“Hello, I'm Katie. I work with words.”
Writer. Blogger. Consultant.
It’s been about a month and a half since my last book round up, and since then I’ve added nine books to the total. I’m now at 52 and am approaching last year’s full total of 60. There’s nothing I like more than beating myself at a challenge, so I expect I’ll be taking reading pretty seriously over the next six weeks!
Here are my nine most recent reads:
The Newlyweds Nell Freudenberger
I picked this book up as part of a bumper Amazon-giftcard order and got started on it pretty much as soon as it arrived. It was one of those books I found myself reading at lunchtime (I’m sure you’re familiar with the “I’ll just read for fifteen minutes” justification/fib). I thoroughly enjoyed it right up until the end, where it seemed to finish rather abruptly – though it’s quite possible that I just wanted more!
Sharp Objects Gillian Flynn
A friend of mine leant this to me after we both enjoyed Gone Girl. Just like Flynn’s later, more famous offering, Sharp Objects is an unputdownable read with fascinating characters and lots of twists. It’s a fun read with very dark undertones.
Instructions for a Heatwave Maggie O’Farrell
I’m sorry to say it, but this wasn’t my favourite Maggie O’Farrell novels. It had all the ingredients of a great story, but I just didn’t think it was as satisfying as her other books. A few days after finishing this, I found myself wondering how it was all going to end… only to realise that it already had.
Novel About My Wife Emily Perkins
Related story: when I tried to buy this book, Amazon told me I’d bought it in 2008. I had no recollection of either ordering or reading it, so I looked into the order history. As it turns out, I did indeed order it five years ago, but cancelled a day later. Why? I have no idea. However, I’m very glad I put in a second order! If you’ve read it, you’ll probably know exactly what I mean when I say it was crazy but I loved it. If you haven’t, trust me when I say it’s well worth picking up.
Rivers of London Peter Grant
A friend and I met for coffee and ended up stopping by the library. She picked this out of a pile of books she was returning, and I took it out right away. I’m really glad I did. Rivers of London is the first part of a trilogy about a very niche department of the London police force: the department in charge of monitoring crimes of a supernatural nature. Sound like fun? It was.
The Testament of Mary Colm Toibin
I was taught by Colm Toibin on my Creative Writing MA course, so I was very interested to read his booker-nominated newest novel The Testament of Mary. It’s a short book, but it more than makes up for it’s brevity in intelligence. I was really impressed that Toibin managed to make a novel about key religious figures into a novel about, quite simply, a mother and a son.
Save Me The Waltz Zelda Fitzgerald
This book is what’s known as a literary curio. I found an old Penguin copy of it in a charity shop in Hebden Bridge and saved it to read on our anniversary trip to Dublin. This book was written by Zelda Fitzgerald (wife of F. Scott) in the span of six frantic weeks. Impressive! The novel is largely auto-biographical and deals with the life and marriage of the Fitzgeralds. Interestingly, Zelda drew on many of the same experiences for this novel as her husband did for Tender is the Night. I loved it, but then, I’m a sucker for flapper girls and Zelda is pretty much queen of them all.
At Bertram’s Hotel (Miss Marple) Agatha Christie
This was the first Agatha Christie book I’ve ever read. Besides being a little surprised that Miss Marple didn’t actually do any of the investigating herself, I rather liked it. The 1950s setting was fun, the detail was great and the prose flowed effortlessly. I probably won’t be collecting Christie’s entire back catalogue any time soon, but I’ll definitely be reading more.
The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages Sophie Hardach
I put my hands up: I chose this book because of its (excellent) cover. It caught my eye as I was looking for a third book for a three for £5 offer, and I just couldn’t resist it. Luckily I’m able to report that this novel was just as good as its artwork! The interwoven story of a young Kurdish immigrant and a Parisian registrar was very nicely done, and the language was just gorgeous. Definitely recommended!
