I’m about 75% of the way through the fifth draft of ‘Tider’, and still going strong; it’s turning out to be more of a rewrite than a draft, however. I never cease to be amazed by the fact that you can’t just change one tiny detail when you’re doing novel edits. That one tiny detail, much like a snowball rolling down a hill, always seems to turn into a life-changing, book-wrecking disaster by the time you get to the end of the next chapter.
I have to keep reminding myself that, with every tweak, I am making the book better and stronger and more nuanced and ensuring it makes some sort of sense and tying up all manner of loose plotlines (nothing is as dangerous as a loose plotline, lying around). It would be impossible to keep going, otherwise. However it does feel, at times, like you’re going around in circles, making a change one day and removing it the next; I’m looking forward to finishing this draft and then leaving ‘Tider’ alone for as long as I can before going back to it with a fresh eye.
Also, yesterday, I finally managed to come up with an opening sentence that I’m happy with. I’ve been working on ‘Tider’ for nigh-on three months at this stage, and I’ve written and rewritten the book’s opening sentence at least fifteen thousand hundred squillion times, so finding one that I didn’t hate on sight was, I think, an achievement. It’s cruel that the most important sentence in the book, arguably, is the one that you have to write first, and the one with which you’re likely to be least happy. I’m really hoping I won’t look at this sentence again when I start working on the book today and wonder if I wrote it in a feverish, coffee-fuelled fit, and throw it out like so many others before it; I’d like to keep it, just for a while, and see if it grows on me.
As well as that, I came across a scene I’d written at one of the more action-packed escape sequences in the book which I can’t believe survived as long as it did. It comes at a point where the heroine has just taken a huge risk with her life and limb in order to get away from a pursuer, and she meets a small, secondary character. They proceed to have a long, pointless, rambling conversation that tells us nothing about either character and completely kills the forward momentum. When I read it yesterday it was one of those head-slappy moments where you gnash your teeth and tear your hair and scream at the sky:
What was I thinking?!?
Once I’d recovered from my melodrama, I rewrote the scene and cut out anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary (which was basically the entire scene). I ended up trimming over a thousand words. One thousand words is a lot of words to have in a scene that are doing absolutely nothing useful; one thousand words of dead weight, particularly all in one place, is really quite silly.
I know the rules – I know you’re not supposed to have so much as a sentence in your novel that doesn’t propel the action forward in some way (at least, for the sort of novel I’m trying to write – if you’re Umberto Eco or Paolo Coelho or Gabriel Garcia Marquez or someone like that, you’re allowed to use beautiful language, just because), and I know you’re supposed to move fast. So why did I have my protagonist stop off, mid-chase sequence, to chat to an extremely minor character about her troubled childhood?
It’s strange how, sometimes, we can get lost inside the world we’re creating as we write. I’m glad to know that the character my protagonist meets had a hard life, and is unhappy in her job, but there’s no need to make it part of the story. Also, my protagonist is the type of person who is sympathetic to others, and I think that came out in the scene as I first wrote it. She met a sad, downtrodden woman and wanted to help her – that’s nice, but it doesn’t help the plot, so sadly it has to be junked.
FYI – at last count, my Offcuts file (where I keep all the bits and pieces I’ve snipped out of ‘Tider’) is 54,000 words.
Fifty. Four. Thousand. Words.
I’ll leave you with that nugget of knowledge for today.
Happy Thursday. If you make mistakes today, may they be small, and easily undone.