fulfilling. Plus I would even go so far as to say that it’s also been educational. Therefore, I can honestly say that, had I stuck with the label and attempted to ride the bad times out, I doubt whether the plethora of opportunities and chances I have now would have come my way. And as for the great friends I’ve made as a consequence – well, that’s another story, for another time… =D