April has been a bit hectic, involving a lot of writing for work and spending a week in Chicago. I foolishly chose to pair this month with reading some not very inspirational books. Note to self, when travelling, read something fun.

Writing

I’ve found that rewriting a few scenes, and stopping, helps to focus my mind on those scenes. Usually, I’d just keep rewriting. Yes, I’m making the language better, because my writing has improved a great deal since the first draft was written, but that doesn’t mean that the storytelling is right.

By rewriting a few scenes, and stepping away for a day or so, my mind tends to go over what I’ve written and really think about it. The scenes, which involved the protagonists setting off on a journey to a hostile area, felt flat. They left home – they arrived at their destination.

I realised that I could easily add conflict to those scenes. Why make their arrival so easy? So I split them up and now have two much more interesting scenes.

With rewriting, I think it’s easy to slip into automatic mode. “Let’s just make this better as quickly as possible.” No. All books are different, just as all writers are different. Some books can go from first draft to agents desk in a year, some a decade or more. As long as the finished book is good, who really cares how long it takes to get there?

(Not that I’m advocating unlimited procrastination – but most people do have other things going on in their lives, like work and family obligations.)

Reading

I have to admit, this month’s reading challenge has been uninspiring.

I challenged myself to read some award winning books. I tried to read too many. It wasn’t just that I didn’t have the time, but the books were not to my taste at all.

I expected to fall in love with The Regeneration Trilogy, by Pat Barker. As a history graduate, I studied the World Wars to extensively. But the books, although very well written, left me feeling like Eeyore. Nothing nice or uplifting happened. At all.

I mean there was the Christmas truce in 1914 where enemy combatants played football and exchanged gifts in no man’s land. If that can happen in a battle zone, there must have been at least some speck of merriment in England? But these books were happiness free.

Then I read Vernon God Little, which was kind of like reading the life story of a Jerry Springer / Jeremy Kyle guest. The characters were grim. I wanted to remove my brain and give it a good scrub every time I stopped reading the book. Just eww.

This month, I’m leaving the dourness behind and hitting the Sci-Fi books. I cannot wait.

Links of the month

I love this post about how to tackle a big writing project – especially the part where he tackles his procrastination (can’t wait for the ebook!).

There’s a great campaign running from 1st to 3rd of May which promotes the need for diversity in children’s literature. You can find posts under #WeNeedDiverseBooks on various social media channels.

And then there’s this video – writing saved my life – which shows how juvenile offenders are using writing to change their lives.