Checking in

I have been in the Netherlands for almost a week now, a week in which I was going to edit the rest of my manuscript on paper and then incorporate all those changes on the computer. So far, I have only managed to edit my whole manuscript on paper, which in and of itself is an achievement I am quite proud of. No more scribbling with my red pen, now the real work of writing all those changes out on the computer can begin.

I have to admit I am not as far as I hoped to be, but I have treated this week as a holiday, a break from work and my regular life and because the kids were with me, I have spent quite a bit of time with them as well. I have also read a number of books, because of course not bringing books to my parents’ house hardly stops me reading with my mom having over 1000 books in the house. But I am still happy with my progress, even though it probably means I have to still lug my whole manuscript back to England at the end of my trip. But by then hubby will be with me, so he can do the heavy lifting :-).

One other thing that editing on paper for a longer period of time achieved is that I am proud of my book, I have faith in it again and I am excited to rewrite and enhance my story. I always swing back and forth between wanting to abandon the whole book and being motivated to make it the best possible book, so it’s good to be on the upswing again.

I will need to keep that momentum going over the next few weeks, because in a masochistic move I have decided to study again for yet another (but this time the last) tax qualification. I will need it if I ever want to leave my job and I figured now would be as good a time to do it as ever. At least then I can get it over with soon. So for the next two years studying will most likely dominate my whole existence, but I hope to still work on my book in any spare moments I can find.

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Editing week

Okay, guys, I am going to seriously tackle my novel. Printed out, it is 350 A4 pages long and I am on page 199 with my editing-on-paper. Not very far, I actually thought I had done better. With having been sick and trying to find a good diet to combat my gallstones I have once again let my editing slip. Excuses, excuses…

But…not to worry! This Thursday I am taking the kids to the Netherlands to visit my parents for ten days. The kids love playing with the many toys opa and oma have and I usually end up reading a lot when I am there (that or bothering my mom with talking too much). Since I really caught up on my reading last week while I was sick with the stomach flu, I will not allow myself to be lazy when I am in the Netherlands. I am actually going to tote my massive manuscript with me on the train and boat journey and I am going to tackle the remaining pages with a vengeance (and a red pen,  I am done with the green pen). I am also going to bring my laptop with yWriter on it so that I can start doing the rewrites after I am finished with the paper editing. I don’t care how heavy or cumbersome the manuscript is, it will all be worth it if I have a second draft on my novel by the end of the week.

So, from 24 May to 31May I will be editing like crazy. Then I will take a break to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary and by the time I am back in England on 3 June I should have a second draft of my book. I will report back then, and if I did not finish my edit, you guys all get to yell at  me (capsy comments will be needed).

[Insert motivational yell here.]

Do authors have an expiry date?

That is a question that has cropped up a few times in my reading life. Usually when I find an author I like, I read every book (s)he has written. Especially if there is a series, I like to read all the books in the series. However, this sometimes backfires. I have noticed that some authors deteriorate the more books they write. I will give a few examples of authors whose work I have abandoned.

Wilbur Smith

I used to love Wilbur Smith. His earlier works about Africa, about the Courtneys and the Ballantynes are amazing, spellbinding and real page-turners. Even his stand-alone books are without compare. However, at a certain point his books stopped thrilling me. It was when I read Monsoon that I realised it really did not hold my attention. I was not particularly interested in the story, and I could not bother to invest in the characters. Maybe I outgrew Wilbur Smith, although my mother used to love him, and agrees with me that his later works are not as good. (Let me know in the comments if I have that wrong, mom!) I think that Wilbur Smith got too old and decided to just ride on the wave of his fame, getting sloppy with his research and his writing. After having written so many books, who can really blame him? After all, he is already 80.

Lee Child

Lee Child is the creator of the hero Jack Reacher. Every single book he has written features Jack Reacher. I enjoyed reading those books tremendously, even though they are somewhat formulaic. However, the last book I read by him, The Affair, left a lot to be desired. The book takes place before all the others, explaining how Reacher became who he is. A lot of Reacher’s actions just did not ring true to how he was portrayed in the earlier books, making me wonder if Lee Child had lost the way. Now, I think Lee Child has sold out to Hollywood with the making of the Jack Reacher movie. He lost my support when he stated that Reacher’s height was “a metaphor for an unstoppable force” in defense to Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher. Has he not read his own books? After that, I have lost the taste for more Reacher books, I think Lee Child is only in it for the money nowadays.

