Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Halfway there

I have reached the half way point in my first conscious re-write. Conscious as in deliberate, that is, rather than the ‘being awake’ kind (although being awake does help).

My ‘first’ draft of a piece of work is never quite that. I am able to suppress my inner editor sufficiently to get words on paper, but I do like a draft I can read and understand when I come back to it. So, as I write, I change things; knocking off some of the rougher edges as I go. Which means my first draft is never quite that. Bits of it are; other bits are second, third, or even fourth attempts to get the phrase, sentence, or paragraph into a viable state.

There is a balancing act here that I think many (if not most) writers find difficult, especially when they start. If you try to write perfect sentences as you go, you may never finish your work and you will probably have little or no concept of the overall shape of the piece. Beautiful sentences are fine. We all strive for that. But if, as a whole, they have no dynamic, if there is no sense of story, then they are a waste of time.

On the other hand, you want your 100,000 words (or whatever) to be sufficiently coherent and interesting to yourself to want to go back to them. Over and again.

I’m not sure people who don’t write quite appreciate this aspect of writing. The fact that a piece of work has to be drafted, re-drafted, read and re-read, altered, fine-tuned, all in the knowledge that the first person who reads it will probably point to a sentence on the first page and point out three errors.

This aspect requires a real passion for what you do. It also requires considerable skill.

Oh well, back to the drawing board.


liz fenwick said...

You are so right about the conscious bit :-) Congrats on the progress!

Moi said...

Grum, some resonances here for me. I am insanely pernickety and almost can't bear to let a sentence which isn't absolutely right (to my mind) rest on the page for a second longer than is actually necessary. So I'm a slow and painful writer and wish for perfection the first time round...I went to hear Mal Peet speak at the Cheltenham Lit Fest and he said he is very similar; he tries to bash it out without correcting as he goes along, but he's fighting his inner editor every step of the way. Made me feel better!


Graeme K Talboys said...

Cheers, liz. I do sometimes find myself reading it for pleasure and forgetting about the work I'm supposed to be doing on it. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.

Hiya, Dragana. Inner editors should be tied to a chair and gagged. Trouble is, most of them were trained by Harry Houdini. Lock them in a very locked up thing and before you know it they're sitting there, cup of coffee in hand, making remarks.

Pom said...

Graeme, not that you were talking to me but I felt compelled to respond to something you'd said to Liz. If you are reading your own work for pleasure, I'd say that's a good thing. Being hyper-critical of myself I believe that if I can find something enjoyable in my own writing, others might as well. Not that it happens often for me but in your case I'd say it's a good sign!

Graeme K Talboys said...

Hey Pom,

It's what I keep telling myself, and it doesn't happen as often as the 'Oh my god, did I write this cr*p?' reaction. Unfortunately.

Pinxter said...

I'm glad to read about this phenom of "OMG, did I write this" from someone who says it outright, not romanticizing it to sound like the feeling is something a writer possesses making him or her a great writer.

I struggle from this also, which includes the edit, edit, edit syndrome. I write, walk away for a week and when I come back to it, the editing frenzy begins - right after a voice in my head screams, "OMG! Did I write this c#$p?"

Carlie Cornelius is interesting!