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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Beyond first draft: Richard Buxton's Top Tips for Redrafting

Please welcome writer Richard Buxton back on the blog today ... he's generously come along to share his 5 top tips for redrafting. The Indoor Writer is applying all of these to her novel (now in third draft), but some of these apply to any form of fiction.

Richard Buxton is studying for an M.A. is Creative Writing at Chichester University. He has recently completed a novel set in the American Civil War and also writes historical, contemporary and experimental short stories. He dabbles in poetry but really shouldn’t. He is a member of the West Sussex Writers and lives in Worthing.
Check out Richard's website
Twitter:  @richardbuxton65

1 - Start with a reduction draft
Chances are you’re going to work through many drafts, each concentrating on a different aspect: plot, character, drama. I’d recommend you start with a draft where you look to reduce the word count. You can nip out sentences, paragraphs and sometimes whole scenes that you won’t have to sweat over later.  If you have thoughts on character or plot, put them in a log for later drafts.
2 - Get someone to read it
But don’t, while drunk on the euphoria of finishing the first draft, send it out to all your friends and relations. I guarantee you’ll regret it. There are only two possible outcomes. Either they shower you with praise – this is actually useless in terms of developing the book – or they’ll say something that you’ll want to punch them for every time you see them. It has to be someone who understands writing. Above all, someone who’s opinion you respect, but who won’t be bringing up your plot flaws down the pub or over Christmas dinner. But remember, it’s your baby; no one else’s.
3 - Handling of time
How is time handled in your novel? A strong, forward moving narrative is often best supported by the simplest handling of time. Has your character had to dip into their childhood more times than you are comfortable with? Do you beautifully paint a place and time at the beginning of a chapter only to go into flashback from the second paragraph? Could a flashback be softened to a simpler memory? Does the reader need to know all this, or are you really writing character notes to yourself?
4 - Visualise your plot
Get an A1 pad, or better yet a whiteboard, and draw time along the vertical axis. Then sketch in your plot as it’s presented in the book.  Put in the key events as milestones, draw arcs for the main story line and the sub-plots. Then stand back and see what you’ve created. Are there sufficient subplots and payoffs to keep a reader happy? Is there a satisfactory convergence of plot lines towards the climax? Maybe one plot line doesn’t sufficiently relate to the others. Do you need it?
5 - Be precise about emotion
It’s really easy to write a good, well-choreographed, visual scene without ever having asked yourself what are the emotions in play. Identify the emotional highpoint of the scene. Have you built up to this? Do your characters' emotions change or intensify? Often, just by getting the emotions clear you’ll draw out the drama.

All good tips. Thank you, Richard!

(Now as I'm currently reading the finished version of Richard's novel I'm a little nervous about his right hook ...)

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Feeling peckish?

Please welcome the lovely Joy Bounds as our guest today. I first met Joy several years ago at the Swanwick Writers' Summer School (Joy and her pal, Shirley, host a great party) and never realised she was a vegetarian. I've been a veggie since leaving university (too many years ago to note) and recently started back on the 5:2 (Fasting) diet. Few of the recipe books for this diet are suitable for veggies so I was excited to discover Joy talking about her new book 5:2 Diet for Vegetarians on Facebook.

5:2 diet: you eat normally for 5 days (normally does not mean stuffing your face!) and then eat a restricted amount of calories (5-600) on 2 other days of the week (non-consecutive days). Simples!

I'm not a terrific cook but do like to make soup and Joy has several excellent and tasty recipes such as orange & broccoli, mushroom & chestnut and my old favourite, butternut squash. I particularly liked how this has a 4 week plan (8 days in total) but you can of course mix and match. All the calories are clearly given and the instructions are well written and easy to follow. There's also low calorie versions of veggie chilli and ratatouille, which I must try out instead of resorting to opening a can ... You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy these recipes and I think you get more for your calorie count - a bonus!
Hmm, now I leave you in Joy's capable hands while I going and try out her recipe for Shashouka (a middle-Eastern dish).

Let's find out more about Joy and her recipes ...

About me
Writing a cookbook (5:2 Diet for Vegetarians) was a new adventure for me, as normally I focus on women’s issues and women in history. I’ve self-published a novel about Joan of Arc (Far From Home), and The History Press published my local history about Ipswich suffragettes (A Song of their Own). I do like a bit of variety (diversion?) whilst concentrating on novel-writing. I live in Suffolk and like to sing, and work on different projects with other women. You can see more about me and my books at www.joybounds.co.uk
(Also Joy is on Twitter: @JoyBounds1)

How did you get the idea for a recipe book?
The 5:2 diet became popular in 2013, and when I started it I discovered that there were very few recipes for veggies. As a veggie of 40+ years, I have an enormous repertoire of vegetarian dishes and I started to adapt these to suit the low-calorie count required by the diet. Publisher Luscious Books (who specialise in cookbooks for people who use a restricted range of foods) thought this might be useful to other vegetarians, especially if we created ‘the first month of the diet’ by providing eight full days of calorie-counted recipes. Around Christmas-time we brought the book out.
How did you decide what to put in and leave out?
Trying to create a dish of about 150 calories almost defines itself what foods you can use or not. Cheese, bread, potatoes, oil, even pulses can only be used in tiny amounts (all these no-no foods tend to be my favourites!), so I adapted much-loved vegetable-based dishes. I also wanted to put in the book as wide a variety of vegetables as possible, and also types of dish (omelette to chili). It had to be interesting too, and hopefully offer something attractive to vegetarian dieters.
Tell us about the research and cooking process.
A lot of cooking trials were required to get the right balance of foods to add up to the right number of calories. For example, in soups the thickening agent (flour, potato etc) tends to be heavy on calories, so a balance has to be struck between that and the amount of stock and different vegetables (all of which have their own calorie count). Flavour is crucial, and herbs and spices come into their own as they are low in calories but deliver a punch. A tiny bit of a strongly-flavoured cheese (such as blue cheese or feta) is worth its weight in gold! Sometimes I would have a freezer full of tasty but ‘failed’ recipes!
Counting calories can be tricky – how did you ensure accuracy?
To my surprise, there doesn’t seem to be any gold-standard as far as calorie-counting is concerned, though books and online resources have broad agreement. I used mainly Collins Gem Calorie Counter as it was clear and very comprehensive – and easy to use in the busy kitchen. The calorie count will be more accurate when using the metric measures in the recipes (grams etc), and less so when using the less precise USA cup measurement.
Have you used the book yourself to lose weight?
The 5:2 diet has been a good way for me to lose and maintain my weight within reasonable limits. However, writing a cookbook is not a good way to lose weight, so I am currently working my way through the book again. I really like the idea of having a whole day’s meals planned and calorie-counted for me, and I’m pleased with the recipes in the book as I cook them in their final version once more.
You can find 5:2 Diet for Vegetarians here on Amazon Kindle.

I have found the 5:2 diet works for me and is the only diet I've ever been able to stick to and keep off weight. But I understand it may not suit everyone.