Editing is in the eye of the beholder…

As part of the editing process on the Future Learn course on Writing Fiction, it is suggested that the following questions (amongst others) can help reduce your scenes to become more succinct and focused;

•What really matters about this scene?
•What ‘adds’ something to the scene?
•What merely adds confusion, detracting from the main point?

What fascinates me about this particular exercise isn’t how just asking those few questions tightens up my writing; it’s how these questions can be interpreted differently.

An exercise to edit a particular piece of text to just a couple of lines highlighted this perfectly;

The heavy black and blue winter sky groaned awfully with rain clouds that at any moment were really about to fall crashing heavily down upon the street where, because it was rush hour, so many people, wearing all manner of different clothes, hats, shoes, boots, some of them carrying bags, suitcases, briefcases, scampered and strolled about the place as though oblivious to what was just about to happen over their very heads. One of these people was called Hilary and concealed inside her voluminous coat she carried the loaded, snub-nosed gun, and she also seemed to be the only one looking upwards into the tempestuous thundery heavens.

My own response was this, “It was raining heavily. Hilary wasn’t the only person walking out beneath the clouds, but she was the only person looking up, and the only person concealing a gun inside her coat.”

Yet, it took just a few minutes reading the comments of other students to see just how differently each of us had edited the text;

The rain was about to fall on the street where many people strolled as though oblivious to what was just about to happen. Hilary carrying the loaded, snub-nosed gun inside her coat, seemed to be the only one looking upwards
The winter sky groaned with rain clouds that were about to fall heavily on the busy street. Hilary concealed her loaded gun and looked up into the thundery heavens

The black sky hung heavily over the rushing crowds below. Hilary paused to look up, clutching the gun under her coat and waited for the storm to break.

The dark winter sky groaned heavily with rain clouds above the busy, rush hour street. Only Hilary, with her snub-nosed handgun concealed in her coat, seemed to be looking to the heavens, waiting for the imminent deluge.

I could literally include hundreds of examples, nearly all of them slightly different. Apart from my own answer (which was obviously the best one), I thought some examples still contained excessive descriptive language, whilst others lost some of the weight of the scene. However, some were excellent and showed a very high level of editing skills.

In comparison, the ‘suggested’ edit was; “The winter sky was heavy with rain. It was rush hour. Hilary concealed the loaded gun inside her coat.”

It looks like people’s opinions differed about what was considered important to the piece. It seems as if the heavy rain plays a part, the fact that it was rush hour, and that Hilary concealed a gun. Interestingly, the suggested edit makes no reference to the main character ‘looking up’, something that many of us students still included in our edit.

I can now appreciate how difficult it is to edit your work so it becomes something that is concise, yet still able to carry the important elements of the scene. On the flip-side it’s something of a revelation to remove some text that is clearly just getting in the way.

I’m almost looking forward to getting my first draft out of the way so I can spend some time on the editing process now.

Start Writing Fiction – Week 4

Week 3 Review

Some keen-eyed people will notice that this post is late – Week 4 started on Monday.  The reason for this is quite simply that I’m behind on the studies at the moment (as well as blog posts). All work and no play…… 

I’ve found Week 3 particularly interesting as it covers something that is close to my heart; the first draft.   Many of the early topics cover elements such reviewing, redrafting and re-editing.  In all fairness, there probably isn’t that much new information in the course content but the amount of information in the comments section from the students is excellent and certainly allows a much wider insight into these topics through the experiences of others.

One of the good things about the course is it’s ability to cater for those who like to jump ahead, as well as those (ahem) who may fall behind the curve.  Even now, I can see from the timing of the comments on topics that there is still a healthy level of activity on almost all of the week 3 topics this far into week 4.

So, onto the curriculum for week 4;

Writing is Editing

4.1 How You Might Use Your Notebook (Video)

4.2 Why Take Notes and What to Note (Article)

4.3 Research (Article)

4.4 Different Approaches to Research (Discussion)

4.5 The Notebook Habit (Article)


4.6 What is Plot? (Article)

4.7 Developing Your Plotline (Article)

4.8 What If? (Article)

4.9 Writing Character (Article)

Ideas For Stories

4.10 Hooked By Lines and Image (Video)

4.11 Hunches That Matter (Article)

4.12 Writing About Personal Concerns (Article)

4.13 Dramatising Concerns (Quiz)

4.14 Reflecting On Concerns and Ideas (Discussion)

4.15 Extraordinaty Versus Ordinary (Article)

Start Writing Fiction – Week 3

Week 2 Review

Still finding this course quite interesting.  Over the past week, there has been more of an emphasis about characters, writing prompts and also getting used to writing in your notebook (and using the notes in it).  A good example of this is an exercise in writing sentences that begin with “Emma said that…”, also to turn on the radio, listen to the first thing being said, and then to write a short story (500 words) about it.

