So, I’m thinking I should deliver a more serious blog about another writer’s learning curve I’ve been travelling: one which we all travel, eventually, through our own design, or that of someone else. Editing.
For some reason, when I finally gave in to my desire to write, really write, I thought I could just knock out the finished article in one draft. In fact, the word draft was not on my agenda. I honestly thought I could just write a book, scoring out and amending my mistakes along the way.
Fortunately, while novels (ahem, first drafts) languished under my bed, I wrote a play that was to become my one-woman show ‘From Within’. I had the support of my director and dramaturge, Jeff Sheppard and learned the value of another pair of ears as I re-worked the script.
My next lucky moment was meeting another writer, Vincent O’Connell, who offered to mentor me to develop a film script. Now, that is excellent training. I would turn up for a meeting, next three scenes in hand, he’d read the dialogue, a whole paragraph, maybe, and challenge me thus: “Which of those lines does the character need to say?” Of course, my first answer was ‘all of them’. But as I stared at my precious words, I would see plainly that no, they were not all needed. I continued to write everything I needed to say, but came to enjoy the cull to get what they needed to say.
During the last two years, on board with the Brit Writers Publishing Programme, I got out my two novels and put on my Editor head. It has been hard work, but a satisfying revelation. You see, with the world of publishing undergoing so much change, the author has to offer a script as close to ‘best draft’ as they can manage alone. At first, I was pretty disappointed about that – my other illusion was that you’d be given an editor who would do all that annoying work. (And yes, you will still get an editor go over your final draft). But here’s the thing: when I was asked to do re-writes, my first reaction was dread…of all the work, and whether or not I’d see what needed to change etc., then it occurred to me, why would I let someone else edit my work and possibly change my voice? Of course, the only person who should do the re-writes is me, albeit guided by someone else. So I’ve done the work. The book is in its current best state, and I am trusting that my editor will merely have to tidy up. My book remains my book, which is what I wanted all along.
When you are banging (or coaxing) out that first draft, make sure that Editor is nowhere to be seen. But take pleasure in bringing those skills out later. It will all pay off in the end.