Working backwards to move forwards!

It is hard to self-edit when you’re not a genius… I’m sure the great writers of world literature were able to distance themselves from their work and be objective, slashing away the over-blown, over-grown text, ripping through endless monosyllabic conversations and best of all cutting the heads off impossible characters… I’m just an ordinary writer and I struggle along, so involved with my story, the characters almost popping out of my head to be visible beside me, the plot running like a familiar film… I really find it so difficult to be distanced from my stories as I become involved in them again as I read them through.

I have had some great friends who have given support and advice at the early stages of a novel’s life; over the last however many years my friend Julie  has waded through my prose and been so helpful and supportive; other friends and family have read my work and made helpful criticisms and comments, Joanna, Sally, Wendy, Diana… my husband Bari who doesn’t even like my sort of stories…

Most recently I had my most terrifying ordeal when my book club asked to read ‘Farholm’; it was still in quite an early draft but their fair and helpful criticism was really useful when I came to do my final editing and polishing ready to publish on Kindle. Thank you dear reading group, Judith, Phil, Andrea and Sue!

But now it’s up to me. I’m working on ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’; I have read it all the way through, I have read it out loud to myself and in a final effort to step back from it I am reading it backwards. I went to the last chapter and read it, then to the penultimate chapter, and so on… it is amazing what a difference this has made. Not only have I managed to cut nearly 11,000 words and thirty-three pages, but I have spotted quite a few inconsistencies and errors. One of my worst habits is to be repetitive and I have managed to excise a lot of repeats hoping that it will make the text tighter, the plot more water-tight, the characters more engaging.

I have this rather extravagant vision of my story starting off like a rackety old sailing boat, tacking backwards and forwards, sheets flapping, sails, billowing or hanging slack, holes in the hull, rivets missing, caulking uncaulked…You get the idea! So here I am in dry dock, mending the sails, splicing the mainbrace (nautical term – no idea what it means!) cutting out the rot, filling the gaps, caulking, and corking, painting and polishing…

I’m not sure ‘Rosa’ will ever be a prize winning schooner (or cutter or whatever those fast whippy sailing ships are) but I hope she cracks along at a fair pace and carries her passengers safely through stormy weather and brilliant sunshine on fair winds to the last chapter.


    1. Lois

      It’s funny, though, when I look back on first drafts which I had to struggle to edit because I loved almost each and every word, they look clumsy and verbose…
      I love the way you write, it just flows as if you were talking, and yet it is so literate as well!


  1. rich

    i have an obscure and selfish request. can you try making that banner with white text instead of red? it’s hard to read it. white would stand out so much better – i think.

    have a great day. cool boat pic.


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