Over to you… have you read anything wonderful recently?Read More
I spend my working days fiddling around with words. I write them, I edit them, I proof them. Some of that time is spent working on my novel-in-progress. The rest of it is spent working on client projects such as web copy, blog posts or press releases.
I say this because, like a lot of people, I find it hard to turn off from my job. When I go out I look for places and details that could be worked into my fiction. When I watch TV I critique storyline arcs. When I see adverts I mentally play with and re-write them. When mail shots arrive through my door, I run a critical eye over their copy as I take them to the recycling bin.
Over the weekend, the owner of a local business stuck a glossy flyer through my letterbox. It stood out compared to the stuff we usually get because it was really nicely designed. The business owner had obviously invested the time and money that’s necessary to use a good quality graphic designer and printer.
Despite the good first impression, when I took a closer look I was disappointed. The written copy on the advert seemed fairly well thought out… but it was completely unedited. In the space of a couple of paragraphs there were a few spelling mistakes, some grammar issues, a handful of absent commas and half a dozen hyphens that seemed to have been put in at random.
To be honest, I felt bad for the business owner. He’d obviously spent a good chunk of cash on the advert. If that wasn’t enough, he’d also paid someone to distribute it or given up a few hours of his own Sunday to do it. All that money and effort was being badly let down by a lack of editing.
This issue could’ve been avoided so easily. Someone like me would’ve been able to edit the copy to a good standard in no more than an hour. On top of what the business owner had already spent, an hour of my time would’ve been a small investment but would’ve made a huge difference to the overall value of the advert.
So basically, my question is this: why do people value things like graphic design and good quality printing when they don’t value something as basic as editing?
Okay, now that I’ve made my point I’ll get back to critiquing my junk mail.Read More
Technically it’s Bonfire Night and I’m a fair few days late, but I didn’t want to skip my October Round Up altogether. It’s been a lovely month for me, filled with busy working days, novel progress scribblings and some long-awaited adventuring in Ireland. I must also confess to being an Autumn Fan, and I’ve been so enjoying the changing views in York. I took the above photo at Rowntree Park during a particularly bright and gorgeous morning.
A few highlights from my month;
A few highlights from around the web;
I may be asking this question late… but how was your October?Read More
One year on, marriage is wonderful, and surprising, and challenging, and magical. A year to the day from when this photo was taken, I’m more sure than ever that marrying Mr M is the best decision I’ve ever made.
Here’s to a fantastic marriage milestone, and to the next year ahead, and to whatever it should bring.
The adventure continues for Mr M and I.Read More
All writers have their own process. Typically, these are developed after a lot of trial and error, and I am no exception. Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a three stage redrafting process that seems to work for me. Obviously, this process is always open to change. What’s worked for me for drafts two and three won’t necessarily work in the future, but I thought I’d share what my redrafting process looks like now.
Step One – Editing (or, Scribbling).
The first thing I do is print off a full manuscript and scribble all over it with a highlighter and a biro. I highlight everything I don’t like and write comments as I go along.
Sometimes at this stage I know what I want the highlighted sections to be changed to, so I write in that change. Other times, I just write myself instructions for the next stage of the redraft. Sometimes these instructions are very specific, sometimes they’re vague, like ‘rephrase’. By this, I mean; write this better.
Writing these notes and instructions on the manuscript works for me because;
Stage Two; Redrafting By Hand
Yes, you did read that right. The next stage in my process is to take an actual pen, an actual pad of paper and write by hand. I take the instructions that I put together for myself in the first stage of the process and I write everything out again, making changes as I go along.
(Tea and macaroon are optional, but helpful).
There are a few reasons why I do this;
Step Three; Typed Redrafting
Once I’ve redrafted each section by hand, it’s time to type it up. At this stage, I open up my document-in-progress in Scrivener, my writing software of choice. I find the relevant chapter in the document and delete the whole thing. (Don’t worry, I save a back up of each draft). I then use the blank space to type up what I’ve redrafted by hand, making additional changes and polishing as I go.
