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Pensive Peter Salmon

Proof of Pudding


What discerning judges have said about The Coffee Story

'It's been a while since I read a first novel that felt as universally accomplished as Peter Salmon's The Coffee Story' - Toby Litt

'I was constantly intoxicated by a sense of desire & loss' - Jake Arnott

'Wild and raucous... an extraordinarily accomplished debut' - Niall Griffiths

'Reminiscent of Phillip Roth's Everyman. But it's much, much funnier' - Sydney Morning Herald

'An exceptional debut' - Martyn Bedford

Hard Sell

Adverbs – Can They Be Stopped?

adverbsAs a writer and editor I have many missions. As a writer, my mission is, of course, to capture the essence of the human soul in all its glory and depravity, in the hope that I can edge the definition of this crazy mixed-up experience we call life a millimetre or two further towards Truth, be such a definition Absolute or Contingent.

As an editor, it is to rid the world of adverbs. All adverbs.

For those who might have been away the day they did grammar at school, an adverb is a word that modifies the meaning of a verb, adjective, sentence, sentence clause or, in the worst of all possible worlds, another adverb. They modify ‘How?’ questions. And they are awful.

I have had arguments about this, of course, which tend to go on until I produce my trump card. Take a sentence with an adverb in it. Get rid of the adverb. The sentence is better. This is true in 97% of cases, and the 3% where it isn’t tends to be in work written for children, as more clues are required for meaning. I accept this. But that’s your lot.

The problem with adverbs is simple – if you are doing your job right, then they are redundant. The action should be set up, or the speech should be delineated, in such a way as the modification of an adverb is unnecessary. It’s always a clue that a passage isn’t working if an adverb is required. They are a short-cut to meaning, where it is the job of a writer to produce meaning through narrative.

So how do you get rid of them? All of them?

For the most part, they end in ‘-ly’, and if you ever want to speed u[p the editing process, I suggest you always do a search for ‘ly’, and then delete more or less every word ending in it. You will feel better. Your work will be better.

Then get rid of those pesky temporal adverbs, such as ‘soon’ and ‘suddenly’. I used to collect picture books that used the word ‘soon’. It usually meant ‘I am running out of pages’, hence ‘soon, they returned home’ or ‘soon, Tiddles was fast asleep’. If you are writing a picture book, and running out of pages, be my guest. Otherwise, no.

As for ‘suddenly’ – is there any action in this world that is not sudden? As Hume showed us when he threw the whole question of causality open, the state of the world before an act does not contain the act in it. Pick up a cup. Before you picked up the cup, the state of cup-picking-up-ness was not an existent of the universe. So it is sudden. Suddenly, I picked up the cup. Suddenly, I put the cup down. Suddenly, I stared into space. Suddenly, I stopped staring into space. There is no counter-statement to any of these, so they are empty phrases. Perhaps as a trope of horror or crime writing you may wish to use the word ‘Suddenly’. Again, be my guest. Otherwise, you should suddenly stop using them. And soon!

Finally, there is the word ‘quite’. If you are Wodehouse and trying to be arch, then ‘quite’ is all yours. Otherwise the reader doesn’t have time to arse about with qualifiers. Are you saying something or not? Get rid ‘quite’

From then on, free of adverbs and full of piss and vinegar, you will suddenly write quite wonderfully.

Lincolnshire Posy

brigg_1906

Percy Grainger (rear, centre) and four Lincolnshire folk singers, including Joseph Taylor (right, front)

Just spent a delightful couple of days in North Lincolnshire on the trail of Percy Grainger, with my old friend Charlie Davie.

Grainger collected folk songs in North Lincolnshire from 1906-09, pioneering the use of the phonograph to record the local folk singers. His visits to Brigg in particular, yielded a rich harvest of songs, which I had the privilege of listening to recently at Cecil Sharp House where they keep the complete recordings. Songs such as ‘I’m Seventeen Come Sunday’, ‘Lord Bateman’, ‘Creeping Jane’ ‘The Ship’s Carpenter’ (later recorded by Bob Dylan, ‘Bold William Taylor’ and ‘Died For Love’ were recorded for the first time here, as was ‘Brigg Fair’, famously set by Grainger’s friend and mentor Frederick Delius, a recording of which can be heard here.

For me the highlight of the visit was a visit to Saxby-All-Saints, home of Grainger’s favourite singer Joseph Taylor, who walked from his home to Brigg and won the first competition with his version – and introduction to the world – of ‘The Sprig of Thyme’. Of Taylor, Grainger wrote, “Mr. Joseph Taylor was a perfect artist in the very purest style of English folk-song singing, having, in addition to fine natural musical gifts, a resonant ringing lilting tenor voice… Though his memory for the texts of songs was not uncommonly good, his mind was a seemingly unlimited store-house of melodies, which he swiftly recalled at the merest mention of their titles. His versions were generally distinguished by the beauty of their melodic curves and by the symmetry of their construction. He relied more upon purely vocal effects than almost any folk-singer I ever heard. His dialect and his treatment of narrative points were no t so exceptional, but his effortless high notes, sturdy rhythms, clean unmistakable intervals and his twiddles and ‘bleating’ ornaments (invariably executed with unfailing grace and neatness) were irresistible.”

Taylor had sung in the choir at the church of Saxby-All-Saints for 45 years, and it was a moving experience to stand in that selfsame church and imagine him singing in that resonant voice that so beguiled Grainger. While the church was undistinguished, for me it held a great beauty, as I sat in a pew where Percy Grainger himself may have sat, and listened in appreciation to, not only Taylor, but the whole choir of North Lincolnshire locals at their devotions.

Grainger later took Taylor to London to hear Delius’s setting of ‘Brigg Fair’, during which, rumor has it, he got up and sang along. While we can’t hear this, we can here him singing another song he introduced to Grainger, ‘Rufford Park Poachers’, a song Grainger later set as part of his Wind Suite A Lincolnshire Posy. The recording is here, and shows why Grainger regarded him so highly.

Launch of Edit Suite

Edit Suite is a new service for writers who want detailed critical feedback on their writing, and a hands-on personal approach to their ongoing careers. As an experienced writer and teacher of creative writing, I thoroughly enjoy the process of working with other writers to help them produce the best possible work, and get their vision down on the page.

WHAT I OFFER

Manuscript Assessment
Writing a full length work, whether a novel or a short story, is a huge challenge, no matter how experienced you are. We all know how it feels to not be able to step outside the process, and get good critical feedback. When you submit your manuscript to Edit Suite you will get a detailed, constructive assessment of your work of at least 3000 words within 4-6 weeks, looking at your idea and giving advice about plot, narrative, character development, and how to take the next step. I also provide help with advice on future self-editing, so you have the tools to critically appraise your future writing.

Mentoring
If you feel that you want ongoing feedback of your work, I also offer a mentoring programme. Featuring six sessions spread over twelve months, you can submit up to 60,000 words for assessment, and we will meet one-to-one and discuss your work where and when it suits you, including online. At the end of the 12 months I will also produce a detailed assessment of your manuscript with the aim of having it ready to send to agents and publishers.

Copy editing and Proofreading
I also offer copy-editing and proofreading services for those who want to make sure their manuscript is in the best possible shape before they submit it to an agent, publisher or magazine.

For more information go to http://www.peter-salmon.co.uk/petersalmon/edit-suite/, or contact me at editsuite@hotmail.com