Thursday, January 17, 2008
THE WRONG WORDS
I haven’t written any entry here for almost two months. Why not? Pure idleness? No. Not entirely, anyway. I have in fact been putting a lot of time into the writing (and rewriting) of what is for me an unusually long story. I finished this lengthy tome at the end of November, having started work on it over a year earlier (the idea itself being one I’ve had kicking around for years, and have already started – and then abandoned – several times before in various other forms - for instance, as a radio play, for some mad reason!)
So. I tried writing it as a novel and eventually finished it. 80,000 words long, which is, for me, really pretty long, the longest thing I’ve written by some way. (Well yes, I know that plenty of authors write much longer books – I can only admire their stamina!). But then, to my great horror, at the very moment I typed the final sentence I suddenly realised without a shadow of a doubt that at least 40,000 of those 80,000 words were in fact THE WRONG WORDS! By which I mean there was something terribly amiss with the plot and some important aspects of the characterisation which could only be tackled by making major cuts and rewriting huge sections of the book from scratch. What a nightmare! Why couldn’t I have made that discovery earlier? I don’t really know, except that plans and synopses and plot points are all very well, but they go only get you so far. You can never really anticipate how a story is actually going to fit together (or not, as the case may be) until you get down to it and write the thing. At least, I can’t anyway.
Now, this book is a book I’ve been writing on spec. In other words, no publisher has said they want it yet. So it might well turn out to have been a great deal of hard work for nothing (apart from the perverse satisfaction of having finished the thing at last). As a published author there’s no guarantee that anything you write will get into print, particularly if your sales figures tend to be a bit on the modest side. So I faced the prospect of spending another couple of months rewriting a book that might never see the light of day, nor ever earn me a single penny. A sensible man may have decided to cut his losses here, and consign the failed manuscript to the bottom drawer so as to get on with something else. But I found I couldn’t leave the story alone! I didn’t want to write anything else at all until I’d finally got to a place where I could call the story finished, at least as a first draft. So that’s why I’ve not written anything in the book log for so long.
At last, I’ve finally finished the first draft and I can put the manuscript to one side for a while. This time round, just as I rewrote the last words the skies outside darkened and there was a rumble of thunder. Then a storm of hailstones the size of marbles pelted the earth, rattling at the windows and clattering onto the garden path. Whether that burst of freakish precipitation was an omen, and, if it was, whether it augured well or ill, remains to be seen…
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