Michael Connelly

I am a huge fan of Michael Connelly and I do not think that he has reached his expiry date yet. However, I think that he better watch out, as something is starting to smell. The last two books I read by him were Nine Dragons and The Reversal, and both were very anticlimatic. They were still perfectly good books, but the edge was gone. Whereas I used to stay up all night so I could finish the book (and be rewarded with a great ending), Nine Dragons did not compel me to keep reading, and The Reversal was compelling only because I expected a good twist, which alas never came. I am not at the point yet that I will stop reading his books, but I am close.

Patricia Cornwell

I have mentioned Patricia Cornwell before. Her Scarpetta books were great as long as they focused on solving crimes. But for some reason Patricia Cornwell decided that her readers were more interested in Scarpetta’s personal life and the life of her annoying niece than in the mystery of the crimes and that was when I stopped reading her books. I think this one is a case of an author spending too much time with the same characters and wanting to delve into their personal lives as a consequence. To give credit where credit is due: although Lee Child only writes about one character, with Reacher it never got stale, as he is a loner always on the move, so the reader does not have to worry about any personal attachments.

Exceptions

Now, of course not every author has a sell by date. I think every book Terry Pratchett writes is as amazing, if not more so, than the previous books. He does not show any sign of complacency or laziness. Each book has been crafted with the same care and diligence as the very first books, where he still had to worry about whether it would sell or not.

The same goes for my favourite writer Wodehouse. Although the man wrote about a book a year, each book is simply amazing. Wodehouse never thought: ‘Well, I am famous now, and people will buy my books anyhow, so who cares that the language is not as wonderfully styled as my earlier works? People are still going to love it.’

And that care and diligence, no matter how famous or best-selling you are, distinguishes the great writers from the mediocre ones.

Wodehouse in the New Forest

Last weekend was a bank holiday weekend and my husband and I decided to take the kids to the New Forest for a family break. We stayed in a delightful hotel in Brockenhurst (Forest Park Hotel) in a wonderful family room that had two bedrooms and a bathroom (ideal for when you have two small kids who need to go to bed on time). Our room had a view of the New Forest and on a couple of occasions we could see ponies grazing outside of our window. It was very nice.

We also decided to take the children to Paultons Park, which we had not done before. On our way to the park, we drove through the small village of Copythorne and, to my surprise and delight, past a pub called Empress of Blandings. I squealed, much to my husband’s dismay as he was driving. Of course it stands to reason that some references to one of Britain’s greatest author would be found around the country, but it was such a wonderful surprise to chance upon a pub named after the famous pig from Blanding’s Castle. When I lived in Canada and the Netherlands, I often felt that besides my family I was the only one who knew who Wodehouse was. Even though he spent a lot of his life in America, I do not think he is very well known there.

Empress of Blandings

After the kids were all tired out from playing in Paultons Park, we decided to stop by the pub to take some pictures of the sign and to see if we could get some food. A lot of pubs in England only serve food at certain times of the day, but we were happy to see a sign announcing that this pub served food all day.

Upon arrival, we of course took a picture of the sign (above) noting the play on words. Then, as we approached the pub, we noticed another sign painted on the wall of the pub.

Pig quote

I was delighted to see all this, and inside the pub there were more Wodehouse references. There was a whole wall with old books, but upon closer inspection, I could not find one Wodehouse amongst them. Probably the owners were worried about theft. The wall with books did add to the atmosphere though and it was nice to see they were all old, leatherbound books. Two walls in a corner held frames with all the covers of Wodehouse’s books. Another wall had photo’s of Wodehouse and some articles relating to Blandings Castle.

Besides the lovely experience of being in a pub so steeped in Wodehouse, the food was excellent and the service great, so the next time you find yourself in the area of Romsey, nip down the A31 and stop at Empress of Blandings for a bite to eat!

Weekly quote

He grabbed the Librarian by two handfuls of chest hair and pulled him up to eye height.
‘What time is it?’ he shouted.
‘Oook!’
A long, red-haired arm unfolded itself upwards. Vimes’s gaze followed the pointed finger. The sun definitely had the look of a heavenly body that was nearly at the crest of its orbit and looking forward to a long, lazy coasting towards the blankets of dusk…
‘I’m not bloody well going to have it, understand?’ Vimes shouted, shaking the ape back and forth.
‘Oook,’ the Librarian pointed out, patiently.
‘What? Oh. Sorry.’ Vimes lowered the ape, who wisely didn’t make an issue of it because a man angry enough to lift a 300lbs of orangutan without noticing it a man with too much on his mind.

Terry Pratchett (Guards! Guards!)