Procrastination 101

I should be copy-editing and reformatting the e-book proofs of Empire’s Hostage, but I’m not. Instead, I’m finding lots of other things to do.procrastination

Most of my ‘other things’ are writing related.  I updated my website, I wrote a book review.  I worked on some of the editing work I do.  I worked on a presentation I’m assisting with on growing herbs.  Monday, a surprise acceptance to read at an event this coming Saturday arrived in my in-box, so I’ve polished that piece, and practiced it, and polished some more.  Now I’m writing this.

I tell myself the following excuses:  I’m waiting for the feedback from the beta-readers; I haven’t downloaded the latest copy to my ipad (it’s easier to find the errors working with both the ipad and the PC interface); I’ve got lots of time to get this done.; my hips hurt from sitting at my computer too long.  All these are true, but I think they aren’t really why I’m procrastinating.  I think I’m procrastinating because there is part of me that doesn’t want to let this book out to the wide world, to the ratings and reviews (or lack of them); to the marketing, to the mostly uncaring public…and then there is the fact that, once it’s out there, I need to start the extensive research needed for the third (and probably final) book.

On the other hand, I know there are people waiting impatiently for Empire’s Hostage.  I have a responsibility to those people, my public, if you like. It’s a good thing they’re out there: sometimes I need extrinsic motivation.  So, I’m going to make a cup of tea, and upload the newest proof to the ipad, and get going on those edits.

Or maybe tomorrow…..


Currently, I’m working on three different writing processes at the same time. I’m writing the first draft of my next novel; I’m doing a heavy copy-edit on a manuscript-in-progress for a client, and I’m doing a substantive edit (I prefer the term analytical edit) on a finished manuscript for a different client.

Let’s look at the differences. In the novel draft I’m writing, I’m mostly concerned with getting the story-telling right, although I will rewrite awkward sentences and will go back to add or subtract from an earlier part of the novel if it no longer agrees with how the story evolves. But I’m certainly not trying to write a finished product – it will need a lot of work once the first draft is done.

The first client’s got a good story to tell, but he’s not a natural writer. Here, my job is about grammar, style, and flow. I rearrange sentences and paragraphs, cut things out, occasionally make suggestions about things to add. I change punctuation where needed. This time round we’re working together from the first chapter, so I’m also keeping track of things I’ll need to know for the next type of edit, the analytical edit.

The analytical edit, in my experience, is the most demanding. With the second client’s manuscript, which has been fairly well copy-edited, I’m mostly looking at it scene by scene, and, within the scenes, action by action. I weigh every sentence, and almost every word. Does the sentence matter? does it add anything to the action, the story, the mood? If not, it goes. Does the action within a scene contribute? “I turned my head to look at her,” tells me where the protagonist’s attention is. “I turned my head to look at her, picking up my sunglasses as I did,” may tell me the protagonist is eager to leave, so that her attention is divided (or many other things), but if the sunglasses have absolutely nothing to do with the scene or a later scene, out goes that phrase. At this point, I’m talking to the writer a lot – because those sunglasses might be important twenty chapters later, especially in a mystery novel.

At the same time, I’m analyzing for changes in value: if the protagonist is happy at the beginning, she should be in a different mood at the end of the scene. Conflict, even little changes of mood, is what keeps a reader interested. The conflict also needs to build progressively, peaking to a greater conflict, dropping down again (pacing), peaking again to a higher level, until the final crisis, the climax of the novel, is reached.

Meanwhile I’m also doing a next-to-final copy edit, because sometimes removing phrases and sentences requires that, keeping track of clues (it’s a mystery novel), and checking continuity. I use a lot of notes in an analytical edit!

The more I do this, the easier it is to write that first draft of my new novel. In part, it’s why I accept editing projects while I’m writing. I’m almost automatically checking my own writing as I write for many of these considerations. I seriously under-write in a first draft, adding emotion and sometimes description in the first re-write, adjusting the pacing, adding and subtracting, doing my own analytical edit on the manuscript.

I like editing almost as much as writing (and some days, more). There’s something deeply satisfying about working with another writer to bring out the best story they have it in themselves to tell. When the shoe is on the other foot, I thoroughly enjoy working with my editors, as they go through the same process with my manuscript. What we produce together is better than anything produced alone.

Name a Character Contest

I need a name for a fairly major character in my in-progress young adult adventure novel, Empire’s Hostage, the second in the Empire’s Legacy series. Empire’s Legacy is set in a world not quite our own, but that is based on Britain/Northern Europe in the years after the fall of Rome. The character I need to name is the “Viking” heir-apparent to the king of the islands of the north coast, more or less equivalent to the Hebrides.

He’s not a terribly nice character, so might not want to suggest your best friend’s name!  The name also needs to sound vaguely Scandanavian/Icelandic/Gaelic to fit in with the rest of the names in the story.

What do you win?  A mention in the acknowledgments in the book, when it sees the light of electronic day sometime next year; a free copy of it and its predecessor, Empire’s Daughter, and, if you wish, either a review of a book of your own on this website, or a beta-read of work-in-progress.

The contest remains open until I have twenty names to choose from, or to December 31. Respond in the comments section or to marianlthorpe at

Feel free to send this out to others!



How Stories Come to Be

If you’ve read my profile on this or other sites, (or if you read the post called Landscape and Story I posted a few days ago) you will know that I describe myself as (among other things) a part-time student of archaeology.  Currently I’m in the middle of an on-line course from the University of Exeter called “Landscape Archeology I”.  This week’s assignment was to look at what types of environmental archaeological evidence – things like animal bones, soil and water micro-organisms, wood – can be used to interpret either a castle or monastery site.

My response to the assignment was to write a brief story about a fictional monastery and point out all the things we knew about this monastery because of the archaeological evidence, which was fun and more interesting for me than just making a chart or list.  However…now this fictional monastery has a life of its own in my writer’s brain, and doesn’t want to go away.  It wants to tell its story more fully.

It doesn’t fit into the series I’m writing right now, but it may just fit into another planned novel/novel series. Or maybe it will be something completely new.  I don’t know yet.  I’m hoping I can use it for further assignments for the course, but regardless, it is now a real, dynamic place inside my mind, and another dimension of my created landscape(s) has made itself evident.  Now I have to see where it takes me.

Which cover?

Currently I am using two covers for Empire’s Daughter…one is the professionally-done cover that I use on the commercial (paid) version of the novel, and one is my own work that I use for the Wattpad version (for copyright reasons).  I’d like to ask you…which do you prefer?  It will let me know whether or not to buy a cover for Empire’s Hostage when it comes out.  Here are my two covers – with the peregrine falcon theme – and the professional cover of Empire’s Hostage.  Please let me know what you think!

Empire's Daughter cover500x700edpperegrine