Saturday, 29 August 2015

Avoiding the scaffolds: N M Browne

Image from BBC News Plymouth web page
So, I have an apology to make: the last time I blogged I lied. 
 I thought that once my submission draft of the book-of-strange-directions was finished I’d have lots of useful tips to share on becoming a best seller, breaking the internet and tweeting up a twitter storm. As you, dear reader, have yet to hear from me, you may safely assume that none of the above has actually happened. Maybe next month.
 In lieu of sharing the secrets of my yet-to-be-achieved success, I can confess that I am clearing the decks for an academic project.  I won’t bore you with the details of that except to point out that the prospect of academic writing has made me realise how much I adore making things up all day. So, as I tidy my desk and try to refigure my brain, I am drawn inevitably to pretty well  anything that isn't study. Obviously it would be stupid to start something new when I’ve a lot of clever intellectual stuff to be doing, but refining something old, slightly rejigging the odd character, surely there’s time for that?
  As all writers know, that way madness lies. If I haven’t time to write something new, I definitely don’t have time for something old.
  Something old and unpublished inevitably needs the literary equivalent of a wrecking ball.
 I am a fan of ‘Grand Designs’, the TV show, which documents, in humiliating detail, the tribulations of would-be homeowners overseeing their own building project.  If you’ve ever watched it, you will know that rebuilding and preserving an existing building takes twice as long and costs three times as much as starting from scratch. We long time viewers, observe with shameful schadenfreude  as the bright eyed, optimistic enthusiasts of the opening sequence, with their plans and their budgets and their intact marriages, are reduced to gibbering near-ruin. They camp in leaking caravans in the rain when some technological key stone gets stuck in Germany for months, foundations sink and the bespoke glass imported from one small factory in Iceland is three centimetres too small. Let me tell you: rewriting is worse than that.
At least in rebuilding you are unlikely to end up with a one bedroom bungalow when you hoped for a four bedroom semi. Not so with rewriting: if you are suitably critical of your own prose it is not un likely that a hefty 600,000 word trilogy could be radically repurposed into  a 2,000 word short.
I have a couple of books that need that kind of overhaul: a nice little third person chick lit romance in need of a much funnier first person voice, a ghost and maybe a new love interest and don’t get me started on my menopausal demon novel, which is funny in all the wrong places and plotwise several sandwiches short of a picnic.
However, because I am an experienced writer and an avid viewer of 'Grand Designs' I am not going to mess with either of them. I’m going to step away from my keyboard, pick up my new student’s back pack and walk very deliberately to the library.  Honest.


8 comments:

Sandra Horn said...

Don't stay away too long - can't wait for the demon menopausal story!

Leela said...

I truly enjoyed your post, N.M. Browne. Such an honest and worthy read. As the Sandra says, don't stay away too long. Writing new stuff enlivens you and may even get you in the mood for a rewrite. Cheers.

Wendy Jones said...

The menopausal demon sounds just my cup of tea. Don't leave it languishing too long

Enid Richemont said...

I actually like re-working old stuff, because the basic material's already there (mental laziness?) Never done a complete re-write, though.

And along with the previous commentators, I want a copy of the menopausal demon, even though mine was quite some time ago (any thoughts on a sequel called "The Post-Menopausal Demon"?

Lydia Bennet said...

Some enticing ideas there! Hope some of them emerge or re-emerge. In the meantime, enjoy the library, while it's still there!

Dennis Hamley said...

Yes, having been at this writing lark for so long I'm afraid I too am firmly into recycling mode. I excuse it with the conviction that every writer has things written long ago which are worth a second look. This may lead to reinterpretation because you've seen more in it now than you did then, which in turn may mean rewriting and republishing. I don't think that's a cop-out: I think it's a privilege.

George Haydn said...

I don't think it's a cop out either Dennis, I just think it can be harder work than starting afresh. New ideas always have that lovely fresh smell like new car seats - older stuff always needs a working over with a spray can of Vanish and a vacuum cleaner to get rid of the worst of the stains...

Dennis Hamley said...

Nicely put, George. I'm rubbish with the hoover but great with the Vanish.