May 13, 2010

Figuring out how to edit a novel: begin again

A lot of things bother me about the 1st draft of my novel: the narrative, the structure, awkward subplots, too much rambling and not enough showing and the list can go on and on like Jacob's Ladder. Still, I love a challenge and I like the idea of what the novel could become, so time for action. I've spent the last month when I've not been doing physics, procrastinating, bleeding on paninis and drinking, thinking about the novel, making notes on the themes I am interested in incorporating, doing research into topics that require background knowledge and character sketches and it has left me with a myriad of ideas! But everything, the conclusions yielded from my research and my exploration of themes in addition to simple, technical things all directed me to the same plan of attack: re-write the whole novel from scratch using the 1st draft as a very basic story board. 

I wondered about whether this is a good idea or not. Most writing books I've read talk about editing like a cosmetic process of tightening up plot holes and correcting technical errors. When I wrote the first draft was an inexperienced writer - I didn't realise then that you can shift POV in 3rd person; I never thought about clichés or adverbs. Now that I am conscious of at least the basics of writing, I feel I can write a better first draft than I could before. I've decided to sit down and plan the novel, working on each chapter at the time thinking about what questions do the make you ask and what incentive do they leave for you to carry on. It's not enough to write pretty prose - the prose needs to go somewhere. You need to give the reader a reason to care and the curiosity to read on. 

Writing is re-writing, and it's a phrase I've heard many times and never thought about what it means. Sometimes it means beginning a certain part again from scratch, and others it could refer to the whole thing. This is not a decision I have taken lightly, and it's not been easy to say "this version is no good - back to square one," but it's an executive decision I feel is worthwhile pursuing, a literary investment I suppose. 

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