Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer
Step 6 (continued) A complete rewrite…?
Sometimes it’s necessary to rewrite the book from the beginning.
I believe the Australian author Patrick White, a Nobel Laureate, usually wrote out his novels three times: the original by hand, the second and third drafts on the typewriter.
Only after the third full draft would he give it to his companion to read.
It’s certainly true that a complete rewrite concentrates the mind of the author utterly on the material: reducing it to the essentials and helping to ensure the imaginative vision remains more consistent throughout.
But to be honest, in this digital age the computer makes it so much easier than the typewriter.........
Seven Sensible Steps to Success As a Writer
Step 6 (continued): The second draft
With the first draft of the book completed, you can view the work as a whole. The high points and the low become more apparent, like looking at a model map of the terrain you’ve just traversed with such labour.
The strengths and weaknesses of the work become clearer. The balance between the characters, the development of plot, any redundancies of dialogue, action and metaphor not picked up when editing the first draft, all come to the fore.
It’s time to think about the second draft of your book. Time to cut back quite heavily where it seems overdone, or to add new material to fill perceived gaps in the tale. Time to see golden words .........
I can give a good example from experience of the value in talking a manuscript through with somebody you trust – and also of the significance of dialogue that has meaning and carries the story forward.
When I was writing Soldier Boy, we had trouble getting the opening pages right. I knew I wanted to use a circular structure. It’s a very powerful one: beginning at the end, with 14-year-old James Martin dying on board a hospital ship off Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, in 1915.
But somehow it wasn’t working. I kept being led into all kinds of irrelevant diversions, and the tale going off at a tangent. Telling the reader, for example, .........
Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer
Step 6 (continued): Talking it through...
Apart from silent work at the editing desk and reading the pages out loud to yourself, it can often be of help to talk the work through with somebody else whom you trust to give a fair and sympathetic opinion.
Nobody wants flattery: but ridicule or condescension can be fatal to a new-born manuscript.
Some authors, indeed, keep the work entirely to themselves until it is finished. Others (with broader shoulders than mine) belong to writers’ groups who meet regularly to share work in progress, to receive or offer comment and criticism.
Being much more of a loner, I nevertheless ask my wife in the early stages of a book to read the .........
Seven Sensible Steps to Success As A Writer
Step 6 (continued): Drafting. And Re-Drafting
Most afternoons my habit is to go over the work I’ve written that morning, doing the first of many editing passes.
I’ll chop and change as seems necessary. It’s surprising how the sentences, that seemed so sprightly in the dawn, can often droop in the late sunshine.
Of course, they can also seem much better again a few days later – and thus I find it important to print out each version of my changes on the reverse of used sheets of paper. Another option is to write them in pencil on an earlier draft. It doesn't really matter so long as you have a record of them.
It often happens, when I come to the second or third .........
Like any other work of the creative imagination, a book must have its own inner form and coherence, layers of interpretation and sustained metaphor, if it is to speak truthfully to the reader.
I find it important to go over the work constantly. The words checked for meaning and repetition. The development and cadences of the paragraphs looked at with a critical eye for harmony and substance – exactly as one approaches music, or an artist examines a painting.
One very useful tool in this respect is to read the text out loud to help pick up inconsistencies, errors or gaps in the narrative that may need to be filled with a little more information.
Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 5 (continued): The waking day...
Having stopped the early morning composition with the next words already in my mind, they spend the rest of the waking day germinating deep in the consciousness.
What do they mean? How do they build on what has gone before? How will they lay the ground for what is to come? Phrases and metaphors will shape themselves....
And whatever else I’m doing – editing yesterday’s words, attending to correspondence, business, gardening, playing the piano, preparing materials for the next part of the story, cooking dinner - the words are always growing in their own little corner of the brain...