The Rewrite

Yes. I am back to rewriting my first novel, still or again. I had a story to tell many years ago and I am still determined to tell it. Back then it was simple and clear. In the intervening years I tried to turn it into something that would be popular and commercially viable. It became a romance and a mystery and a whole lot of other things all at the same time. It became cumbersome and unwieldy. It became oh-so-clever and brilliant and wordy and intellectual and convoluted.

Now I am scraping away the extra stuff that has grown on it like moss on a stone stuck in the muck in my garden. I am doing what is known as a final edit! Hah! One of many. I am taking blocks of it and shoving them here or there or simply deleting them. don’t worry when you do this! Your brilliant writing is still there in an older draft for you to read and enjoy someday. It’s not gone. It’s just not part of this story that you are striving to tell.

I have had to sit with myself and remember what it was that I was trying to say. It had something to do with unrequited love, as many of my stories do. It was direct and good and honest once upon a time. It had a voice.

But in the intervening years I got sidetracked by all of the information that was out there about what I should be writing about…

Anyway, none of us are special enough that we get out of taking a good hard look at what we are writing and being brutally honest. I didn’t say being brutal. I said being brutally honest. We have to be kind to ourselves as writers. It is a practice, like you practice the violin, get it?

And furthermore you, yes you, do have something to say. You’ll figure it out. Stay the course. Be gentle. Write. Write while you are in your garden or looking out the window or nodding off. Then you’ll have something to edit!

The Travelogue

I’ve recently dusted off the first novel I ever worked and reworked and then reworked and then, okay so it wasn’t that dusty. Each time I’ve worked on it I see that I have managed to practice a different aspect of writing and I have also been able to see more flaws, then other flaws that I added over the years to a simple clear story to try to make it more interesting and more marketable and catchy.

Anyway, my current observations of this great work are simple and it is simple advice that I am passing on to some, though not all, first time novelists. Buried deep in my novel, I see, is the need to take my reader on a journey, not of the spirit or the soul, or life, but a damn journey through Ireland, where part of the story is set, and where I had some interesting experiences as a teenager.

I am seeing now that my travelogue has been getting in the way of the story. I have my protagonist go just about everywhere, for no apparent reason, and in fact, no apparent reason is admitted by the characters in the process of his goings and comings. It added pages to my book, but not really much else. There was nothing enlightening or even worthy of mentioning about my protagonists growth and character development in his observations of things like the horse races, a nightclub, a pub here, another pub there.

I can see what I was trying to do with those first attempts, and not only did I write them but they are full of detail. But why? Who cares about the colour or texture of the barmaid’s hair if it has absolutely nothing to do with the story? Save it for another time.

Which leads to my next point. When we first set out to tell our story, and record all of the interesting experiences we think we have had in our lives, we not only do it but we go into great detail. Slowly we get earthbound and the wings that had carried us aloft to our simple goal, are now weighing us down with side trips to god knows where and then full of cumbersome detail of brand names, sizes, and styles when the word “shoe” might be perfect.

So if you find your story is not really getting off the ground, you might have to be slightly ruthless in the cutting phase, and ask yourself why. Save that trip to the Irish open or the Irish sea for another piece of writing. Free yourself, lighten the load and you will find that you can see much more clearly, your intention.