Get on with the job

March 2014

I’ve ‘finished’ again. Time for another report.

This time it’s a second draft. I think. By the logic of my last post I guess it should be a first draft, but I’m never sure about these things; never sure where one draft ends and another begins. It’s not like you twist out of an exoskeleton cleanly on the way to your next incarnation. There’s always mess left over. It’s more like something emerging from inside of you, with all the entrails and the mess and the goo.

Not sure why I’m getting so Aliens about this. Perhaps it’s because I just finished and I feel a bit shattered by it all. But in writing a book you are definitely required to be your own Ripley. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

Working through this draft there was a whole lot of flamethrowing going on. I was searching in the darkness for the Newt of perfect plot; she could only be rescued by destroying 10,000 aliens; I had until deadline to get out before the reactor core melted down.

10,507 aliens, to be precise. I flamethrowered a lot of words this time around.

There’s a lot of tricks you have to use, writing a novel. Suspension of disbelief doesn’t only apply to reading. For the entire time it takes to write & rewrite a novel, you have to believe in the story and your ability to tell that story. That is a lot of suspending. That is hard. Which is why you have to use anything that works to get you across the line.

Dressing in leathers and carrying heavy weaponry doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to break out the really big guns of paper and foldback clips.

I write almost exclusively on screen, for everything. For me there’s no competition with the slow and illegible notebook scrawl of my handwriting. But sometimes there’s nothing better than having a stack of papers physically present in front of you, and a blue pen of doom in your hand. Slash and burn.

The other thing I like to do is print out a list of scenes, for the purpose of shuffling and reshuffling. There’s something liberating about having the entire story in your hands. It helps in the crucial redrafting realisation that nothing is fixed in place yet, that everything is up for negotiation. It helps you to remember that this is freedom.

One last thing – a secret weapon for when you fall over. (See: disbelief, suspension of, hard). I have a folder on my hard drive of nice things people have said about my writing. Not just people, but people I respect as readers or writers. Or people. Or all the above.

Every once in a while, break it open and take a sniff. Even if you feel like the phoniest phony on the face of the earth, here is proof that at some point somebody said something good about you and it’s possible they weren’t lying.

They are doing the suspending for you, so all you have to do now is get on with the job.

Get on with the job.