For the last eight weeks, this has what my life has looked like:
In case you hadn’t noticed from my incessant moaning, I’ve been redrafting my novel. Again. It’s been a vast job, because – following discussions with Jane Wood, my amazing editor at Quercus – we decided to change the ending quite substantially. This isn’t as simple as knocking off the last few chapters and rewriting, alas; to make the climax and conclusion fit, organically and emotionally, the threads of the plot need to extend a long way back into the story. Because The Visitors is already woven rather tight, unravelling the narrative to make the new ending fit has been tough. Around college and film jobs, I’ve been working on it in evenings and spare days since mid-October. After the first fortnight, I took to saving the manuscript as a new document at the end of each session. This is what the folder looks like:
That’s right. It’s called the REDRAFT OF DEATH.
But check it out, humans; I have actually finished. I sent the new draft off to editor Jane and agent Sue late last night, along with a summary of everything I’ve changed. On reflection, it’s been a massive rewrite. As well as the new ending, I’ve changed names, moved locations, cut chapters, written new chapters, tightened dialogue, tightened prose, and – perhaps biggest of all – introduced an important character at the start of the story, rather than halfway through. Maintaining his presence from this early beginning meant a light rewrite of the entire first third. I’ve also made a big change in the death of another character, which brought a new angle to the idea of ‘killing your darlings’.
Dealing with the sheer volume of information is what causes brainmelt. Trying to keep everything in perspective – emotion, story, plot, character, description, geography, chronology – is exhausting. To help manage the changes, I riddled the manuscript with notes to myself, so I wouldn’t lose track of the things that needed work. It was quite telling to come across these messages, later on, and reflect on my thought processes. Here’s an example:
“Move the distillery to the island where it should have been from the beginning, you dick.”
So yeah, it’s been tough. I’m expecting another round of line edits, at the least, but hopefully the bigger structural stuff is now finished. I would have worked quicker but for the day jobs. Trying to switch into a more creative mode and recover a spark is tough. There have been times I’ve sought out any distraction to keep me from inflicting more destruction on my work. That’s where Freedom has really helped. I can’t recommend it to writers (and other procrastinators – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) highly enough.
For all the effort, I still wouldn’t be doing anything else. I saw a great quote the other day. Though I can’t remember who said it, it was something like, “For all that writing is incredibly tough, it’s worth remembering that it’s still making up stuff for fun.”
True dat. More than anything else, I’m increasingly looking forward towards my next novel. It’s called The Hollows. It’s mostly planned, and I’m champing at the bit to start work. Now term is almost finished, I’m going to give myself a few days off to clear my backlog of video jobs, then try and take a day or two over Christmas to get writing.
After dealing so exhaustively with a manuscript of 94,500 words, it’s very strange to be faced again with all the promise and terror of a blank, white page.