This final stage is important because;
Typing all that out has reminded me just how much work goes into writing a novel! The process has taken a long time, but it’s been so rewarding. Here’s to my plan to hit the end of draft three by the end of November!Read More
One of my resolutions this year was to set regular goals to keep me on track with work. For the most part, this has been successful – but I have experienced a few issues. The biggest of these is the problem of the goalposts being moved. In this case, it’s not the badgers that are moving the goalposts, but me.
Let me give you an example. I recently set myself an initially achievable goal of finishing the next draft of my novel-in-progress by the end of October. All was well and dandy until I realised how much more work the last two sections of the current draft needed in order to get it to the same standard as the first three. I decided to solve this by doing a ‘double draft’, where I would redraft the last two sections twice instead of once.
This was a sensible decision, but it did mean there was quite literally double the amount of work to do in order to complete the new draft. Despite this, I didn’t rethink the late October completion goal I’d set myself. And thus, the goalposts were moved.
The problem with this habit of mine is that it usually means that I’m setting myself up for failure. This is particularly silly, as I’ve often surpassed the original goal by the original deadline, but that fact gets lost in the excitement of the new goal. In this case, I have actually already completed the draft I meant to finish by the end of October. But instead of giving myself a big pat on the back for doing so, I’m now stressing about not being able to finish the new ‘double draft’ in the next two weeks. In writing that down, I realise how silly it sounds…
There’s often a moral to my blog posts, and that moral is usually something along the lines of give yourself a break. This post is no exception. I’m trying to break my bad habit and stop changing the content of my goals without changing the deadline in line with it. I hereby set down in writing that a much more sensible deadline for the completed ‘double draft’ is the end of November, which gives me plenty of time not only to get it done, but to get it done well.
If you find yourself moving your own goalposts, please, for the love of badgers, consider doing the same!
The last month has been a little… unbalanced in terms of reading. I finally started Wolf Hall and spent three weeks happily ploughing through the Tudor saga, then finished it and rushed through three books in three days. I haven’t slowed down much since, and my reading total is now up to 44. Luckily, there are currently 16 books in my (precarious) to read pile, so I’m not going to run out anytime soon.
Here’s what I’ve been reading recently;
Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel
I put this off for months and months. People kept telling me I’d love it, and yet I kept avoiding it. Among my preconceived notions of it was that it was about Oliver Cromwell and that it was going to be really boring. I was completely wrong on both points. As soon as I actually sat down with it and started reading, I discovered it was about the ‘other’ Cromwell and was completely engrossing. It took me much longer to get through than a book normally takes me, but it wasn’t for lack of enjoyment. It’s just very long and dense! And before you say it… the follow up Bring Up the Bodies is one of the 16 books piled on my bedside table.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette Maria Semple
This was one of those books that’s so good you find yourself reading it at times of day you wouldn’t normally pick up a book. By the time I’d had a sneaky read at breakfast time, lunchtime and late afternoon… I’d finished it in a day. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is written in the form of emails and official documents. It’s done so cleverly that it’s completely engaging, and never once drifts over onto ‘novelty’ territory. Seriously, please go and read this book.
The Debutante Kathleen Tessaro
Talking of books written in letter form… The Debutante is a book set in the modern day, with mystery letters from the past sprinkled throughout. My mum passed this one on to me and it was a fun read (especially with the heavy dose of 1920s glamour).
Rosemary’s Baby Ira Levin
This might be a classic, but somehow I’d managed to get to twenty five without having read it or seen the film adaptation. I put that right in a single evening, and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t until I’d finished it, put it down and turned off the light that I realised it’s quite scary!
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Jonathan Safran Foer
I absolutely loved this book. This is definitely one I’ll return to again and again. For me, it dealt with very similar themes in a very similar way to another favourite book of mine; Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love. Literature lovers among you might already know that Krauss and Safran Foer are married, and that both books were published at around the same time Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is dedicated to Krauss, and The History of Love is dedicated to Safran Foer. I love the idea of the two books inspiring and feeding each other, and yet both being beautiful pieces in their own right.
What have you been reading recently?