One step at a time

Autumn is my favourite season. Where we live in the Tuscan Apennines, at the dying end of summer, colours are on fire. The weather suits me better. There are still sunny days with blue, blue skies and the mountains call to me to walk.

The way my writing schedule has worked out over these past couple of years, autumn is also when I receive my structural edits.

And just as with the latest news of the virus, I struggle a little, because for a while I seem to take one step forwards and two steps back.

I am very lucky to have a loving, helpful partner and he understands when I need to hide away to write. But he’s also available for brainstorming.

So, our conversation last Saturday when we climbed up to Monte Carpegna at 1,400 metres will have sounded strange to anybody who didn’t know what we were up to.

‘I have to kill off somebody,’ I tell him ‘and another probably needs to go mad. That evil female needs to get the chop too. What do you think?’

‘Why don’t you?’ he goes.  ‘What if? Perhaps you could…’

And so on. Oh, the power!

Walks in autumn have become a kind of allegory.

A break from the desk helps me gain perspective and I can see clearer. When I walk, there are smooth sections, but there are steep climbs to navigate and I need to slow down. At the summit, observing the view spread below me, I see the better parts of the landscape, the least picturesque. And so it is with my draft. Back in my writing cubby hole, I begin to edit.

Walking, my lovely editor at Bookouture, plus my favourite creative writing course book from the university of East Anglia are my saviours as far as structural edits go. Unfortunately, this text is out of print at the moment, but grab a second-hand copy if you can:  

In this book, Paul Magrs advises me to try to be as objective as I can about my writing.

So, armed with a summary of my chapters, and using coloured post-its to show my main characters and events, I can see whether my story is balanced, and move scenes around or, indeed, cut them.

“You have to clear your mind somewhat to do this. You must regard the writer as someone who isn’t you.” 

David Lodge stresses the importance of reading my work: “When you read yourself you should be trying to assess the effect your writing will have on your readers”.

James Friel tells me that John Steinbeck’s practice when redrafting was to ‘become’ three people. “One speculates and one criticizes and the third tries to correlate. It usually turns out to be a fight but out of it comes the whole week’s work”.

Friel also says; “Let the unconscious mind solve problems, too.” I take that to mean I should take breaks and allow the ideas to come to me when I’m not hunched over the laptop. Hence the long walks.

So, onwards. There might be a few more walks needed in the next ten days before I submit my redrafted novel to my editor. But I’m not complaining.

As we are into our last month here in Tuscany, those walks will be in our beautiful mountains. Bring them on.

About Angela Petch

Bit of a story dreamer, written four novels - a fifth to be published on April 7th 2021. I love my little family and in no particular order afterwards: Italian culture, food, wine, walking everywhere I can and especially in the Apennines, East Africa, tennis when I can, reading, reading and more reading. So much to discover still before I die.
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8 Responses to One step at a time

  1. Lovely post and fabulous photos. Mille grazie.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jessiecahalin says:

    Sounds as if you are almost there. So wonderful to have your husband’s support as you write. Best of luck! x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Magdalena says:

    Beautiful pictures. I can see why you love those mountains in Italy so much. Quite a process, editing. Wishing you the best with that! We are in California but will be moving to Oregon to avoid heat and smoke from wildfires which are still raging….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Angela Petch says:

      Hi Magdalena! I’ll let you into a secret… I used your lovely name for one of my characters in my WIP! (I think I asked your permission a while ago.) Stay safe and thank you so much for commenting. x


  4. Angela Petch says:

    Grazie, Katy: a time of mushrooms and truffles, a time to explore without the sun baking down. Keep safe and keep writing 😉 x


  5. katyjohnson1 says:

    Wonderful pictures – this is my favourite time of year too, especially in Italy. Good luck with the edits!

    Liked by 1 person

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