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Something old and unpublished inevitably needs the literary equivalent of a wrecking ball.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.