08 April 2011

Rewriting and Murder

When I read as a child (which I did most of the time), if I imagined anything about the writing aspect it was someone typing until they got to the words The End, and pulled the last sheet of paper out of a typewriter, which would then speedily turn into a book. 
As an adult that idea didn't change too much in that I imagined writers wrote their book only once, and that each word first appeared in their manuscript as is did in the book. 
Now I know better.
Real writers edit.  Well most of them.  I guess there are some who produce very few words each day but each are perfectly formed, and in the right order.
I think with each first draft I produce I'm getting better - I should hope so!  With the editing I've done on Driftwood, and now Lives Interrupted (along with numerous short stories and articles), I am improving on my craft, and in doing that making less mistakes in the initial draft.  Or maybe I'm just making new mistakes.
I initially sent Lives Interrupted to a UK publisher who had already published some of my short stories in their collections.  I got through the initial read of synopsis and opening chapters, and they asked for the full manuscript.  Oh joy.  It was eventually a thanks but this isn’t for us, but they did give me a paragraph on things they thought could be changed.
Lives Interrupted is told from multiple viewpoints, but I had niggling doubts about one of the plot lines.  The writing was good, but the plot line itself was weaker than the others.  The publishers confirmed my doubts and so I set about murdering a few darlings.
Getting rid of characters, plot lines, paragraphs, description, whatever it may be, is hard.  There is no other way to describe it, but if it makes the story stronger it needs to be done.  However I think it needs to be done judiciously, and I always cut rather than delete.  Those pieces then get put into another file.  The description, paragraph, character may work elsewhere. 
Sometimes it doesn’t work because it isn’t good enough, and then I delete it from the cuttings file.
As for my cut plot line.  At the moment I think the writing is good.  It just wasn’t long enough, or strong enough, to stand with the other plot strands, but I think with some changes it would make a great short story.  Recycle and reuse!

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