Tag Archives: Rewrite

Snakes and Ladders: Another Throw

Apparently, the average number of rewrites for a published novel is seventeen.  I handed in my twelfth draft to an editor a month ago and this week I got the report back.  In short: great rewrite, needs another draft.

My initial reaction was: oh, bollocks.  I was at Paddington Station, early for a train, when I got the email.  I went to to a nearby café, ordered omelette and chips, and used their free Wi-Fi to download the full report to my laptop.  I mean, for goodness’ sake, that’s fifteen months’ work (in addition to the seven years it’s already taken with this novel).  Sometimes, you really need a long train journey to Bristol to sit with the frustration.

Anyone who’s been following the saga of the-writing-of-the-second-novel may remember that this is the editor who told me I needed to change one of the main characters.  The fifteen-month rewrite was the result.

But I know how I am.  Two days of despair, and then starting to pick myself up.  By the time I had emailed her back, I was able to conjure, in her own words, a ‘measured and kind response.’  Now, I’m beginning to see the positives.

The truth is, the comments that she made?  She’s right.  In particular, finding a more convincing motivation for one character to become involved with the other, and a greater intertwining of their stories.  Also, getting more edge-of-your-seat, forward movement to the story.  These, like the writing of a more dynamic character before, are invaluable, if painful, lessons.  My underlying aim in all of this, after all, is to learn how to write (see top of this page).

So, time to scrub the writing off the chalkboard, plomp myself down on the chair, chin in hand, and start thinking again.

Can I do it?  I hope so.  I am calling the next draft my fourteenth.  I know it’s my thirteenth.  But, quite frankly, I need all the luck I can get.

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Writing Fiction: Empty Boxes

I should have finished the final amendments to the novel within the next couple of weeks.  It’s gone quicker than I thought it would.  After that, I slot the changed chapters back into the novel, read it again and send it back to the editor.

In other words, I’m going to have to find something new to write.  The obvious step is to go back to the novel I put aside to finish up the old one.  It’s about three-quarters done and there’s some good stuff in it.  Thing is, I have just spent over a year on yet another rewrite of the old novel; do I really want to go back again?

Nile Rodgers, speaking on a documentary about Daft Punk, said, ‘There’s no special feeling in the world, to me, that matches the magic of creating something from nothing.’

At Tate Modern they have an installation that has been running since October.  Triangular boxes of soil, collected from London parks, lit and watered.  No seeds have been sown, but still, in the months since it started, plants have begun to grow.  Some, no doubt, from mischievous members of the public.  But still, the idea of how little it takes for life to start is inspiring.

One thing I have enjoyed in the rewrite is discovering new characters who come from nowhere and interact freely.  Letting them talk, start and stop.  No background profiles, no context, no point.  Just doing what seems fun.

So then, a period of empty boxes.