I am at the moment deep into an edit of my next novel, “Shadows on the Grass.” It’s intense work, needing a great deal of concentration with occasional breaks for muttering rude comments about my brilliant editor, Jan Edwards, who has this horrible habit of being right.
Once I’ve digested what it is she suggests I do, I go back to the MS and sweat a few more ounces of blood.
All this is taking a great deal of time. Some writers I know find the editing process both stimulating and fairly quick to do. I am not one of them. Re-shaping my work wears me out, perhaps because I am only using the rational and not the creative part of my brain.
On an instinctive level, I must know that this is not right for me, because while I should be working on the next chapter instead I find that I am awash with ideas for new stories that are simply demanding to be told.
The conventional wisdom would be to finish one task, before taking on anything else. It would certainly be less stressful, but that doesn’t seem to be the way I work. It’s as if I need to keep flexing my creative muscles and when denied that opportunity my imagination goes into overdrive. So far, during this edit, I’ve finished a ghost story for an anthology and started work on a novella, written a few blogs and mulled over a concept for a children’s book.
So am I wasting time, or am I keeping my skills honed?
Natalie Goldberg in “Writing Down the Bones”, which is the best book on writing I’ve ever read, say, “It’s good to go off and write a novel, but don’t stop doing writing practice. It is what keeps you in tune, like a dancer who does warmups before dancing or a runner who does stretches before running. Runners don’t say, ‘Oh, I ran yesterday. I’m limber’. Each day they warm up and stretch.”
The short stories, the novella are all part of this stretching and warming up. Pianists practise their scales daily, writers need similar exercises. As for me timed writing exercises might just be the thing to trouble shoot one or two troublesome passages. I think I might go in search of a pen and notebook…