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raison d'ecrire

I’ve finished my first (and second and third) draft of my novel. The first draft took me about 3 years, the next two a few months, and I know I’m not there yet, I’m not at that finished product that I would feel confident in submitting. In fact, I may not be able to get there at all.

I’ve written YA novels before and found that, right or wrong at the time, I didn’t need to redraft a lot. I wrote them, I sent them off soon after, worked with an editor and they were done. Short, sharp, satisfying. For a while. Now, I look back and wonder if I spent enough time on them, if I couldn’t have worked harder on redrafting to a standard that will keep me content to look back at those books and be happy with them. Or is that a pipe dream? Am I always going to look back and see the errors, inconsistencies and literary solecisms in my work ?

This time around, with a manuscript the same length as my previous three novels combined, redrafting is essential. Quite frankly, I’ve overwritten the beginning and underwritten the ending in my rush to finish it. I know what the problems are, I’ve had some feedback from readers that ranges the gamut from compelling mastery (yes, that was from family) to finding it difficult to read (someone more objective). The problem is, and will always be, resisting that intense urge to finish it, wrap it up in a bow and send it off right now. Common advice publishers, agents and established authors give aspiring writers is to rewrite more; you’ve spent all that time writing the first draft, so why not spend a little bit more and polish it up?

So, looking down the barrel of three years of working on a single project, I start to wonder if it’s even of a standard that will be acceptable in a professional market, even after the rewrites. What if it isn’t? Can I accept that it was something that I used to further hone my skills? Can it be a stepping stone to (fingers crossed) future success? To be honest, that’s bloody hard to accept. I don’t have that many books in me and this one took a lot out. To think that all those hours won’t result in a shiny new novel in my hands is very hard to take. And I’m not talking about money (not only). I’m talking about the recognition and reinforcement and validation that comes from having your work accepted by other professionals. It’s easy to say that I write for writing’s sake, for the story, for the act of creation, for the achievement, but I don’t. I write to create stories that others will enjoy. Money may follow, but it hasn’t yet, and may never, so I can dream of it, but I think I have proven to myself that I’m not writing for money.

These are common themes for authors, I would guess. And for artists of all kinds. They are the core of why writing novels can be so demanding. It’s easy to see the final version of a story and be in awe of an author being able to write something so good. In reality, he or she probably didn’t. It was built up, a layer cake of work that resulted in the final version.

So, on that note, in an attempt to aspire to a certain level of quality, I redraft.  

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Reader Comments (2)

Ben what I love is that you've written yet another novel, despite having two little ones in the house. That's an heroic act in my book. It has to be a good thing that you can look back on your three previous novels and see that, well, okay, they weren't perfect, what this really means is that you're continuing to develop as a writer. As for only having a "few" novels in you. H'm. You're a spring chicken.

January 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramanda

Re: spring chicken. Perhaps, but do I have ten more novels in me, or twelve? Not sure, but even that many seems like bugger all. Similar to when Brendan broke down the number of books he could read in a lifetime: prolific reading, 1 book per week, for 60 years = only 3000 books. Seems like not many!

February 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBen

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