Saturday, 29 October 2005

Unsurprisingly, in between taking the Wenlock Heir to see Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and reading theguardian (there's an interesting piece about life in the UEA creative writing course by Juliet Sutcliffe), I have been thinking about what needs to be done with Lord Alexander's Cipher; or, the Bridekirk Behemoth.

One thing that has been nagging at me is the question of why, if I can see the sense in so much of my NWS report, I didn't spot the problems for myself. I think that there are two main reasons.

First, there was (and still is) "new writer's insecurity" - it's difficult to look too deeply into my own work for fear, at worst, that I will discover that it is all garbage, and at best, that I will unpick something good and replace it with something less good. Of course, once I am published this sort of anxiety will be a thing of the past. Or will it?

Second, there was the looming deadline set by the NWS. Having started LAC;o,tBB in April, and trying to write it in evenings and weekends (apart from a wonderful week on my own in Shropshire that netted about a quarter of the final version) I didn't give myself enough time to get things sorted. I certainly could not afford the time to step back and look at my wip with any sort of detachment. My NWS reader was seriously shocked that I had ducked a perfect opportunity to bring my hero and heroine together at a party by giving her a political headache. How could I have done that? Well, the real reason was that I had rejigged the sequence of events. The scene had originally taken place when the heroine was a hundred miles away and couldn't have been there. The new chronology had her still in London, but I didn't have the time to put her in the scene and make all the consequential adjustments. I hope that, without the NWS deadline (invaluable though the deadline was for my productivity) there would have been a point at which I would have realised that I was missing an opportunity with that scene.

Other awkwardnesses in the story arise from the fact that I didn't do any plotting before I started - I dived right in and wrote. Once I had worked out what made the most sense I had run out of time to do any major recasting at the beginning. At my reader's suggestion I now intend to change one character - the heroine's confidante - from being a mysterious stranger into being an old family friend. She can still serve the vital function of putting the heroine into both the romantic plot and the adventure subplot - but she can do so from a position of trust, which makes it more plausible that the heroine does not trust the hero as much as she trusts this confidante. I can also do some clever misdirection with the scene where they meet up.

As for the central romance - I now have the time to analyse my hero and heroine using some technique such as enneagrams, about which we had an excellent talk at the RNA Conference, and use this to make their characters and their developing relationship as plausible, and above all attractive, as possible. If this triggers some knock on rewriting to correct back stories or change some actions and reactions I now have time to deal with the consequences.

Once I have delivered this week's Heyeroine in need of a slap I will get down to business.


Jenny Haddon said...

"why, if I can see the sense in so much of my NWS report, I didn't spot the problems for myself." Stephen, dear, the problem comes with the territory. No one can be both reader and writer at the same time.

Yes more time will help a bit - you can come back more like a new reader after you've disengaged from the mss, as you have now found.

Yes, experience will give you more confidence about what to reject and what to stick with.

Yes a good clear plot line will help

But in the end, if you're the writer you can't see the wood for the trees because you remember what you meant to say. I don't see how you can ever put yourself in the position of someone to whom the story is a completely new experience.

"Why the hell didn't I think of that?" should be the novelist's motto.

and hurry up with the revisions, I want to read it.


Alex Bordessa said...

I'm sure that getting distance from the mss helps, i.e. leaving it to brew/stew for a while. Going back you're more likely to see any problems and be able to streamline the plot. Having deadlines can be good if you're an experienced writing, but when trying to find your way and set your working-practices, I think newbugs need loadsa of time. KBO!