As you know I’m revising the first book again, polishing it, changing bits around and making it ready for submission again. In a previous post there was a comment from a reader that suggested at some point you just have to actively decide it’s ready. The problem is I’m not sure it ever is (as the same commentor also acknowledges). Not really. We might say at some point ‘it’s as good as it can be’, however, writing another 30 pages of another chapter brings with it more experience and when you go back and read the previous sections you find – well, that it isn’t ready.
To highlight the point I’m going to share a paragraph from the first book and compare the first draft and the current one. Bear in mind that when I wrote the very first one it was the first piece of creative writing that I’d done and I think I’ve learned a lot since then (I hope you’ll agree, but if not please feel free to comment – I might not agree with you, but then again I might just learn something new).
So, the very first draft – this is the first paragraph of chapter 2 :
Sam woke up far too early on her thirteenth birthday, immediately looking over at the lcd clock by her bedside which read 5:38. Groaning to herself she slumped back onto the pillow stifling a yawn. She closed her eyes and tried to recall the dream she had been having when she had woken, only vague recollections of which remained but she could recall light, bright light and then darkness seeming to seep into the light and blocking it out, but the more she tried to grasp at the memories the more they faded until she was left with merely an uneasy feeling.
According to I Write Like this resembles David Foster Wallace. I’ve never read any of his books so can’t comment on that.
Now, the current version of the above
Sam woke with a start, immediately looking over at the clock on the bedside cabinet. Through bleary eyes the red digits swam into focus – 5:38. Groaning, she slumped back on the pillow, stifled a yawn and placed her arm over her eyes as if that very action would enable her to drop instantly back off to sleep.
She had a vague recollection of a dream, and it was the dream that had likely woken her but the details were hazy, just vague memories. From what she remembered there was light, beatiful and comforting, and then something else that was slowly obliterating the light but she hadn’t been able to see what it was. The more she tried to grasp at the memories the more they faded until she was left with an uneasy feeling that disappeared within a few minutes.
Which is apparently more Dan Brown.
I’ve edited this bit probably 6 or 7 times, and no doubt at some point I’ll possibly edit it again. As I mentioned I’m in the process of revising it ready for submission and I’m taking it slowly this time. A few paragraphs a couple of times a day which prevents me getting into the story. Or worse reading what I wanted to write rather than what I actually wrote. This is the second pass of that process and on the first pass I’d got chapters with modifications littered across the page, this pass there are a couple of amendments per page. The next pass I expect to be close to finished.
But I’ll probably still find little bits that I’m unhappy with, little tweaks, and if I repeated the process in a few weeks time I’d probably find more. As a writer (or someone who writes, I guess it’s a perspective thing) am I ever going to be truly happy with what I’ve written. Really, truly, 100% happy?
No. Because it’s like everything else, the more you learn the more you could do it better second time around (or third etc). There’s a distinction between being content with something and being truly happy with it. I’m content with what I’ve written, but I’d like it to be perfect.
I just don’t think that’s a viable aim though and something that I have to come to terms with. I will, as suggested, declare it ready (again) at some point in the near future and then I’ll get another rejection and the cycle will no doubt start again. Oscar Wilde :
This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.
But it could be that it’s actually much simpler than that. Much much simpler. Despite the rhetoric perhaps I’m actually just scared of submitting it again and I’m making sure that by spending all my time editing and re-editing it I don’t have to send it off. As Erica Jong is quoted :
I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. … I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.
There is perhaps a little truth in that, but reading that quote made me realise something – that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If we all like the same thing it would be a sad world and just because person ‘x’ thinks it’s rubbish doesn’t mean person ‘y’ does. Everyone writes differently, everyone has their own style, everyone has their own choice of vocabulary and all we can do is our best and learn. It doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it wrong.
What it makes it is unique. And I for one am happy to be unique.