Monday, January 09, 2006

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do but not as hard as putting it back together again

Editing a 100,000 word novel is a bastard of a job. It is going to take ages. Of course it is terribly satisfying when you have a section which you believe to be as good as it is going to be, but you can easily spend a whole day (at least one of my working days) on a few paragraphs without making any progress at all.

Perhaps this job is harder earlier on in the book, where I have to give the reader various bits of information without allowing them to get either bored or completely distracted by what I am telling them. At the same time, I have to be very careful that my reader does get all the information – since I am God and know everything there is to know about everything and everybody in the book, there’s a significant danger that I might have cut out an essential sentence or paragraph and not notice when I’m reading over. Later on, this may get a lot easier as by the middle of the book the reader should know as much as the main character does about their situation, if that makes sense.

One of the hardest tasks is getting everything in a reasonable order. Obviously, the story follows a chronology that at this stage is pretty much immovable, but there’s so much other information I need to get across. You would be rather annoyed if you were reading a book about a character called John Smith witnessing some crime or other and then in Chapter Three you read, “By the way, John Smith happens to be a detective.” At the same time it would be rather unsubtle to begin a novel, “John Smith is a detective, he is forty-five, married with three children and lives in Crewe. He drives a Ford Anglia and has a pet dog called Shep. One day he was walking down the street when he saw a bank robbery.”

I have to refer back to things which happened before the story began, so to speak, which is another bastard because you really don’t want to interrupt the narrative of a car-chase to tell a story about when a certain character was five and had a nice picnic with his favourite aunt. At the same time, it may be far more effective to show the reader this picnic in order to demonstrate the relationship between this character and his aunt rather than just telling them, “She was a favourite aunt, they were very close.” – all depending on how important this information is of course.

Ho hum. It is not that I am unhappy, it is just such hard work. Like I say, very satisfying when I get a bit right according to my abysmally low standards. Also quite cheering when I come across something I wrote ages ago which reads well. When I come across something I wrote really badly, or worse, a chapter where there appears to be a big gap which I am yet to write, I tend to despair. But so long as I am patient and persistent, I should get there eventually. And once this bit is done, I will have finished the book. Until someone reads through it, points out some hideous flaw in the plot and I have to start over…


pete said...

Goldfish. Have you got a title for it yet?

The Goldfish said...

Yes it is called To Fear The Light from a verse in a Lewis Carroll poem, Phantasmagoria. The verse (which happens to be spoken by a ghost) goes

"And as to being in a fright,
Allow me to remark
That Ghosts have just as good a right,
In every way, to fear the light,
As Men to fear the dark."

marmiteboy said...

I am pretty impressed you know. I've never met anyone who has written a work of fiction before (my mate Mr C has written his autobiography which is a slightly different matter) and I am beginning to realise just how much work is involved.

To a non-writer like me I had imagined one sat down and wrote the thing from start to finish. I realise now that is much more of a jigsaw puzzle. nd one of those really bloody hard ones with a fiddley picture at that.

I'll find it difficult to criticise a novel for being shit again. Not now I know just how much work goes into writing one.