The Next Chapter: Click Here for updates on my next novel
THE FIRST CUT JUST GETS DEEPER
THE JOY THAT IS EDITING
The character who can never be named (for that is telling and surely the first sin)
nodded and then shook his head and sighed, finally frowning as he realised his
motions were as cliched as his unnamed (telling, remember) emotions. "I can't go
on." He roared/yelled/cried. "There's no back story to explain my motivations in
a satisfying but suitably challenging and ambiguous way." The room fell silent as
the rest of the clearly drawn but somehow shadowy characters turned, from who
knows where they'd been looking or facing or turning again. "Bugger this for a
game of soldiers." The character shouted/bellowed (but, please God, never
ejaculated). "You lot can subvert the genre and confound expectations (in a
satisfying but suitably challenging and ambiguous way which avoids
repetition) on your own, I'm off to get a proper job."
Ah yes, dear readers (second person, really? and in italics? going for the ManBooker then?) the joy that is editing, surely the cruelest hashtag of them all. The draft (for that is what it will be called as opposed to the bastard thing that's drained most of my life force) has been drafted, oh so many times. The plot twist/weird structure thing which was meant to hit the 'wow factor' (aka the bit that's always missing but just beyond the reach of their words when editors love but don't quite love your manuscript) turned out, of course, to be the product of a fevered
over-caffeinated mind and not the birth of literary genius. It is gone. The delicately
crafted, poetically-rendered similes turned out to be no more than the blows of a
purple hammer bashing my point to bits. They are gone. My agent unbelievably is
not - she is truly an angel among women, a sunbeam illuminating the darkening
twilight of my dwindling writing days. The final draft became a first draft and then
a series of ever changing loosely-connected ideas from which, by some drink-
fuelled miracle, apparently a story has emerged. There have been smiles, the word
'terrific' has been bandied about by people not bound to me by fear or drunk. I'm
holding that word for when the darkly dwindling days come back. And so, reader
dear (am no longer presuming anything gets into more than single figures), I had a
draft that could be...edited.
My characters shook their heads, a lot. They also shook out or away gowns and cloaks and thoughts on a pretty regular basis. I may have constructed the first medieval world made entirely out of jelly. There were a lot of birds, particularly ravens and sparrows. The first may have been a metaphor, after that, who knows? Too much Game of Thrones most like and fighting the urge to add a dragon. There
were people travelling across too many borders or growing up without any warning and apparently readers like to be TOLD these things not shown it from a series of, frankly, quite clearly explained similes. Anyone would think readers haven't studied Creative Writing 101. And there were issues around the names for which I am now offering one simple, standardised response: EVERYONE
FROM 1100-1500 SHARED 4 NAMES AND THEN THE TUDORS GOT FANCY, DEAL WITH IT. If that proves unreasonable I shall emulate Dr Seuss and simply have Thing One and Thing Two and Thingy for any children.
But we got there, in the end, at least I think we did - there may be a tweak or two left. There may be a character still nodding madly in an unknown corner of an unknown field who'll meet a very painful death if I find them still lurking. There is, it seems, a 'proper' story now with characters and a plot and everything. My agent is hopeful and it's off to do the rounds. Maybe, if I wish hard enough and keep everything crossed (not just my eyes), it'll find an agent to love it and then I can start all over again, with the edits...
And you just thought you were going to write a book...
Redrafting, editing, finding, or not finding, an agent, understanding publishing, becoming an expert in marketing and social media, begging anyone and everyone who reads you book to become a reviewer, apologising to the people you forgot to include on the thank you page, losing any grasp on social skills. The reality of a writing life.
I often use the analogy of Bambi on ice to describe myself 18 months ago when I started on the process that would see me as an actual published author. I've certainly learnt a few lessons on this writing journey to the publication of Blood and Roses. I hope you find some of the ramblings useful...