Two weeks ago I was on top of the world. Only days before I’d finished writing my first novel – thirty chapters and 99,000 words or so under my belt. I was with my family on holiday in sunny Devon, life was good. Okay, so I needed to come home and do some revisions, slice off 10k words – not difficult for someone who has a propensity to waffle – but how difficult could that be after the hard slog of gluing my bottom to the chair and tapping away at the keyboard for two hours a day, every day for the past six months?
Apparently the answer is ‘very’.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a perfectionist or perhaps I need to learn an efficient way to go about it, but at present my mind is boggling at the practice of ‘self-editing’. It’s so easy to sit down, read a novel or watch a television drama and say, ‘oh I’m not sure that character would say that,’ but critiquing one’s own work…well I can hardly switch the computer off, unhook the phone and hide behind the sofa from the thoughts in my own head, can I?
And it’s not as if I’m a novice to all this. I’ve written my fair share of short stories in the past, reworked them and happy with the flow and word count merrily enveloped them up and taken them to the post box. But with a longer piece of work I just feel swamped. It’s like I’ve signed up for a sponsored hike up Kilimanjoar and I’m still sat in the departure lounge at Heathrow.
So I sit here typing this as means of prevarication. Chapter 3 has been carved up, re-written and doesn’t bare much resemblance to its original form at 11 o’clock this morning . Which got me thinking about what novelists did before PC’s. What did Virginia Woolf do in the room of her own when she had no cut and paste facility? Did she just sit surrounded by scribbled notes and scraps of paper, filing things away because they might come in ‘handy’ one day?
In the meantime I shall persist with the best advice Ma Bodenham has ever bestowed upon me, a legacy which I regularly pass onto my brood: ‘You can only try your best’.
And in the meantime if any of you would like to leave me a post with self-editing tips or links to helpful articles I shall be most indebted to you.