I hope one and all enjoyed a nice break with their family, I know I did. Time marches on, however, and we have a busy year ahead.
I have a new computer built and running, sort of. While the machine itself went together very smoothly, many a long and frustrating day was spent gnashing my teeth as I wrestled with Windows 8.1. Too much change for changes sake, in my opinion, though there are many features which are a definite improvement over Windows 7.
In the writing department, there has been a very interesting and exciting development.
Since I started the whole writing thing on a regular basis, things have been happening that have kept giving me pats on the back, as it were. After so many tried and failed attempts at making something good with the modest abilities I possess, I doubt I would have gone this far without such encouragement.
The emergence of the Highfields Saga from a short story, finding instructive guidance through this blogging community, meeting and utilizing my wonderful beta readers, even accidentally finding the physical place itself, all these events have provided occasional prompts that have kept me going in times of need.
Imagine my pleasure, then, at being approached by a professional author to read my manuscript.
There’s a bit of a story behind this, actually. I met this person through an internet community, only ever knowing him by his avatar name; Rob. This is a common enough thing and meant little to me at the time.
However, he became good friends with a long-standing friend of mine; in fact, the very man who encouraged me to begin writing in the first place.
Eventually, my good friend mentioned to me that Rob was, in fact, a well-known writer and the author of a bestseller to boot.
Now, all my life I have followed a strict policy; never ask a professional for help unless you are prepared to pay for the service. So, I never approached Rob for any help, because I definitely don’t have the funds to pay for professional writing assistance, especially from someone with his level of skill.
He has, indeed, a wealth of knowledge and experience. He has given courses in writing, has a lifetime’s worth of study and reading behind him, and has written a slew of books.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, when Rob expressed to me his disappointment that I had not asked him to read my manuscript.
Naturally, after some explanation had taken place, I emailed him the file.
Within just a few days, he took me aside for a little chat, having read about four chapters.
It was no surprise to hear that it needed a re-work, as I was already well aware of my technical limitations.
On the plus side, Rob told me he thought I had a natural flair for storytelling, that I had a vivid imagination, and that Highfields was a great story and a solid foundation upon which to grow a book series.
He then offered to spend the time (approximately four to six months) to help me re-write the entire book from start to finish.
In answer to my query as to whether he thought it was worth it, I was told, “I wouldn’t be offering to spend any time on it if I thought it was a bunch of crap.”
For me, this is solid proof that in a world of me first and nothing for nothing philosophies, good people still exist. People with a caring attitude, who are anxious to help someone else with the knowledge they possess. Not for the sake of reward, but for the joy they may reap in watching someone grow and develop with their assistance.
So far, we are up to chapter five, and the results are astounding.
The approach Rob has taken with this is to rewrite a chapter, then email me the file. So that I am gaining the most experience out of his efforts, I am then rewriting the chapter myself, using his text as a guide.
A lot of it is going in verbatim, with Rob spending time with me regularly to explain his alterations and the technical reasons behind them.
Some is being reworded again, some of Rob’s word choices simply aren’t my way of putting things.
I must emphasize that when I say Rob is rewriting my book, he is not making wholesale changes. The aim of this exercise is not to make this book his, as it were.
He has told me my dialogue writing, for example, is strong and authentic. The characters are both believable and well capable of drawing reader empathy as they should.
My failings are pretty much what one would expect from a writer with no formal education to speak of; sentence and paragraph structure, correct tense, verb usage and viewpoint.
Rob is an American, living in Texas, and is learning a lot (or so he tells me) about the differences in speech patterns between Australians and their cousins in the USA.
He is trying to leave both colloquial expressions and catchphrases alone, as neither of us want to rob the book of its Aussie flavor.
Herein lies the challenge I have set myself; to portray life in Queensland in the sixties, giving readers a chance to see the story captured in both a region and a time that most outsiders have little to no knowledge of.
Through the well-timed kindness of one distinguished gentleman, I may succeed in doing just that, while at the same time improving the overall quality of my work a hundred-fold.
2015 should prove to be an interesting year indeed…