Rewriting again and again

If anyone was to ask me, ‘How many drafts did you write of Trapped before you were happy with it, before you knew it was finished?’ I might, borrowing a phrase of my grandfather’s, reply reflectively, ‘Thoosands and thoosands….’ Which, over the course of a three year period of trial, error and reconsideration, is not such an exaggeration. At least fifty drafts, then.

The lesson I can draw from this, is that for me, it takes time for the right tone, the right angles and the comfortable, conversational colour to emerge. It takes time to shed the reserve that at first, I hardly notice, and get down to a more immediate and conversational style that I really do prefer, and that I know helps me to enjoy what I write. Perhaps it is the writer’s equivalent of shyness, or a need to come closer gradually, but this process of casting and recasting simply cannot be rushed.

I’ve tried rushing, and this is what happens:-

  • The tone of my book flattens out into business-like precision, (which has its uses)
  • I start to worry about timing, timetables, word-counts, daily disciplines
  • My work flattens out even more
  • I assume this is the best I can do and become disheartened.

Now if I assume that I can always please myself, I can always write exactly what I want, whenever I want – and last night, that happened to be from eleven pm ‘til one am – if I assume that I am free to be me not just sometimes, but all times, in all places and in the midst of all my work, this is what happens:-

  • I smile and feel liberated again
  • A sense of fun and assertive joy invades my work
  • My characters are let loose and can speak to me in much fresher, clearer voices
  • My plots twist and turn nicely, because I am intrigued, instead of scared, or bored.
  • I enjoy my work, and my life

If it takes me three dozen drafts to get my books right, whether they are memoir, MBS or fiction, I better just accept that and start having fun. No more timetables, no more strategies for writing ‘a book a year’, no more ‘must get this finished today’ – because all these …anxieties…. result in work that is not my best.

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