Although it sounds a bit daft, looking the comments from the other writers, you can see just how creative people can be from such mundane things. Comments on each topic are still in the 1000+ which shows willingness to participate from the other students. I’ve also had a few likes and follows from within the forums so it does show that what you write is being read.

So, onto the curriculum for week 3;

Writing is Editing

3.1 Your First Draft (Video)

3.2 Reviewing and Redrafting (Article)

3.3 Reading Work in Progress (Discussion)


3.4 What is Editing? (Article)

3.5 Editing is Your Friend (Article)

3.6 Editing Practice (Discussion)

3.7 Suggested Edit (Article)

3.8 Editing Big Decisions (Video)

3.9 Editing Summary (Article)

Something New

3.10 Learn Through Writing (Article)

3.11 Generate Something New (Article)

3.12 Share Your Story (Assignment)

3.13 Commenting On Work (Review)

3.14 Reviewing Criticism and Comments (Article)

3.15 Read The Feedback (Reflection)

Start Writing Fiction – Week 2

Week 1 Review

Interesting course so far. The workload is a mixture of watching videos, generating ideas / comments and then discussing them. I think what you get out of a course like this depends on how much you put in – I noticed over 1000 comments on each section so there are plenty of people doing it, and there is quite a bit of communication via likes / follows between the students.

So, onto the curriculum for week 2;

Do It Your Way

2.1 Finding Your Way (Video)

2.2 Other Writer’s Rituals (Article)

2.3 What Works Best For You (Article)

2.4 Imagining Writing Spaces (Article)

2.5 Talking About Writing (Discussion)

Observation and Imagination

2.6 Observation – The Importance of Detail (Article)

2.7 Heightening Your Observations (Article)

2.8 Learning From Other Writers (Article)

2.9 Reading For Character (Quiz)

2.10 Comparing Characters Again (Article)

2.11 How Can I Be Original? (Article)

2.12 Familiar Words In Unfamiliar Places (Video)

The Blank Page

2.13 The Blank Page (Article)

2.14 Searching Your Notebook (Discussion)

2.15 Should I Wait Until I’m Inspired? (Article)

2.16 Finding a Voice (Article)

2.17 More Starting Ploys (Discussion)

2.18 Ideas For a Story (Article)

Start Writing Fiction – Introduction

I wrote a post a few weeks back about a free online course with Futurelearn called Start Writing Fiction – that post is here.

The course started on the 28th and I’ll be posting a weekly progress on it to show others what it contains. It may prove helpful in allowing others to make a decision on future enrolments.


The first thing you receive is a welcome email on which you are asked  to complete an optional survey which covers general information such as demographics and educational background. It also asks if you would like to be part of a review forum which may involve getting future phonecalls and/or emails (declined).

There is also a link to start the actual course for week one.  This is broken down into the following parts;

Creating Characters

1.1 Before you start (Article)

1.2 What is Fiction (Video)

1.3 Ways to Write (Video)

1.4 Writing Fact and Fiction (Video)

1.5 Reading Fact and Fiction (Discussion)

1.6 What Can You Use (Article)


1.7 Creating Your Own Space (Article)

1.8 Keeping Track of Useful Details (Video)

1.9 Reviewing Your Notes (Article)

Writing Journey

1.10 Why Writers Write (Article)

1.11 The Writing Journey Starts (Discussion)

1.12 Developing a Character From Your Notebook (Article)

1.13 Reading Characters (Article)

1.14 Investigating Characters (Quiz)

1.15 Comparing Your Characters (Article)

As I’ve already done a number of writing courses with the Open University, I’ll be very interested to see how this compares (especially for a free course). I’ll post an update on my progress at the end of the week and put out the information on Week 2 at the same time.

Free online course; Start Writing Fiction

Title says it all really.

Click here for more information.

• Free, hands-on course with The Open University
• Starts 28th April for 8 weeks, 3 hours per week.
• Use hashtag #FLfiction14 to find out more via Twitter.

If it helps, I took Creative Writing, as well as Advanced Creative Writing with the Open University as part of my BA in English. I enjoyed them both and found that the amount of work that I produced over those two periods was above average compared to what I had previously been doing – having workshops and deadlines can do that to you.

Furthermore, the course educator looks to be Derek Neale who was the editor for one of the course workbooks; A Creative Writing Handbook.