Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Baby? Bathwater?

Well, dear readers, after holding off from it for the best part of a week, I went back to the children's novel to read it straight through and do some potentially final nibbling at the text. The good news is that it definitely reads with more pace and I'm pleased about that - it isn't just the subtraction of nearly twelve thousand words - it is that I've rejigged the run-up to the denouement and it doesn't feel anymore is if the story has been diverted and left in a waiting room, tapping its fingers, waiting to be called.

That said, it's actually been a difficult few days. I want to send it off, free my mind from it, go on with Book Two, impress my agent with my efficiency and smiling professionalism (Cut my novel drastically? No problem! Consider it done.)

On the other hand, I can't let it go. Not yet. Surely more can be done to polish and refine it, make it shine more dazzlingly. Surely?

The question is - when is enough revision enough? Is it ever enough? I often feel reluctant to look at my published novel, 'The Chase', because every time I do I see things I'd cut or change. Nothing is perfect - but the impulse to try to achieve it is there, and should be there, if you've any self-respect as a writer.

What have I learnt/relearnt? I've learnt that I spell things out too much, that I am adverb and adjective-heavy. I exhibit Roget's Thesaurus tendencies and have to stop this. Use one adjective. Decide if even one is necessary. Use good verbs rather than an adverb-plus-verbs - but keep things simple too: don't use overly melodramatic verbs.

Repeated reading of your text makes you realise how often you repeat yourself, how you have favourite items of vocabulary which you return to over and over again. Partly it's laziness or habit, partly it's because you were in the white heat of composition and didn't want to slow the flow by casting around for the mot juste, partly because the damn book took months/years to write so you'd forgotten you'd used the very same expression five chapters back. This is what editing is for. You have to become the Reader with the Critical Eye, not the Writer. When I wrote The Chase I used 'grey' and 'juddered' so frequently that I'm almost phobic about using them now. The prize for Most Over-used Word in the new book is 'peered'. People peer up, along, into, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Stop it, already! They now gaze, glance, stare, and simply look.

So, back to the question - have I done enough? Enough to please agent/editor? Enough to get the deal, to get the book, a year or so down the line, on the bookshop shelves? And the other question - have I done too much? Have I killed the essence in the search for commerciality? Have I thrown the baby out with the bathwater?

Should I go through it just one more time ....?

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